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Unsung hero of the week: Frequent Lions nemesis turns into ally in primetime

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Any Lions fan will tell you about how often they’re screwed by the referees—on Sunday, however, things went the Lions’ way on the national stage

New England Patriots v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

After faltering on the national stage and suffering a heartbreaking loss in Week 2, hopes were not high going into the Lions’ “Sunday Night Football” matchup against the New England Patriots, who haven’t lost back-to-back games since the 2015 season. In a pleasant surprise, the Lions came out on fire, dominating the game from the first snap to the last in a bout where just about everyone shined. With that being the case, there are plenty of players to choose from for this week’s unsung hero of the week award. Naturally, I chose someone other than a Lions player.

Unsung hero of the week: the referees

Last night’s game featured a lot of calls that could have been called, but weren’t. The entire night, Clete Blakeman’s crew allowed the Lions and Patriots to play aggressively on the ground and in the air. That meant good things for the Lions secondary: Their aggressive man-coverage style fairs best when the refs let them get physical (looking at you, Nevin Lawson).

While the running game was what kept Tom Brady & Co. on the sidelines for much of the game, the ability of the Lions defense to play aggressively was what kept them out of the end zone while they were on the field. There were numerous times the defensive line was able to pressure or even sack Brady as a result of the good coverage downfield, with NBC’s broadcast highlighting a play where all Patriots receivers were locked up in coverage for four whole seconds.

On top of that, the defense was able to play to their natural tendencies. If any one play summed this up, it was when Tom Brady aired out the ball to tight end Rob Gronkowski down the right sideline. While Gronk was double covered, he had separation from Lions defenders and his size advantage means he’s never not open. The Lions defensive backs got physical in the air however, and Gronkowski was thrown off his route, missed the ball, and begged for a flag on a play where just about any other refereeing crew would’ve thrown one.

One more memorable moment was when Tom Brady, facing only minimal pressure, aired a ball out down the field to no man’s land. Whether he thought a referee was a receiver or what, nobody really knows, but the ball had no business going there. After lots of deliberation, the referees correctly flagged Brady for intentional grounding in one of the weirdest scenarios of that call that you’ll ever see, and the Ford Field crowd loved it.

There was a lot to love from the Lions’ performance against the Pats, and unsung hero of the week could’ve legitimately gone to about half of the active roster. However, it was great to see the Lions not get momentum shredded by referees on primetime TV as has happened in the past (coughcoughDallasCowboys).

Whose optimal performance did you like from Sunday night? Let us know in the comments!