Beyond one bad memory

Golden Tate has taken a prominent place in Packers-Lions series


GREEN BAY – Six years and 12 days ago, Golden Tate found a permanent place in Packers history.

No one needs to recap the Fail Mary in Seattle on Sept. 24, 2012, but it's safe to say it'll never be forgotten. And mention Tate's name to any Packers fan from here to eternity, that'll be the first thing that comes to mind.

But in a somewhat strange twist of fate, Tate also has become an NFC North rival and an awfully productive participant in a number of Packers-Lions battles over the years.

He may not have a 200-yard game against Green Bay, as fellow Detroit receiver Marvin Jones Jr. does, or a two-touchdown game, which Jones has accomplished twice against the Packers. But Tate's longevity and consistent impact in this rivalry is notable.

Taking out his Fail Mary stats, Tate's career numbers in eight Packers-Lions games are as follows: 44 catches, 545 yards, four touchdowns. He hasn't reached the level of NFC North nemesis that the likes of Minnesota's Randy Moss or Detroit's Calvin Johnson did in their days, but double those numbers and it's a 16-game season anyone would take in a heartbeat.

For all the talk, and deservedly so, about the Lions' improved running game and the speedy deep threat young receiver Kenny Golladay brings to the table, it's Tate who can impact how a defense sets its coverages because from the slot, he's so dangerous after the catch.

"The only thing you really have to do is just get him the ball," Packers veteran cornerback Tramon Williams said. "If you can get him the ball, he's going to make plays for you. He's tough to tackle. He's built kind of like a running back. He runs really good routes and the guy is really good with the ball in his hands.

"He brings quickness to the slot position, a lot of quickness. As a slot defender, you always have to know where your help is."

Provided he's healthy and ready to go, rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander could get the Tate assignment. Alexander, listed on the injury report with a groin injury, is a confident young player who has made his presence known already, and he might be Green Bay's best matchup for Tate in the slot, provided Kevin King is back in the lineup at boundary corner.

The Packers had a particularly difficult time dealing with Tate last year. In Detroit's two wins over Green Bay, Tate efficiently caught 14 of 16 targets for 217 yards and a score. That's a hefty 15.5-yard average per reception.

Those are his two most productive games against the Packers, and an indication of how important Tate has been for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the transition from the Johnson or "Megatron" era in Detroit, which ended after the 2015 season.

Tate posted his biggest statistical season in 2014, with Johnson still playing, when he caught 99 passes for 1,331 yards and four TDs. In the last two years without Johnson, he's still topped 90 receptions and 1,000 yards both times.

"He's been really good for us for a long time," Stafford said in a conference call with Green Bay media this week. "Obviously the numbers speak for themselves. He's doing a great job after the catch for us. He plays a number of different roles in our offense and does a nice job with all of them."

So while just the mention of his name evokes a frustrating memory, Tate still possesses the ability to hurt the Packers' chances in any given game, controversy aside. With a team-best 28 catches, 389 yards and three touchdowns through four games, Tate is on pace for the best season of his now 10-year career heading into Sunday's meeting at Ford Field.

Williams is the only member of Green Bay's secondary who was part of the Fail Mary, but he's never actually talked to Tate about it.

"I haven't. It's one of those things. It is what it is," Williams said. "Ultimately, it's one of those things that's going to rub Packers fans the wrong way, and Golden is going to stand by it, too. He's going to stand by that he caught that ball. I ain't mad at him, man, I ain't mad at him at all. It happened."

It did, but Green Bay has to limit anything else that "happens" with Tate, starting Sunday. It's certainly best if his notoriety in Packer Nation remains tied to that one fateful play.

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