By Ashley Dunkak
FORD FIELD (CBS DETROIT) – In the midst of a mistake-riddled loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wide receiver Nate Burleson provided something of a silver lining, snagging seven passes for 77 yards Sunday.
In Burleson’s first game since Sept. 22, when he caught six passes for 119 yards in a win over the Washington Redskins, quarterback Matthew Stafford targeted Burleson 10 times. Almost every time he got the ball, fans cheered, thrilled to see the gregarious wide receiver back in action and producing well.
“There was a lot of anxiety, excitement, nervousness, getting back out of the field again,” Burleson said, “but once you catch the ball or take a hit, it’s all behind me.”
The crowd went especially nuts when Burleson grabbed a five-yard touchdown pass for the Lions’ first score of the game and followed it up with a dance that appeared to mimic buckling a seat belt and delivering the football like a pizza.
“It was just one of those things that I had in the back of my mind,” said Burleson, whose touchdown dance was a play on his much-joked-about car wreck that happened because he got distracted trying to rescue a pizza falling off the passenger seat. “It all seems foolish after a loss, though. It’ll be easier to talk about it after a win.”
In Detroit’s first drive of the third quarter, Burleson made another pivotal play. After snagging a pass on second down with four to go, Burleson had a defender wrapped around his ankle, but he kept hopping and got a first down. The next play, the Lions scored a touchdown.
Another time – obviously in a less ideal situation – Burleson came up with a tackle after a Stafford pass got intercepted.
As he has done in practices, Burleson wore a brace on his arm to protect it from further injury. Evidently, the device worked.
“I was overprotected with the brace,” Burleson said. “After you get hit a few times, you shake off the cobwebs and you keep moving. Regardless, if I was in any type of pain, I wouldn’t let them know, I wouldn’t let y’all know. I was going to finish this game. It felt good.”
Burleson messed around with the cast at times, but he said he felt good and that the brace was just annoying him.
“It’s like a little kid with a scab,” Burleson said. “You keep picking at it, trying to figure out a way to deal with it for 60 minutes, but it has to stay on. You’ll see me continue to pick it at for as long as I’ve got to wear it, but it protected me, and that’s the main goal.”
All in all, Burleson looked solid, with the exception of one mistake in particular that could have been costly. He fumbled out of bounds after a 28-yard catch at the end of the first quarter. The Lions retained possession, but Burleson owned the miscue.
“It was bad ball control,” Burleson said. “Instead of tucking it away, I was carrying it, being too fancy, hot-dogging it a little bit, and that’s what Kyle Valero, the assistant wide receivers coach, said to me as soon as I came over there. He knew it and I knew it, and that’s why you saw me the rest of the game on the sideline just tucking it away.
“I was lucky that it bounced out of bounds,” Burleson added. “Championship-quality teams don’t make mistakes like that.”
Stafford, despite looking haggard after throwing four interceptions in a disappointing 24-21 loss to the previously two-win Bucs, sounded happy to have the number two receiver back.
“He did a great job of finding some open areas,” Stafford said. “Hopefully he’s feeling good and can continue on that path.”