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Lions QB Jared Goff lauds TE Sam LaPorta after rookie's career day: 'He's a clutch player'

When Jared Goff needed a big play in Sunday's shootout in New Orleans, the Detroit Lions quarterback turned to rookie sensation Sam LaPorta.

The young tight end generated a career-high 140 receiving yards on nine catches with a touchdown in the 33-28 win over the Saints. It marked the most receiving yards in a game by a Lions rookie tight end in franchise history. LaPorta became the second rookie TE since 1970 to have 140-plus receiving yards and one or more receiving TDs in a game, joining the Jaguars' Pete Mitchell (161 yards, 1 TD) in Week 12, 1995.

"Yeah, (I'm) as comfortable (with him) as anyone I've played with," Goff said via Justin Rogers of The Detroit News. "And for a rookie, that's pretty tremendous. I'd compare it directly to what Saint (Amon-Ra St. Brown) was doing as a rookie, as far as on the field and off the field and the type of pro he is, knowing his assignments. He rarely has a (missed assignment), rarely has that type of rookie mistake. Very rarely. He's such a reliable guy and a guy that I count on in those crunch times. I know he's a clutch player."

LaPorta's ability to find the right lane against zones or box out a defender is uncanny for a rookie. Most tight ends struggle in their first season with those areas of the passing game, but not so for the Iowa product. The TE's blocking isn't too shabby, either. 

Time and time again on Sunday, LaPorta came up with the big play at the big moment for the Lions. He scored a 13-yard TD in the first quarter and added explosive plays of 29 and 48 yards to set up scores. Then late, with Detroit attempting to thwart a comeback bid, Goff found LaPorta for a massive third-down conversion to help salt away the clock.

LaPorta's play even garnered praise from Sunday's opponent.

"Well, he's going to be a good player. I told him that after the game," Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu said after the contest. "Just crafty for a rookie, man. The kind of routes he runs, his frame, his length, and then obviously, anytime you and the quarterback are on the same page, they're going to come away with some plays. I thought he probably had two of the more clutch plays in this game. So there were a few third downs in there. We had everybody covered, and then he just put the ball on his body, not his first down. So we just got to do a better job in the back end of just challenging guys, understanding their route tree, what to expect. But nevertheless, man, he's going to be a good player for a long time."

LaPorta's six receiving TDs in 2023 is tied for the most by a tight end with Mark Andrews.

The Lions rookie and Chiefs star Travis Kelce (Week 7 vs. LAC) are the only tight ends in 2023 to record a game of at least 140 yards and a receiving TD. LaPorta is the fourth TE in Lions history to generate such a game.

The rookie brushed aside the praise after his career contest.

"You don't want to get caught up in all that," LaPorta said. "It kind of muddies your vision, clouds your vision for the team and success we want to have moving forward."

If the 9-3 Lions are to have success in January, LaPorta will be a critical character.

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