- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Kris Durham picked himself up off the Ford Field turf, looked around and for a brief second, thought he might have gotten into the end zone. After all, he was in there.
So were a couple of his teammates.
But their efforts to push Durham in on a 12-yard reception during the second quarter of Detroit’s 40-32 win against Chicago was a yard from a score, a yard from the second touchdown of his career and his first since the last time the Lions played the Bears at home.
He didn’t get in. But one play later, his quarterback, Matthew Stafford, did.
“Yeah, yeah, I wanted it,” Durham said. “I thought Dom (Raiola) and those guys really did a good job of getting me in the end zone but we got the touchdown. Since Matthew got it, I think he owes me another throw since he got the touchdown.”
Durham can joke about it now after receiving his most action and most targets this season for Detroit. This is how it has been for the native Georgian since he arrived in the NFL in 2011.
Be the fill-in when another receiver goes down, be it for Nate Burleson (now twice) or Patrick Edwards. Last Sunday was one of the few times when Durham entered a week knowing he’ll have an expanded role in Detroit's offense.
Burleson was out. With Edwards still hobbled with an ankle injury, Detroit was down to Calvin Johnson, Ryan Broyles and Durham as its main wide receivers. He played in 92 percent (61 of 66) of Detroit’s snaps Sunday -- two snaps less than Johnson and 20 more than Broyles. His performance mirrored his newfound playing time, catching three passes for 58 yards -- the most yardage he’s ever had in a NFL game.
“It gives me some confidence,” Durham said. “I think it gives Matthew some confidence in me. I was in the right place at the right time and made good throws, good catches.”
Durham’s extended action, though, was accentuated by what he did at the end of the game. He fielded both of Chicago’s onside kicks successfully, even if it is a bit more challenging than it may appear.
The receiver’s main focus is the ball and how it is going to come off the kicker’s foot -- something he compares to an infielder having to prepare at all times for bad hops on ground balls.
But Chicago kicker Robbie Gould makes it a little bit more challenging with some of his own deception.
“The way he approached the ball and the way he kicked it was pretty impressive,” Durham said. “He was running like he was kicking toward their right, our left, and he almost swung his leg across his body and kicked it back.
“It was impressive. I was impressed. Especially on the first one. I’m taught to stand my ground and wait for the ball to be kicked. When he approached it, I was like, ‘all right, this is going to Calvin.’ Then all of a sudden I see it kicking towards me.”
So he did what he always does in onside situations. He attacks the ball and tries his best to cover it up.
The first one, he said, was easy. It came right to him cleanly. The second one went “end-over-end” and took a weird bounce -- Durham said he took bad bounces off his shoulder a couple of times as a shortstop growing up -- forcing him to smother it before it caromed oddly.
As he did, he cradled the ball and protected it with his back. That’s when Chicago linebacker Jon Bostic came in and hit him with his helmet in his back, drawing the ire of Detroit coach Jim Schwartz.
Durham said Tuesday he’s fine and doesn’t really care if Bostic is fined for the hit. His reasoning is simple: Detroit won, so why should he care. And Durham’s teammates noticed his play.
“I thought Durham played extremely well (Sunday),” Detroit running back Reggie Bush said after the game. “He was a huge reason why we converted some of those third downs.”
Or as Durham said, he’s a team guy. He’s patient. He’s just waiting for moments like these -- always waiting. He waited in Detroit. Waited during his time at Georgia, when the favorite moment of his football career was a touchdown pass caught against rival Georgia Tech as a senior in 2010.
He’s always waited. In college, he didn’t catch more than 20 passes in a season until his senior year. In the pros, he’s seen most of his action when another player has been hurt.
“Some guy can go down in the pre-game, some guy could be sick,” Durham said. “You never know what is going to happen. There’s always different variables that can go wrong so you have to be ready.”
When Detroit needed him Sunday, he was.