On seemingly a weekly basis lately, Sam LaPorta is setting some sort of record for a tight end-for a rookie or a tight end in Detroit Lions' history. Entering Week 18, he needed three catches to pass Brandon Pettigrew for the most catches in a season by a Lions tight end.
With one catch on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, he would pass Keith Jackson and own the NFL record for receptions by a rookie tight end all by himself.
Jared Goff couldn't quite connect with LaPorta on the Lions' first drive on Sunday, so the rookie tight end catch record would have to wait a bit. Detroit's second drive was set up by a 42-yard punt return from Kalif Raymond, narrowing potential opportunities for LaPorta to get his record catch. Two explosive plays to Amon-Ra St. Brown put the Lions inside the 10-yard line.
Sam LaPorta sets rookie record for catches by a tight end in the most appropriate fashion (video)
But on the fourth and final play of that drive, LaPorta set the new record for receptions by a rookie tight end. And he did it in the most appropriate way, with his 10th touchdown of the season.
With that 10th touchdown this season, LaPorta tied Rob Gronkowski for the second-most touchdowns by a rookie tight end in NFL history.
LaPorta has meet then exceeded everyone's expectations all the way along since arriving as a Lion as a second-round pick last April. He became a trusted target for Goff by the end of OTAs, and it carried right into (and has carried all the way through) the season.
In the second quarter, LaPorta got his third and fourth catches of the day. He has passed Pettigrew and set the single-season record for catches by a Lions' tight end.
It was easy to envision LaPorta having a fairly productive rookie season as the Lions' No. 1 tight end. Setting the records he has could not have been expected or foreseen though, and his future could not be brighter.