Lions tight end Joseph Fauria has gained national attention for his dance celebrations after a touchdown.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Joseph Fauria's choreographed end zone dances have earned him fans all over the Internet and even in Hollywood.
That's not what impresses the Detroit Lions most. They are fondest of how the tall tight end can stretch a defense.
The NFL's other 31 front offices might be wondering why he wasn't worth drafting earlier this year.
The 6-foot-7 Fauria had three catches in Sunday's 31-17 win at Cleveland — all for touchdowns. His second, a 23-yarder from quarterback Matthew Stafford, gave Detroit the lead for good early in the fourth quarter.
The three touchdown catches are the most for a Lions tight end since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
"If he starts to get more attention, somebody has to get less," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Monday. "Generally, that's Calvin [Johnson] for us. Not many defenses want to do that.
"I think there is, in the red zone particularly, another dynamic there that can force defenses to be spread thin a little bit."
Johnson, who set the NFL single-season record for yards receiving in 2012, returned Sunday after missing a game with a knee injury and had three catches for 25 yards. Continued production from Fauria could make the Lions, who already have explosive playmakers in running back Reggie Bush and Johnson, harder to defend.
Fauria, whose uncle, Christian, played tight end for four teams during a 13-year NFL career, has just seven receptions for 66 yards this season. Five of them have been for touchdowns. He's scored in each game he's been targeted.
He took an odd path to football's biggest stage.
The California native began his collegiate career at Notre Dame, but was suspended during his sophomore season and transferred to UCLA. There, he made 88 catches for 1,139 yards and 20 touchdowns, but still went undrafted.
The Lions signed him after the draft, and he made the roster out of training camp. He made a splash in Detroit's season-opening 34-24 win over Minnesota with a touchdown catch and had another in a Sept. 22 victory at Washington.
The latter scoring play ended with Fauria's take on N'Sync's "Bye Bye Bye" video and got the attention of TV host Jimmy Fallon, who donated $10,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation after daring any NFL player to do as much.
The Lions were without tight end Tony Scheffler due to concussion symptoms at Cleveland, which gave Fauria an even larger role in the offense.
"You understand how it works when one guy goes down and another comes up," he said after Sunday's game. "That's me.
"I wanted to do well with my opportunities. I think I did so."
So did Schwartz.
"Not that many players score three touchdowns in a game, particularly tight ends," he said.