Detroit Lions fans and players weren’t the only ones surprised to see their team ship its leading receiver, Golden Tate, to the Eagles for a third-round draft pick Tuesday.

Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes said he had to reach for his phone to confirm the news .

“I was surprised,” said Rhodes, whose team faces the Lions at noon Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. “That was their main guy on third downs. He was great yards after catch, one of the best. … Yeah, pretty surprising.”

Tate ranks third in the league in yards after the catch with 283. That’s 54.7 percent of his 517 total. He also has 23 first downs on 44 catches.

Lions first-year coach Matt Patricia said the move was made with the team’s bigger picture in mind.

The Lions get something in return for a 30-year-old who probably was going to leave via free agency after the season. They reportedly save $3.7 million. And the coaches are happy with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones as the top two receivers.

But the move certainly doesn’t make the Lions better heading into this week’s NFC North game.

The Vikings already had started formulating a game plan that involved Tate when the trade was announced. Now, there’s uncertainty as to what the Lions will do to replace Tate, especially on third down, where he ranks sixth in the league in catches with 15.

“It’s difficult,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “But we’ll just prepare. You know, really, if a guy gets hurt in the game, you kind of have your secondary plans and things like that anyway.”

In 10 games against the Vikings, including two with Seattle, Tate was 7-3 with 50 catches for 422 yards (8.4) and four touchdowns.

Lions have a running game?

Last year, the Lions ranked last in rushing yards per game (76.3) and per carry (3.4). This year, they’re 16th in yards per game (109.7) and eighth in yards per carry (4.74).

Zimmer said the improvement is a combination of the Lions having better blockers, a more effective runner in rookie Kerryon Johnson and a better commitment to the run.

Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was asked what Johnson (466 yards, 6.1 average) has done to elevate a long-dormant run game.

“It’s more so what the offensive line is doing,” he said. “No matter how good a running back is, he needs his offensive line. Period. Ain’t too many Barry Sanders in the league.”

You’ve been blocked

Are you praising Kirk Cousins for being on pace for 5,042 yards and 32 touchdowns passing? Or are you criticizing him for being on pace for 18 turnovers and an 8-6-2 record?

Either way, the Vikings quarterback said he has a go-to saying to block y’all out.

“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you; it’s a weakness to get caught up in either one,” he said. “I try to listen to the people whose voices matter, which would be my coaches, my teammates. … But outside of those people, I try to keep blinders on.”

Bad news, good news

Stefon Diggs (ribs) was one of four players who did not practice Wednesday, while Dalvin Cook (hamstring) and Rhodes returned on a limited basis after sitting out all of last week’s practices. Cook has missed five of the past six games, including the past four. Rhodes missed last week’s game.

Also missing Wednesday’s practice were Anthony Barr (hamstring), Tom Compton (knee) and Roc Thomas (hamstring). Also limited Wednesday were Linval Joseph (ankle/knee), Riley Reiff (foot) and Andrew Sendejo (groin).

Patera dies

Former Vikings assistant coach Jack Patera died Wednesday at age 85.

The cause of death was not clear, but Patera had been battling pancreatic cancer. Patera was a Vikings assistant from 1969-1975 before becoming the Seattle Seahawks’ first head coach in 1976. He was Seattle’s head coach for parts of seven seasons. He also was an assistant coach for the Rams and Giants. Patera also had a seven-year playing career between 1955-61.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.