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O'HARA'S FINAL THOUGHTS: Agnew looking forward after big return
September 24, 2017 10:45 AM | Mike O'Hara
Detroit Lions-Atlanta Falcons Final Thoughts:Quiet zone welcome for rookie Jamal Agnew; Killebrew moving up; Ryan-Stafford shootout possibility; players and stats to watch and sticking with my pick: Jamal Agnew would like to hear some noise today, but he appreciates how things have quieted down for him in the last few days.

Agnew's 88-yard punt return for the clinching touchdown in the Lions' victory over the Giants sparked more phone calls and messages than he could count.

"At the beginning of the week, there were a lot of phone calls," Agnew said. "They understand we're on to the next game. Monday night is behind us. I told everybody I talked to, we're on to Atlanta now."

That doesn't mean Agnew doesn't appreciate the recognition he has gotten.

"Yeah, it was a great play," he said. "It's a long season. You've got to go with that mentality - next game. Hopefully, make some plays in this game."

It has been an up and down start to the season for the Lions special teams, which is uncharacteristic for a unit that annually is one of the league's best. There were fumbled snaps on a punt and extra point in the opener, but the special teams were rock solid - and explosive - in Week 2.

Against the defending NFC champion Falcons, the Lions need every edge they can get. The punt return TD
stands out, but performing well overall in the first two games could make Agnew a marked man.

"I could see that," he said. "Just play within the scheme. Not try to force anything. That's definitely pivotal at this point. I made a good play. The tendency as a young player is, 'I've got to do that again.'

"Let it come to you. Be patient."

Agnew's screen shot: He might have an interest in Ford Field's enlarged video boards, but not for entertainment purposes. On the way to the end zone Monday night, Agnew looked up at the end-zone video board to see who was chasing him.

"I tried to see if there was somebody behind me," he said. "I couldn't turn my head around."

Depth test, Captain Killer: Injuries are forcing teams around the NFL to test their reserve strength, and the Lions and Falcons are no exception. It's an opportunity for players to step into bigger roles.

Safety Miles Killebrew - whose nickname at Southern Utah was "Killer" for his hard-hitting style - is ready for an expanded role. He has already seen one change in status. He is one of the Lions' three captains for the game.

"It's an honor," Killebrew said. "There are only going to be three guys out there (for the coin toss), and I'm representing my game. Being a captain, the excitement is going to end right after the coin toss. Then it's business as usual.

"I don't want to change up just because it's an expanded role. Me personally, I have to prepare like it's any other week."

Matt & Matt: The friendship between Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford makes for a good storyline, but the quarterbacks don't compete head-to-head. A high-scoring game would make for an interesting show with two young veterans in their prime.

Lion to watch: Tight end Eric Ebron could be the difference maker - if he gets the ball in space where he can turn and run with power, and if he remains consistent, which he has been. He has seven catches out of eight targets, with five catches and a TD against the Giants.

Falcon to watch: Defensive tackle Dontari Poe. The 346-pound defensive tackle was signed in the offseason to add an interior power presence in the Falcons' four-man front. Poe also had the flexibility to play defensive end in the Chiefs' 3-4 defense. The Falcons gave up 125 yards rushing to the Bears in the opener, but only 59 to the Packers in Game 2 - with the help of a big lead that forced the Packers to throw the ball.

If the Lions want to remain consistent - and effective - with the run game, they can't let Poe disrupt the interior.

Stats center:

On the run: The Lions are ahead of last year's pace in called runs for running backs but behind in yards gained. Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington combined for 51 carries for 166 yards in the first two games this year. Last year they had 42 carries for 215 yards.

Ground outs: On the flip side, the Lions put the win over the Giants in the lock box with nine straight running plays on their last possession. The Lions gained two first downs in a drive from their 29 to the Giants' 24. The possession began with 4:28 left and ended with 26 seconds left.

50-50 club: The Lions are 29-21 in their last 50 regular-season games, beginning with opening day of 2014. The Falcons are 27-23 in the same span. And yes, reaching Super Bowl LI outweighs all the other stats.

My pick: No backing off - Lions 31, Falcons 27. The Falcons are good, with speed on defense. The Lions are good, with speed on defense but some injuries to fill. Resilience has been a strength of the Lions.

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