EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The NFL’s highest paid player has the Detroit Lions rolling into early showdown against the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons.
How big can a game really be in Week 3? Well, there are only three undefeated teams left in the NFC: the Lions, the Falcons and the Carolina Panthers.
Matthew Stafford kept the Lions rolling Monday night, scrambling to frustrate the New York Giants’ defense and throwing two third-down touchdown passes in a 24-10 victory.
Jamal Agnew added an 88-yard punt return TD in the fourth quarter, helping Stafford and the Lions avenge a loss here from December. Detroit even stifled star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in his return to the Giants’ lineup, setting up the matchup at home against Atlanta.
Stafford completed 15 of 21 passes for 122 yards and has six TD passes this season. He downplayed the win’s impact as a statement.
“I think that’s stuff you guys like to talk about and write about,” said Stafford, who threw touchdown passes of 27 yards to Marvin Jones and 7 to Eric Ebron. “For us, we’re on a short week playing a Super Bowl runner-up. We’ll enjoy this one for about 30 minutes and start looking at Atlanta.”
Detroit got contributions from all phases. The defense sacked Eli Manning five times, with Ezekiel Ansah getting three. The special teams had the punt return and Matt Prater’s 56-yard field goal that hit the upright and fell over the right way.
“I think all across the board, the guys played tough and played well against a team that’s very difficult to beat,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “I think our guys overall did a nice job.”
Caldwell said he has already started looking at Atlanta because this will be a short week.
“They’re a very talented team, every explosive,” Caldwell said. “It should be a real challenge for our guys.”
Eli Manning threw an 18-yard TD pass to rookie Evan Engram and Aldrick Rosas kicked a 25-yard field goal for New York (0-2), which is playing nothing like the team that went 11-5 last season.
Here are some takeaways from the Lions third win in as many Monday night games against the Giants.
BECKHAM BACK: Beckham caught four passes for 36 yards. He was targeted five times but he saw limited action playing for the first time since spraining his left ankle on Aug. 21. “I just think we have to get it together,” Beckham said of the 0-2 start. “Stay positive. Stay with each other and just get better each and every day. We are only going to go where we take it. So, it’s up to us, it’s in our hands.”
SACK MACHINE: Ansah had only two sacks last season in an injury plagued year. He had had 30 sacks in his first three years. Until this week, he was only getting hurries. “The sack looks better than a hurry,” he said. “That is what I am paid to do — knock the quarterback down with the ball in his hands — and I’m just grateful I was able to get a few today.”
INJURIES: Lions SS Tavon Wilson left in the second half with a shoulder injury. The Giants lost starting RT Bobby Hart on the opening series. LG Justin Pugh moved to tackle and Brett Jones replaced him. Giants also played without starters MLB B.J. Goodson (lower leg) and CB Janoris Jenkins (ankle-hand).
WOEFUL OFFENSE: The Giants now have gone eight straight games scoring 19 or less fewer. They have a total of 13 in two games this season. The running game had 62 yards on 18 carries, the offense had a total of 270 yards and it was 4 of 12 on third down. “We’ve got to score more,” said Manning , who was 22 of 32 for 239 yards. “Not going in the right direction enough, going backward, not converting on third downs enough.”
CONFUSED ENGRAM: Engram was confused by the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he received after catching his touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. It appeared he grabbed his crotch after the catch. “I don’t know what they were talking about, I did nothing intentional, but that was bull. That was not the intention. That was obvious. I haven’t seen it, so I guess I’ll look at it.”
EXTRA POINTS: Agnew’s punt return was the fifth longest in Lions’ history. … The Giants celebrated the 10th anniversary of their 2007 team’s Super Bowl win over the Patriots at halftime. … Lions LB Tahir Whitehead intercepted Manning one play after Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul had a sack and forced fumble against Stafford. … Darius Slay and Whitehead led the Lions with eight tackles. Giants CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie topped New York with 11.