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TIM AND MIKE: Preseason Week 1 observations

Game flipper: Head coach Dan Campbell has stressed the importance of special teams from Day 1 of landing in Detroit. He dedicates a lot of practice time to teams, and feels they are an important aspect of the game.

The Lions were trailing 13-3 Friday night when second-year wide receiver Maurice Alexander returned a punt 95 yards for a touchdown and completely flipped the momentum of that game in an eventual 21-16 Lions win. – Tim Twentyman

Holding firm: The defense did that twice in the first half, forcing the Giants to settle for field goals when they got the ball in Lions territory. First was an interception on the Lions' first play of the game. Later in the first quarter the Giants settled for a second field goal after the Lions failed to convert on a fourth-down attempt. Bottom line the defense held the Giants to two yards on four plays on the first field goal and eight yards on five plays on the second. – Mike O'Hara

Quiet sleeper: Undrafted rookie wide receiver Chase Cota is fighting for a roster spot and potentially a spot on the practice squad. He's been quietly having a productive camp. In fact, Campbell referred to him as the quiet sleeper after Cota's four catches for 60 yards in Friday's win. – Tim Twentyman

Punt control: Alexander's 95-yard punt return for a third-quarter TD started an 11-point splurge to get them back into the game. The Lions got six points on the TD, and two more on a two-point pass to wide receiver Jameson Williams. A short punt when the Giants' offense failed to move the ball let the Lions start their next possession at their 44. They drove to a field goal and a 14-13 lead. – Mike O'Hara

Hit stick: Rookie defensive back Brian Branch has had a terrific training camp so far. How good? It's been hard to get him off the field, and that's allowed veteran C.J. Gardner-Johnson to play more safety so Branch can play the nickel.

Giants wide receiver Cole Beasley was introduced to Branch in not so nice terms when Branch delivered the hit stick on him for a two-yard loss early in Friday's win. Branch can play the run, cover, and now we know he can deliver a hit too. – Tim Twentyman

Okwara brothers: The Okwara brothers – Romeo and Julian – have battled through injuries in recent seasons, but they looked healthy Friday night. Julian had three sacks. Romeo had one. If they're healthy, they can make an impact on the defensive rotation. – Mike O'Hara

Second-year production: When we talk about the tight end position in Detroit, second-round pick Sam LaPorta is the first player mentioned most of the time, and for good reason as LaPorta is having a great camp. But don't forget about second-year tight end James Mitchell, who got a late start to last season and was never 100 percent after suffering a torn ACL in college.

Mitchell is now fully recovered from the injury, and he's had a nice camp so far. He backed that up by catching three passes for 53 yards, including a 32-yard catch Friday night. He's got some terrific run-after-the catch ability. – Tim Twentyman

Third-down production: The Lions' defense was terrific on third down Friday, holding the Giants to just 2-for-13 (15.4 percent). The Lions ranked 30th in third-down defense last season (45.1 percent). Offensively, Detroit converted 46.7 percent (7-of-15) on third down against New York. – Tim Twentyman

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