For a second straight week, Jamal Agnew failed to get anything going in the return game early in Detroit's 13-10 win Sunday over the Los Angeles Chargers.
When Agnew looked to fumble the ball early in the second quarter on a punt return, Lions head coach Matt Patricia had seen enough from the former All-Pro return man. Patricia replaced him on punts with veteran Danny Amendola and on kickoff returns with rookie Ty Johnson.
"Agnew is a great player," Patricia said after the game. "He's a competitor, he's a tough guy, I believe in him. I think, just in the moment thought that I had to make a decision there, but that's just in that moment for this game, and that's what it was."
In two games, Agnew has returned seven punts for a total of four yards, including a muffed punt last week that led to an Arizona field goal late in the first half. He's averaging 16.0 yards on three kickoff returns.
Those numbers are a far cry from his rookie campaign, when he led the NFL with a 15.4 average per punt return with two touchdowns. He averaged 27.0 yards per kickoff return last year before a knee injury ended his season.
For whatever reason, Agnew hasn't been able to return to form early in 2019. We'll see moving forward if he's lost the confidence of the coaching staff permanently.
"He's a tough kid, he's ready to go, he's ready to go back and work and get back to it and just keep improving," Patricia said. "We know how dynamic he is, we know how explosive he is. We'll just go back to work again. It's part of the early part of the season where some of those mistakes we have to clean up and just eliminate them and go from there."
It's a phrase Patricia has used often to describe the first month of the regular season, where he thinks mistakes and sloppy play are a league-wide problem.
With some of the missed kicks, bad tackling and penalties we've seen not only from the Lions, but across the league, there might be something to this.
"I think that's really true," Patricia said. "I think if you look at the NFL in general, I think that there is a lot of bad football in September. I think there's a lot of mistakes, there's a lot of penalties, there are a lot of things in there that need to be cleaned up."
Why is that the case?
"I don't know. Sometimes we talk about training camp, and we talk about how much we get with the players and time and all that, but it's just kind of been the trend for the last several years," he said. "The hardest part of all that is understanding that we are going to have to overcome some things here that happened in the game and we're just going to have to stay mentally tough through all of it."
Detroit was able to do that Sunday vs. the Chargers. Detroit's remaining September schedule includes games on the road in Philadelphia and vs. Kansas City at Ford Field.
GOLLADAY'S BIG DAY
Wide receiver Kenny Golladay finished with eight receptions for 117 yards (14.6 avg.) and one touchdown Sunday. It was Golladay's fourth 100-yard game of his career, the third-most a Lions player has produced within his first 28 career games.
He notched a touchdown reception for the second straight game, on a 31-yard post midway through the fourth quarter that ended up being the game winner.
"We needed it," Golladay said of his touchdown. "I was just happy, you know. My number was called pretty much, so I go out there and made a play. Offensively we were doing good, but we were still just hurting ourselves a little bit. But it felt good for sure."
Golladay leads the Lions in receptions (12), yards (159) and receiving touchdowns (2) after two games.
Rookie linebacker Jahlani Tavai, Detroit's second-round pick this year, finished with nine tackles (six solo) and one forced fumble filling in for the injured Jarrad Davis.
The forced fumble was a big one, as Tavai knocked it from Chargers running back Austin Ekeler as he attempted to go over the line of scrimmage from the 1-yard line. Teammate Devon Kennard was able to recover the ball, and the Lions thwarted a great Chargers scoring opportunity.
"I think we've seen him make some really good plays and be really aware for a young player, which is pretty good from that standpoint," Patricia said of Tavai.
"He's got a lot on his plate right now. He's got a lot of improving to do. I think there are just those flashes of awareness where he sees something or a play, or a particular tendency – maybe something along those lines of ball-awareness. It's just good to see a couple of those plays on tape, but we still have a long way to go there."
- Detroit's win Sunday puts them in second place in the NFC North after two weeks with a 1-0-1 record. They trail the 2-0 Packers by a half game.
- Lions cornerback Rashaan Melvin now has five pass defenses through the first two games of the season, tied with Robert Baily (five in 1999) for the most pass defenses a player has had through two games in Lions history.