CHICAGO – Lions-Bears Final Thoughts:Rookie Jamal Agnew's first game in the stadium where a legend starred; vet Don Carey's view of Agnew; Snap count for Taylor Decker's break-in; Random Thoughts – sticking with my pick, turnovers, picks and more.
Role model: It's an inspiring coincidence for Jamal Agnew that he is playing his first game at Soldier Field at a time in his rookie season when he is getting mention for the Pro Bowl and some All-Pro teams for the first half of the season.
Devin Hester set the standard for other returns to follow as a rookie with the Bears in 2006. Hester scored five touchdowns on returns as a rookie – three on punts, two on kickoffs. And to prove that he wasn't a one-year wonder, Hester went one better in 2007 with six TD returns – four on punts, two on kickoffs.
Hester was one of the all-time greats among return men. He was a three-time All-Pro and made four Pro Bowls in his 11-year career. He spent the first nine with the Bears.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Nov. 17, 2017.
"He was one of my favorite players growing up," Agnew said. "Obviously, he had the return ability. He was so explosive and fast. I watched a lot of his highlights."
Agnew is off to a good start, with two punt returns for TDs in the first nine games. He's been a game-changer, with speed and vision that can flip field position with his returns. It helps that he plays on a team that stresses special teams and has been consistently good in all phases -- kicking, punting, returns and coverage.
In a game like today's, when footing can be uncertain and wind creates havoc with punts and kickoffs, one slip or one big return can change the game.
Vet's view: Don Carey, a core special teams player for the Lions since 2011, thinks the best is to come for Agnew.
"I don't think he knows how good he's going to be," Carey said. "He's naturally talented. He's doing what I call a lot of 'young and dumb' running. He doesn't know how to break down a game yet to really understand what guys are trying to do against him.
"Once he adds that talent to his experience, the kid is going to be crazy.
"He's Pro Bowl caliber right now."
Taylor-made debut:** Decker had a new experience in his first game back after missing the first eight with an offseason shoulder injury. It was the first time he ever rotated playing time. Decker played 36 of the 52 offensive snaps at left tackle against the Browns. Brian Mihalik played the other 16.
"It felt like 40 minutes," Decker said of the time he was not on the field.
Decker played all 1,037 offensive snaps as a rookie in 2016.
Turnover ratio: The Bears' minus-5 stat for the season is misleading. The Bears are plus 2 in turnover ratio in the last five games with rookie Mitchell Trubisky starting at quarterback.
Turnovers led to the benching of Mike Glennon and the switch to Trubisky. Glennon had five interceptions and lost three fumbles in his four starts. Trubisky has had two interceptions and lost two fumbles in his five starts.
Golden moment: There should be a way to distinguish been raw stats and winning plays, and Golden Tate excels at both. He is tied with the Vikings Adam Thielen for the NFC lead with 19 catches on third down, and he's No. 1 in the conference with 293 yards. Third down is the money down, and Tate cashes in.
Picks ratio: One stat that's not misleading is interceptions. The Lions have 11 compared to only four for the Bears. Lions cornerback Darius Slay has four on his own. The Lions' turnover ratio of plus-7 is tied for third best in the league.
Bears QB carousel: Today's start will be Stafford's 106th straight in the regular season and 13th against the Bears since opening day of 2011.
Trubisky will be the Bears' fifth starter in seven games vs. the Lions. The list: Jimmy Clausen (Game 15, 2014), Jay Cutler (both games in 2015), Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley (2016) and now Trubisky.
Only Hoyer won a game in that span – 17-14 last year.
Sticking with my pick:
The Bears are strong and athletic up front on defense, and they make teams earn everything they get by playing conservatively in the secondary. Rookie running back Tarik Cohen has been used sparingly in recent games, but he has the speed to break a big play at any time as a complement to Jordan Howard.
Play smart, avoid turnovers, and the Lions should win decisively.
Prediction: No change – Lions 23, Bears 9.