EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – They had every reason to fail Monday.
They were on the road, on the brightest of Monday night stages, against a desperate team with a good defense and a star wide receiver who gutted his way onto the field.
But with so much stacked against them, the Detroit Lions instead gave everyone reason to believe they are for real.
Matthew Stafford threw two touchdown passes, Ziggy Ansah had three sacks and Jamal Agnew scored on an electric 88-yard punt return as the Lions beat the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, 24-10.
The Lions improved to 2-0 with the victory, their first 2-0 start since 2011, and have a showdown with the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons this Sunday at Ford Field.
The Falcons are one of just two other undefeated teams in the NFC, along with the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0).
The Lions, as they did in their opener last week against the Arizona Cardinals, got a solid all-around performance Monday with big plays in every phase of the game.
Stafford threw for just 122 yards, but he used his feet to set up both of his first-half touchdowns.
In the first quarter, Stafford escaped a sack and weaved his way between defenders for a 13-yard gain on third-and-9 to keep a drive alive. Three plays later, he found Marvin Jones for a 27-yard touchdown pass, Jones’ second touchdown in as many games
On the Lions' second touchdown, Stafford used his feet to buy time in the backfield. He stepped up in the face of pressure and hit Eric Ebron streaking across the end zone.
Defensively, Ansah dominated a leaky Giants line, beating left tackle Ereck Flowers for three sacks.
Tahir Whitehead also intercepted a deflected pass off Glover Quin’s hands, and Quandre Diggs made perhaps the play of the game when he stopped Shane Vareen just short of the first-down marker on fourth-and-3 with just over 10 minutes to play.
The Lions had just taken a 24-10 lead on Agnew’s long punt return.
Agnew became the first Lions rookie to return a punt for a score since Eddie Drummond when he plucked a Brad Wing kick off his shoetops and raced down the far sideline, dodging one tackle and spinning away from another on his way to the end zone.
Ebron finished with a game-high five catches for 42 yards for the Lions, who managed just 257 yards of offense as a team but once again took advantage of good field position.
The Lions scored their first touchdown on their second possession, which started at their own 46-yard line after a Haloti Ngata sack pinned the Giants near their own goal line.
The Giants tied the game at 7 on the ensuing drive, before the Lions went ahead, 14-7, on Ebron’s touchdown five plays after Whitehead’s interception.
Manning completed 22-for-32 passes for 239 yards for the Giants, who had star receiver Odell Beckham on the field in a limited capacity.
Beckham, who finished third in the NFL in both receptions and receiving yards last year, caught four passes for 36 yards in his return from a high ankle sprain.
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