5 things to know before today’s Falcons-Lions kickoff

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

The Falcons' social-justice committee has chosen the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to be the honorary captain for Sunday’s “Rise Up & Vote” game.

King’s daughter, Bernice King, will attend the game and players' warmup shirts will feature quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.

Here are five things to know before today’s Lions (2-3) at Falcons (1-5) kickoff at 1 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:

1. Gage on third downs. Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage is turning into a dependable third-down option.

He leads the NFL in receiving first downs on third-down plays, with 10, and is tied for the most catches on third downs, with 12, this season.

2. McKinley is questionable; Trufant is out. Falcons defensive end Takk McKinley, who’s played only five snaps over the past four games, returned to practice Friday and was listed as questionable for the game. Detroit cornerback Desmond Trufant, formerly of the Falcons, is out with a hamstring injury.

McKinley lined up with the first-team defense and worked next to Allen Bailey. He looked mobile on a stunt and then was fluid when he dropped into coverage.

“I think he’s really close,” Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said before practice.

Morris added that there were no thoughts of putting McKinley on injured reserve.

He played 43 snaps in the season opener against Seattle and 14 snaps against Dallas in the second game of the season before leaving with the groin injury. He did not play in losses to Chicago and Green Bay. He tried to play against Carolina, but left after five snaps.

He didn’t play last week against Minnesota.

It’s a big season for McKinley, who had his $10.3 million fifth-year option declined by the team in the offseason. He was off to a good start with one sack, seven tackles, one tackle for a loss and seven quarterback hits.

3. Series history: This will be the 38th meeting. The Lions lead the series 24-13. The Falcons won the last meeting 30-26 on Sept. 24, 2017 in the 10-second run-off game. The Falcons have won four of the past five meetings.

4. Where to watch, listen and stream. The game will be on Fox Sports with Chris Myers handling the play-by-play, Brock Huard and Greg Jennings with the color analysis and Jen Hale as the field reporter.

5. Three key matchups: Here are three key matchups to watch:

Lions RB Adrian Peterson vs. Falcons LB Foye Oluokun: Peterson, 35, who’s rushed for 14,501 yards over his career, leads the Lions in rushing with 69 carries for 185 yards and two touchdowns. “We know what Adrian Peterson is going to do,” Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said. “We know exactly who he is and how he’s going to run it. He’s going to run it with absolute patience. He’s going to bounce it. He’s going to take his time. You’ve got to limit him from popping that big one and getting his team going from the energy that he brings.” Oluokun has 40 tackles, two tackles for loss and made his first NFL interception last week. He’s taken Morris' message to run-and-hit more to heart. “He has taken ownership to his role,” Morris said. “His role has continued to grow. He went from being a guy that was a backup for (De’Vondre Campbell). We have a package for him where he plays a little bit of (defensive back). He’s evolving into one of the premier linebackers in our league.”

Lions WR Kenny Golladay vs. Falcons CB Kendall Sheffield: Golladay, who played at Northern Illinois, averages 16 yards per catch. He has 14 receptions for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Golladay, 6-foot-4 and 214 pounds, was taken in the third round of the 2017 draft. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2019. Sheffield has been a big part of the improvement in the secondary for the Falcons. He can play inside and outside and can match up with the opponent’s fastest receiver. He had a few bad plays late against Minnesota, but had been mostly solid since he returned for his foot injury.

Lions C Frank Ragnow vs. Falcons DT Grady Jarrett: Ragnow, who anchors the line, is the second rated center by Pro Football Focus. He started as a rookie at left guard before moving over to center last season. He was selected in the first round (20th) of the 2018 draft. Jarrett has to be the tone-setter in the middle of the Falcons' defense. When the Falcons go to their 3-4 alignment with the defensive ends standing up, Jarrett has played some nose tackle over the center. This promising to be a major battled to watch all game. Jarrett, a Pro Bowler, is off to another fine start. He has 22 tackles, five tackles for losses and eight quarterback hits.

Falcons' next four games

Lions at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25

Falcons at Panthers at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29

Broncos at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8

Falcons at Saints at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22

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