The Patriots lost their third preseason game to the Detroit Lions. Badly. Like, 40-9 bad. To the Detroit Lions. It was ugly. But what does it mean? Does it mean anything at all?
Here are some quick notes on last night’s game.
The big story coming into this season was how the offense would transition, namely would Tom Brady be able to drag a group of inexperienced receivers into postseason glory. But both the running game and the offensive line were supposed to be the constants, especially with another year of Van Riddles and Shane Vereen, and the added veteran presences of Leon Washington and LeGarrette Blount.
But last night, both units struggled mightily. The Pats running backs only mustered 57 yards on 26 carries, and both Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden fumbled away the ball. And the o-line couldn’t contain Detroit’s positively unfair defensive line, bothered constantly by Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Ezekiel Ansah, and Jason Jones (who had 2 sacks, and a recovered fumble). That Lions line looked nasty, sometimes a little wild (Fairley picked up two penalties in the first four minutes of the game, and looks poised to be in a season-long competition with Suh for “most crazy d-lineman”), and the Patriots could do nothing about it, forcing Brady to go to the air for much of the first half.
A bit of an up-and-down group. MVP Candidate and future HOF-er, Kenbrell Thompkins, continued to flaunt his talents, picking up 116 yards on 8 receptions (though dropping a pass that would have gotten the Patriots a key first down). Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce both looked fine, picking up 6 receptions on 13 targets. Corner Logan Ryan looked a lot more confident than in Preseason Weeks 1-2. My two favorite rookies, however (I’m weeping) had decidedly weak games. Duron Harmon was exploited time and time again by the Lions’ quarterbacks, and had some inexcusable missed tackles. Needless to say I’m taking a break from constructing my life-size bronze sculpture of the former Scarlet Knight. And Malik Sutcliffe (aka Zach Sudfeld) had an awesome 20-yard catch, that looked destined to send him to the end zone…but coughed up the ball to the defense. Luckily, from everything we’ve seen from Sudfeld, he’ll take this mistake and never let it happen again, and Bill Belicheck won’t let him forget it either. Speaking of the coach….
As horrible as this game was, can you imagine what it would have been like if Tim Tebow was playing? From what we’ve seen from the ex-Bronco/ex-Jet so far in preseason, he’s having an impossible time of evading the pass rush and getting the ball out in time, and I shudder to think what that would’ve looked like against the Lions. Not to say that Ryan Mallett looked great, hell, even good (11/22, 96 yds, 1 TD), but Tebow’s absence in Week 3 of this preseason may be the final death knell in his quest for a roster spot. If there was ever a time for Tebow to step in and prove himself, and a game already lost for Belichick to mess around in, it was this game. And yet, he stayed on the bench. I previously said that Belichick had too much pride invested in Tebow to give up on him outright, but we may have seen the last of Tebow in a Pats uniform.
-The vet LBs looked good.
Rob Ninkovich and Dont’a Hightower both looked good. So did Brandon Spikes…I’m reaching.
-I hate Reggie Bush
Ugh. Thank god he’s not in Miami anymore. While he had trouble running the ball (6 carries, 1 yard), he killed in the receiving game, collecting 5 receptions for 103 yards. In fact….
-So, the NFC North looks super scary…
I pretty much focus solely on the Patriots, so it’s easy to forget about the NFC. But Jesus, the NFC North should be fun to watch. Detroit looks like it has the pieces to at least bounce back a bit from their struggles last season. Green Bay has the best player in the NFL and added two blue-chip rookie running backs. Minnesota still has Adrian Peterson, meaning that they’re always frightening. And Chicago looks like they’ve added all the pieces to go all in on the Jay-Cutler-Experience, and actually see what they can do with a high-flying offense. I might actually have to watch some of those games this season. Luckily the Pats don’t touch that division, as they take on the super-tough NFC South and less-so AFC North this year.
-So what does it all mean?
Those who watched the game will tell you that it wasn’t nearly as bad a blowout as the score and box score say. And that’s somewhat true. Turnovers really killed the Patriots, and it can be argued, since none of them came from the reputedly butter-fingered Van Riddles, that they’re not symptomatic of a bigger problem. For the most part, the passing game, especially during the Brady series, looked good, even without Danny Amendola. A lot of the struggles, especially the running game, can be attributed to Detroit’s ungodly front four.
What’s still worrisome is the Pats’ secondary. I mean, they made Kellen Moore look like an All Star. Yes, Devin McCourty and Aqib Talib were pulled early, and Alfonzo Dennard is still missing, but the Pats can’t allow for their pass defense to be as bad as in past seasons, especially if their offense takes a little step back. So in the long run this loss means….not all that much. Not the disaster that some, including me, would normally rush to proclaim it to be, but revealing some of the weaknesses that this Pats team may have.