I think it’s safe to say that every fan in Patriots’ Nation was thoroughly disappointed in Saturday night’s performance. No one could blame you. The offensive line failed to protect Brady who couldn’t get into any rhythm, and the defense was a leaky sieve all night long. However, I would be cautious (just like I was with our wins against the Jaguars and the Buccaneers) to set too much store by this. What we saw all night was Belichick mixing¬†personnel¬†on defense (namely the safeties) and testing out what appeared to be a different approach to what we saw against the Buccaneers. The Lions came out as if this was their Superbowl; jawing at the line of scrimmage, pushing and shoving after the whistle and they certainly came out with a much different tempo. They were deserved winners. I will start by touching on the topics I told you all to look out for in my article¬†Preseason Preview: Detroit Lions before touching on a few extra points!
Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis were two players I indicated we should look out for. Neither played nor made the trip. With week 4 being the week players on the roster bubble come out to earn the ¬†few final spots left after the first round of cuts, I wouldn’t expect to see either of these players until Week 1 of the Regular Season. We saw this with Randy Moss in 2007 ; Belichick once said that ‘Coaching is like a game of cards…you take the hand that’s dealt you and play it the best you can’, and he is clearly holding back all his chips when it comes to these two. He’s not showing the league anything. He doesn’t want the league¬†knowing¬†too early how he plans to utilise his two newest additions to the Defensive Line.
Shane Vereen and Ras-I Dowling were the two Rookie players returning who I said to also look out for but neither saw the field. Both have come off of injuries keeping them out of Preseason for a considerable amount of time and¬†Belichick¬†clearly felt it wasn’t worth risking two players who won’t start in this Week 3 dress rehearsal of the regular season. They should get plenty of¬†opportunity¬†come week 4 if they remain healthy.
The starters got a considerable amount of playing time and, as¬†predicted, played into the 3rd Quarter. Unfortunately none of them made very good accounts of themselves. The offensive line was one of the biggest flops of them all, providing no¬†consistent¬†pass protection for Tom Brady. He was pressured on far too many occasions, hit on others and last season’s unanimous MVP could not settle into the rhythm we saw in Week 2 against the Buccaneers. Whilst a lot of¬†people¬†are raising a lot of questions about this line, I wouldn’t be overly worried just yet. They have held their own pretty well over the course of Preseason, dominating both the Jaguars and Buccaneers. I’m not overly concerned after on bad game. As the saying goes, ‘it’s only Preseason’. Starting Right Guard¬†Dan Connolly left the game with an ankle injury and is someone to monitor.
I was most eager to see what Bill¬†Belichick¬†did with the Safety¬†Position in this game. What we saw was a vast mixture of partnerships in the Secondary. Brandon Merriweather and James Sanders opened things up, with Patrick Chung, Sergio brown and James Ihedigbo rotating in and around whilst the coaching staff tested the pairings. This tells me the Patriots are still not quite sure with what works best. I honestly felt the Patriots played a very vanilla defense in Saturday’s game to test these guys out and change things up. The results were very mixed, but bad for the most part. Chung and Merriweather did not pair up together during this game, which you can’t read too much into, however I think it’s down to the¬†fact¬†Bill knows what he is getting with these two already; whether that be good or bad I have no idea. New arrival James Ihedigbo made a¬†reasonable¬†showing, but missed an¬†opportunity¬†for an¬†interception and a tackle for loss on a pass into the flats. ¬†I am reserving judgement on him for the time being, but he contributed on all 4 Special Teams Units which tells me that that will be his main role if he is to make the team. His name didn’t stand out much.
I saw nothing¬†spectacular¬†by either Will Yeatman or Lee Smith in this game. I’m still keeping a close eye on the two, but I would say that Yeatman is still¬†separating¬†himself from Smith at this time. Again, I will stress this has the potential to change, but I saw nothing from Smith so suggest he can offer us anything different. Yeatman saw reps with he first offensive unit on Saturday; a very telling sign!
Brandon Tate has taken yet another step back. The Lions completely eliminated his ability to be a threat in the return game. If the kickers aren’t kicking it through the endzone for touchbacks, they’re high kicking it up to the goal line, and letting their coverage¬†guys¬†pin the kicker in. The value of a kick return specialist is more or less non-existent to me now. Taylor Price got a lot of reps with the first team unit, whereas Tate got none. He has surpassed him, and Tate no longer has any use for us. He will not be making the roster this season.
Run Defense was a rare positive for us. We got off blocks at the line, held our own in the gaps, and prevented any big gains. I expect this to only be reinforced by Ellis and Haynesworth when they make their appearance for us.
Stephan Gostkowski’s leg looks fully healthy. He started the game by booming a kickoff out of the back of the endzone.
These are my main observations from the game against Detroit on Saturday. Let me stress again that it was only Preseason. I remember a certain Week 3 result in last year’s Preseason against the Rams, after which people were calling the Jets the new AFC East champs and calling us no more than a 10 win team. The Pats went 0-4 in 2003 and the Lions 4-0 in 2008; and we all know how those seasons turned out! Individually we just didn’t match up well or¬†compete¬†in this game. I hope this¬†is¬†them getting it out of their system for the Regular season, just like last year!
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