Report Card: Patriots Tame Lions

Derek Havens
November 26, 2010 at 04:37pm ET

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The Patriots got their ninth win of the season on Thursday against the Detroit Lions. Even though the whole game was not spectacular from a Patriots perspective, it certainly ended in the Pats favor. Second half struggles have haunted the Patriots this season; that did not prove to be the case on this Thanksgiving holiday. The Pats seemed to come out a bit flat at the start of the game but slowly got into gear. The slow start in the first half left many fans questioning the team’s energy levels and preparation in result from the quick turn around. The Pats came out firing on all cylinders in the second half and the interception by rookie cornerback Devin McCourty swung the game in a new direction. In 16:58 of time the Pats scored 4 touchdowns in the second half and put the game away while doing so.

Like nearly all the games the Patriots have played this season, there were many positives and negatives to take out of Thursdays match-up. Certainly, this was not the best effort the Patriots had put forth this season but, it could most certainly be classified as a team win. The Lions showed how they have been competitive this year but also illustrated their greatest flaw, not playing a 60-minute ball game. However, the Patriots players showed great mental toughness by shaking off a rocky start and finishing strong. Here are my grades for the Patriots this week:

Offense: A

Another week of Patriots football, and another week of Tom Brady excellence. Number 12 has been on fire the past few weeks and seems to be carving up defenses with ease. The offensive line struggled against a stout Lions defensive line and Brady took some monster hits in result. Even after getting knocked down continually early, he rose to the occasion and delivered another MVP performance. He went 21 for 27, passing for 341 yards and 4 touchdowns. His perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 is astonishing. To put this remarkable feat in perspective, this is only the second time the hall-of-famer has achieved a perfect rating and he is the first QB for any team to do so this season.  He has the offense in sync and in result the unit is the highest scoring the NFL.

Deion Branch and Wes Welker had huge games for the Pats on Thursday and the team certainly needed their contributions. With two touchdowns apiece, it seemed every positive play on offense was their doing.

Good teams in this league do not turn the ball over and the Patriots have been doing an excellent job to this point in the season. Through 11 games, the Pats have turned the ball only 9 times and continue to make other teams pay for their costly mistakes.

Defense: C

Another deceptive win for the defense this year as turnovers masked the many flaws this group continues to struggle with. The defense allowed 24 points, 406 total yards, and was on the field for over 31 minutes with a 50% success rate on third down. Breakout rookie Devin McCourty has two interceptions that helped cover up a questionable effort from the squad.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe the defense played well enough to win the game. Although, if this team wants to go far into the post-season, there are some serious flaws that need to be addressed. This team has proved to me through 12 weeks of football that they can force turnovers and take advantage of opponents mistakes; a big difference from last season. Never the less, I continue to see grow every week from this unit, a positive side moving into the final part of this season.

Special Teams: C-

The Special Teams unit for this team has been tremendous this year. Unfortunately, the unit struggled on Thursday in Detroit. The Lions are the best team in the league in terms of starting field position. Stefan Logan showed why multiple times by burning the kickoff coverage during the game.

Besides Julien Edelman’s early game return, the Patriots could not get any substantial yardage on punts. Brandon Tate was held in check by the Lions special teams unit all day and teams seem to be avoiding him at all costs.

Game Grade: B -

Overall, the patriots got another solid road win. After all, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish and the Pats Thanksgiving day performance was a clear example of just that. The team played well as a whole, but did struggle in every facet of the game. As the game came to a close the Patriots made enough plays to win and their strong play in the second half was unmatched.

The Patriots and Jets are now tied for the best records in the NFL at 9 – 2. Next weeks Monday Night Football showdown could end up being the game of the season and there is certainly plenty at stake. After playing 3 games in 12 days, the Patriots now get 11 days off to prepare for their division rivals. For now, the Patriots can enjoy this win and return home for a few days of well deserved rest. Next weeks challenge should prove to be much more challenging.