By: Ian Logue
Coming into Thursday night’s game against the Lions the Patriots had been fairly effective running the football so far this preseason.
However, Detroit did a pretty good job reminding New England that they still have some work to do up front.
The Lions completely shut them down, holding each of their running backs completely in check and putting on one of the best defensive displays the Patriots have faced all preseason. Before Thursday night both Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount were averaging around eight yards per carry, but both were stopped dead in their tracks against Detroit’s defensive front. Blount carried 10 times for just 26 yards (2.6 avg) along with only one first down.
Ridley fared far worse, carrying 9 times for all of 6 yards (0.7 avg).
It’s an even bigger surprise with Ridley as he’s been one of the more elusive running backs on this football team, but Thursday night there was just wasn’t any space to be had. The Lions line broke through repeatedly and got penetration the whole night, causing the Patriots all kinds of problems.
Blount and the Patriots never were able to get anything going on the ground Thursday night. (FILE:USPresswire)
It also didn’t help that they turned the ball over four times in the first half, with Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden each fumbling away the football. Each of those came right around the Patriots own 10 yard line, giving the Lions great field position and putting their defense in a tough spot. They lucked out both times after they were able to hold the Lions each time to a field goal, but after the game Bill Belichick clearly wasn’t happy about all the miscues.
“Obviously when you turn the ball over four times in the first quarter, that will knock you out of most any game, and it practically knocked us out of this one,” said Belichick after the game. ” We couldn’t ever make a stop in the second half defensively to ever really make it competitive, even though we had a couple of decent drives offensively.”
Overall New England’s running backs were stopped for a loss seven times and for no gain on five more. That’s 12 carries that they failed to either gain a yard or went backward.
One of the tougher plays of the night that stood out came in the first half while they were trailing 13-3 at the two minute warning. Facing a 4th and 1 at the Lions 36 yard line, they made an interesting decision. Normally in those situations they’d go on a quick count and sneak Tom Brady up the middle. Instead, they opted to hand off to fullback James Develin and Detroit made a massive push and stopped him cold.
Needless to say it was an opportunity to test Develin, and it didn’t work out, so the Patriots turned the ball over on downs. That more or less killed their momentum, and the Lions went on to run off 27 unanswered points.
The only good news is fortunately this game happened now and not during the regular season. According to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, he knew coming in this wasn’t going to be easy, and he expects the Lions to have a solid season ahead of them.
“It’s never been easy against the Lions. I mean, we’ve played them a bunch over the years and they’re always very challenging. They’ll have a very good team this year.”