Bill Belichick doesn’t like the term dress rehearsals but if this was the Patriots’ in Detroit, then the offense looks more than ready enough to start the season. Tom Brady and Company were clicking on all cylinders in a first quarter that saw them race out to 24 points as they played most of their starters in the first half.
But it was truly a tale of two halves. The Patriots backups struggled on both sides of the ball before they eventually had to come from behind with a last minute field goal to beat the Lions 30-28.
The impressive showing by the starting offense had an ominous cloud hanging over it however, as it is feared that Julian Edelman may have suffered a serious injury and may be lost for the season. Edelman went down on the Patriots first drive after making a cut and grabbing his leg in pain. Initial tests revealed an ACL tear but the team is waiting for a test on Saturday morning to confirm it.
Brady and the Patriots offense came out firing, going to an up-tempo style offense, they marched down the field in just 3:09, before many fans found their seats, scoring a touchdown when Brady hit Chris Hogan for a seven-yard score. The drive covered 75 yards in just 7 plays. Edelman was huge in the drive, up to his injury catching three passes for 52 yards.
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford completed a pass to Golden Tate but Malcolm Butler punched the ball out and with three Patriots around the ball, Jordan Richards fell on it and the Patriots were in business at the Detroit 32.
Brady went for the quick strike, hitting Chris Hogan streaking down the left side for a 32-yard touchdown pass making it 13-0 just 21 seconds after the first touchdown. On the right side, Brandin Cooks was also open deep as Brady had his pick of where to go. Stephen Gostkowski pulled the extra point wide left.
The Patriots defense held Detroit to a three and out and went right back on the attack. Facing a 3rd and 4, Brady and Danny Amendola had a beautiful 32-yard hook up where Amendola showed great concentration, hauling the ball in between two defenders as he was going to the ground. Then a defensive pass interference call on Rob Gronkowski, (the second he drew in the first quarter), set the team up at the 12-yard line. Three plays later, Mike Gillislee in his first carry in a Patriots uniform powered in from the one-yard line after great blocks by James O’Shaughnessy and James Develin to make it 19-0. The extra point was good, but the Lions were flagged on the play so New England went for two. Gillislee scored on basically the same play, this time cutting it back to the inside and the score was 21-0.
Brady led another scoring drive but this one stalled as Gostkowski nailed a 46-yard field goal to make the score 24-0. Brady was 10-11 for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. The only incompletion was a drop by Cooks on a deep stick route.
Stafford finally got Detroit’s offense clicking and he completed four consecutive passes for 70 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to Marvin Jones that made it 24-7. The play was another curiously bad one by Butler who gave up a long pass last week. The Patriots starters were done after Brady moved them into Lion’s territory and badly missed a connection with Hogan in the Detroit end zone that resulted in a pick by Glover Quin. It was an uncharacteristic bad decision by Brady, throwing into double coverage.
Stafford was 11-of-17 for 125 yards, a touchdown and a pick against the Pats starting defense. He came out in the third quarter and played a series with the starters against the Patriots backups and shredded them, going 4-of-5 for 65 yards and a touchdown to Dwayne Washington.
Jimmy Garoppolo and the second team offense struggled in the second half until their two final drives where they were able to get field goals from Gostkowski to narrow the Lions’ lead to 28-27 and then finally going back out in front with two seconds to go 30-27. Other observations included:
- Chris Hogan was dynamic, especially in that pivotal first quarter. He caught five passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Remember the talk when the team traded for Cooks and many thought Hogan’s reps would disappear? That now seems to be firmly in the rear-view mirror.
- Jordan Richards was moved to a linebacker role in the Patriots “Big Nickel” formation on defense and struggled again. He did recover the fumble but missed some tackles that should have been made. We know Belichick loves this kid, but for them to keep him this season, would be a head scratcher.
- Veterans David Harris and Kony Ealy saw extensive action, but with the injuries on the defense, it was more out of necessity than anything else. Both had some good and bad. Ealy seems to be at his best as an inside penetrator. Harris is solid in run support but was in a mismatch in the passing game with Ameer Abdullah.
- Garoppolo and the offense seemed stuck in neutral, although much of that had to do with the play of the offensive line until the final two drives when Josh McDaniels went to the up-tempo offense. It seemed the ball was coming out quicker and with better accuracy.
- D.J. Foster will be playing somewhere in September. It looked like he was running the ball with some excellent vision this week, he had one drop in the passing game, but it would have been a tough catch.
- Cooks and Gronkowski each only caught one pass but it wasn’t anything to be concerned with. Gronk drew two pass interference penalties and Cooks, with Edelman out, would have had his role increased had the offense remained out there in the second half.
- It was a pretty decent night for Cameron Fleming, he played mostly well but whiffed a couple of times on speed rushes off the edge by Anthony Zettel.
The Patriots now have the final tune-up with the Giants before the games begin for real when Kansas City comes into town in just 13 days. The team has plenty of decisions still to make and next week, the fringe players should see plenty of action.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2017 Patriots Preseason 2017 Patriots Season 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Chris Hogan Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower James White Jimmy Garoppolo Julian Edelman Malcolm Butler New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady Trey Flowers