Thursday night’s dominating win over the Lions gave us the first glimpse of what might be to come for the 2019 Patriots season and if this is any indication of what lies ahead, fans should be excited for what will hopefully be a great year.
There were plenty of bright spots to take away from this game and here’s a quick rundown of what we learned from the team’s first win of the preseason.
1) Solid Outing By Stidham – Jarrett Stidham may only be a rookie but Thursday night’s performance was certainly a nice start to his NFL career. The rookie quarterback took over for Brian Hoyer in the second quarter and had a pretty good night, completing 14-of-24 for 179-yards along with a touchdown.
While it wasn’t perfect, what stood out most about Stidham was his poise under pressure and the fact even with defenders coming at him, he never wavered. One such throw came in the second half as Stidham stood in and took a shot after delivering a strike to Braxton Berrios on a 3rd-and-3 for a 20-yard gain to move the chains in the second half. It eventually led to a 23-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.
There were several occasions where he held onto the ball a little longer than he probably should have but overall it was a nice first outing for a player who in his first season will get to spend the 2019 campaign learning from one of the best. For a team still searching for a serviceable starter behind Tom Brady when the future Hall of Fame quarterback eventually walks away, Stidham gave fans something to feel good about. It’s still early, but the future is starting to look a little brighter for the young quarterback.
2) Nice Performance From Hoyer – The veteran back-up had arguably one of his best games since returning to New England, missing just two throws in a very efficient first half. He completed 12-of-14 for 147-yards and two touchdowns, helping the Patriots take control of this one early.
After a tough first drive, which ended with a punt, Hoyer put together a 6 play, 47-yard drive that started with a terrific throw down the middle to tight end Matt LaCosse, who went up over a defender and came down with the football for a 24-yard completion. LaCosse took a big shot on the play but held on, and the Patriots suddenly found themselves in business down at the Lion’s 23-yard line.
Three plays later, he delivered another nice throw to rookie N’Keal Harry, who made a terrific catch on a back-shoulder pass on a 3rd-and-10. Hoyer threw it a little behind him but Harry quickly reacted and hauled it in to move the chains.
Two plays later Hoyer hit Maurice Harris for the first touchdown of the night, capping a nice drive for the veteran back-up.
The next drive was also impressive as Hoyer marched them 87-yards on 13 plays, the last of which ended with another nice throw to rookie receiver Jakobi Meyers for the quarterback’s second touchdown pass of the night.
His evening came to an end at that point as Stidham came into the game on the next possession, but for a player who had looked pretty shaky the last time we saw him, the veteran is off to a nice start this preseason.
LaCosse looked good prior to leaving with an injury.
3) LaCosse Looked Great, But Was Injured – As the Patriots look to replace veteran tight end Rob Gronkowski, Matt LaCosse’s injury Thursday night was certainly frustrating.
The tight end finished the night with 2 receptions for 37-yards, one of which was a nice play as he took off up the seam and then caught a strike for a 24-yard gain before getting drilled in between two defenders.
LaCosse held on and appeared to be fine, but he didn’t fare as well later on in the second quarter when he suffered an apparent ankle injury. The tight end was blocking on a run play when he was injured and he pounding the turf in frustration while holding his left ankle after he went down. He was helped off the field after the play.
He didn’t return and later went to the locker room. No reports have come out on the injury so far but one can only hope that it will end up being merely a minor setback for a player who looked pretty good prior to going down.
4) N’Keal Harry showed us something last night – After what has been a pretty good training camp for Harry, fans finally got a glimpse of the rookie in game action Thursday night. Harry played well, finishing with two catches for 36-yards and really showed off his athleticism on both receptions.
His first came with the team facing 3rd-and-10 from the Lions’ 23-yard line. With Hoyer looking to extend the drive, he threw a back-shoulder pass to Harry that sailed a little behind him and it looked as though it might be out of Harry’s reach. Instead, Harry quickly reacted, twisting his body around and away from his defender, reaching out and grabbing the ball out of the air before hitting the the turf. It was a critical play for that drive, as it moved the chains and gave the Patriots a new set of downs at the Lions’ 12.
Harry had another nice grab on the team’s next drive, hauling in a 25-yard reception on 2nd-and-5 from their own 18-yard line. It was a tremendous reception as he leaped up over defenders, giving us a look at the tenacity he’s shown all through camp. More importantly, it was a crucial catch because it got New England out close to midfield and gave them some momentum as they started their next scoring drive. The bad news is, Harry left the game shortly after with an apparently leg injury and didn’t return. He remained on the sideline for the remainder of the half but didn’t come back out after halftime.
Harry did have some not-so-perfect moments after having other opportunities where he couldn’t quite haul in a couple of passes that went through his hands with a defender on him on both plays. But it was a strong showing for Harry in his first NFL outing and hopefully one he’ll be able to build on.
Meyers scored 2 touchdowns Thursday night. (USA TODAY Images)
5) Meyers was terrific – We’ve heard plenty about receiver Jakobi Meyers this preseason and he had a productive night in his first exhibition game.
Meyers caught 6 of the 8 balls he was targeted on for 69-yards and 2 touchdowns. What was impressive about Meyers was his quickness and the separation he was able to create. Looking at the replays, defenders had a tough time keeping up with him coming out of his breaks, which was really impressive. He also wasn’t afraid to go up and get the football, which he displayed on his first touchdown. Meyers beat his defender and went up and snatched the ball out of the air for the score. That play put the Patriots up 13-0 with just over 8-minutes left in the first half.
His second touchdown came after a perfect throw by Stidham as Meyers broke inside and Stidham delivered a strike between the numbers. Meyers led all receivers in receptions and also averaged 11.5 yards per catch, including a 26-yard reception, the longest offensive play for the Patriots.
As a result, both Meyers and Harry have provided a nice injection of talented youth to their receiving group. Both players certainly lived up to the hype and one can only hope that this is just the beginning of two promising careers here in New England.
6) Bailey Made the Most of His Night – With the punting battle in full swing, Jake Bailey was given every opportunity to try and earn a job as he continues battling it out with incumbent, Ryan Allen.
Bailey kicked off to start the game and handled the kickoff duties all night, finishing with several nice high kicks and three touchbacks. He had one punt, which was a 45-yard boot that was fair caught at the 20-yard line following the team’s opening possession. They didn’t punt the football for the rest of the half.
In the second half, Allen took over and finished with 3 punts for 118-yards including one inside the 20.
He’s had a strong camp and the Patriots are already aware of what they have in Allen. However, with Allen only back on a one-year deal, the Patriots appear to be giving Bailey the opportunity to prove himself so far this preseason.
Berrios finally had a strong night for the Patriots.
7) Berrios Shines in Return Game – Braxton Berrios has had an inconsistent camp as a receiver but Thursday night was a nice glimpse of what might be to come for him in the return game.
Berrios handled 4 punts Thursday night, totaling 35-yards and showed terrific quickness as the team begins hopefully removing Julian Edelman from that equation this season. The former Miami standout looked fairly comfortable in that role, picking up 14-yards on his second return of the night as he set the Patriots up with great field position at the Detroit 47-yard line, which led to their first touchdown.
Berrios also finished the night with 3 receptions for 45-yards, one of which was an 8-yard grab on a 4th-and-2. That kept the drive alive and led to Meyers’ touchdown as the team went up 14-0.
He later added a 20-yard reception on a 3rd-and-3 at the end of the 3rd quarter, which helped set up a 23-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.
As a result, Berrios was another bright spot for the Patriots and after his performance in the return game and his timely receptions in the passing game, his versatility could make him a viable option for the final receiver slot. Considering some of the criticism he’s gotten as of late, it’s hard to write him off just yet.
Winovich Shined in his preseason debut.
8) Winovich Shines on Defense – One player who many have been waiting to get a look at is rookie Chase Winovich, who was fantastic in his first outing.
The Michigan standout finished with 1.5 sacks and showed tremendous quickness on the outside in New England’s defense, which was great to see. Many fans who were on hand clearly had plenty of love for the former University of Michigan player, with Winovich surprisingly drawing plenty of cheers each time he got into the Lion’s backfield.
He’s a charismatic player and Thursday night showed that he’ll likely be a fun player to watch on the defensive side of the football in the coming months.
9) Calhoun came up big – Speaking of fun players to watch, Shilique Calhoun also had a strong showing on defense Thursday night.
Calhoun was impressive and showed plenty of power in this one. After coming up with a sack on Lions QB David Fales in the second quarter, Calhoun bull-rushed his man on the next play into the backfield, forcing Fales to try and roll to his left. He had no chance, as Derek Rivers was coming in on the other side and finished him off. But it was Calhoun’s brutal push what helped set up that play.
While it’s only preseason, moments like these are what fans like to see. Calhoun has been coming on as of late and Thursday night was a nice culmination of a lot of hard work. Like the offense, the Patriots seem to have some nice young talent on the defensive side of the football and that should be fun to watch this season.
10) Rivers stepped up – Rivers had a nice night of his own, finishing the evening with 2 sacks as he continues a pretty good camp.
He was explosive off the edge, joining a defense that overall finished the night with 7 total sacks on the Lions’ quarterbacks. He finished the night with three tackles, tied for second on the team. His 2 sacks were a team high.
The defense in general showed us quite a bit Thursday night and the most exciting part about this is the fact that they really have a nice young nucleus on that side of the football heading into this season. For a group that took much of last season to really come together, they’re off to a terrific start so far this preseason.
The Patriots will get back to work as they start preparing for their next preseason game next Saturday night against the Titans.