1. Balance the Key on Offense Yet Again as Patriots Find Success on Play Action
Yesterday, Tom Brady had a perfect 158.3 rating against the Detroit Lions. One of the keys: great balance. Earlier in the week, I touched upon how balance was a key factor in Tom Brady's success against the Steelers and Colts. Yesterday was no different. The Patriots threw 28 times, and ran the ball 25 times yesterday. The result: Tom Brady going 8/8 on the play action, with two touchdowns. I also won't discount the Patriots ability to work out of the play action as part of the reason behind the offensive line's 2nd half rebound. With the combination of things the Patriots can do on offense, the Patriots are becoming nearly impossible to stop.
2. Devin McCourty is a stud. Enough Said.
We challenged the pick in April. We were skeptical in July. We were happy by September. By October, we were thrilled. Now, in late November, we're simply in awe. Devin McCourty, the 27th overall pick of this years draft, has turned into a stud cornerback. Yes, McCourty came up with two interceptions. Yes, McCourty turned the game around with his first. But the way he played Calvin Johnson was simply amazing. Johnson couldn't do anything against McCourty. Screw Revis Island, we've got McCourty Island. And to think, the Patriots are without Leigh Bodden, who played at a very high level last season. I've been salivating at the thought of having him and McCourty together as the outside cornerbacks next year.
3. Can defense find success in the playoffs this way?
This is a question I found myself asking yesterday. The bend but don't break defense can only go so far. In a day where the offense is struggling, will the defense be able to step up and keep the game close? As of now, I'm really not sure. I think we were all worried in the first half, when the offensive line couldn't keep Brady upright, and the Lions made the Patriots defense look like swiss cheese. While the defense came up with some big second half turnovers (thank you Devin McCourty), they never really looked dominating in any spot. I'm looking for the day when this defense can play a full 60 minutes. Until then, I will still have questions about this team's ability to make a playoff run.
Two more observations as well at two "P.A.T.'s" after the jump!
4. Struggles for Tate, Kickoff Return Unit, Connolly, and Arrington
Brandon Tate and Kyle Arrington were two players who had a rough day on Thanksgiving. Tate had two dropped passes, including a perfectly placed Tom Brady deep ball in the second quarter. Kyle Arrington struggled to stay with Lions receivers, including Calvin Johnson. In all fairness to Arrington, it was Calvin Johnson. But Arrington is just an average cornerback, and it showed yesterday. The kickoff return unit also struggled, although it's hard to pinpoint whose fault it was - Brandon Tate's or the actual blocking. Lastly, Dan Connolly had a rough day. At times, he was abused inside by Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams. He also picked up a holding penalty. Either way, these four players/units will like to improve next week against the Jets.
5. Lack of Class From the Lions
At the end of the game, one thing that particularly stood out to me was the lack of class from the Lions players on the field. I'm not sure exactly what happened as the Patriots punched in their final score, but the indication, from the referees, was a like of sportsmanship from the Lions. The first clue came on a Tom Brady quarterback sneak near the goal line. It looked like the Lions jumped on Brady near the end of the play unnecessarily. A play later, an unsportsmanlike conduct was called on Louis Delmas of the Lions. It seemed to get out of hand on the point after try. It appeared that DeAndre Levy and Ndamukong Suh among others converged and attempted to pile drive Logan Mankins and Matt Light into the ground. While Patriots, for the most part, seemed to keep their cool (with the possible exception of Matt Light, who I should mention was a victim on the play): the Lions players, Suh in particular, decided to celebrate their little act while forgetting what the scoreboard said. Overall, it appeared to be a classless act by a losing team. It's not wonder that players such as Bart Scott have called them dirty: it showed up on Thursday.
Point After: A quick tip of the cap to Sammy Morris. While Morris' role as a primary back has been reduced this season, he's really found a way to contribute on special teams (plays on all four units), and as a short yardage fullback. Classic example of a player re-defining his role with the team late in his career. I could certainly see him back next year in a similar role.
Point After 2: Anyone else pay attention to the facial expressions of Lions Coach Jim Schwartz on the sidelines. Actually, I should say the lack of facial expressions. While he wears a headpiece, he rarely seems to say anything, as he continues his one blank stare. Possibly creepy, but amusing nonetheless. Lets just thank the big guy I don't have to be a Lions fan.