As a resident of the Detroit area, I've now had a chance to see our Patriots play the Lions twice in the past year--last Thanksgiving's 45-24 beatdown and last night's mess. I can't think of a better illustration of the difference between regular season and preseason than those two games.
But I'm willing to cut Detroit fans some slack. When you follow a franchise that was raped and sodomized as frequently and repeatedly as Matt Millen did to it when was the G.M., I suppose a preseason victory over the Patriots is a real highlight. If New England has been the team of the last decade, the Lions have just as clearly been the "un-team" of the decade. (How could anyone look at or listen to Rod Marinelli, Detroit's main man from 2006-08 and the coach of record during that 0-16 masterpiece of 2008, and think "this guy's head coaching material." Millen did, and that wasn't even in his top ten worst decisions --check out any of the Lions' drafts over the years).
Enough about the Lions. They might be very good this year, or they might just be the same old Lions. But they probably won't ever play any better than they did last night, and it's not wise to leave your best game on the field in Week 3 of pre-season. That's peaking WAY too soon.
On to our Patriots.
As bad as things looked--and they were as bad in person as they must have looked on television--I'm not sure last night's loss really means much. Although the Lions seem to think they've won the Super Bowl, New England didn't seem to care about playing the game. That's not a good thing, but the Patriots had a lot of guys sitting out, they were playing vanilla defensive schemes, they didn't seem to particularly gameplan for Detroit, and all those things plus the flatness the team played with spelled disaster last night. Twice, New England seemed to know exactly where to exploit Detroit's defense. There was a huge seam uncovered down the middle. The first time it appeared, Brady underthrew Welker for an incompletion. The second time, the pass was on target and Welker caught a touchdown pass. But that was about the only evidence of New England actually trying to execute a planned attack against the Lions.
I don't think they really tried that hard last night. Detroit did, and that's why they won big. Is it a concern? Yes. Is it particularly worrisome? Probably not. What it does do is restore a bit of equilibrium after the first two games. It probably will serve the function of getting the players' attention for the next couple weeks. Bill Belichick will get a lot of mileage out of this loss, preseason or not.
Here's betting that the Patriots gain more from this meaningless loss than the Lions do from a meaningless victory. Despite the cheering, the noise, the enthusiasm and excitement of last night, I doubt there are more than a handful of obnoxious Lions fans who wouldn't want to trade places with the Patriots this year and take our final record over theirs.
In other words, I can testify as an eyewitness that last night looked awful ("turrable, just turrable" as Charles Barkley would say), but I don't think it means very much at all. "A tale told by an idiot, all sound and fury, signifying nothing," as that noted football coach, William Shakespeare, once wrote.
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