The New England Patriots have moved to 9-2 following yet another dominating performance against a division leader. Today, the defeated the Detroit Lions 34-9, preserving their lead in the race for the AFC's #1 seed. Here are five things we learned from today's game:
Patriots coaching staff dials up great offensive gameplan. Today's 34-9 victory was a testament to the superiority of the Patriots' coaching staff. Heading into the game, the Patriots knew they would have a difficult time running the ball against Detroit's #1 ranked rush defense. So what do they do? Dial up an offensive game plan that spreads it out and emphasizes short, ball controlled passes and screens. Tom Brady had a nice game, going 38 for 53 with a pair of scores to Tim Wright. However, the 28 combined completions to Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman, and Shane Vereen shows that these two were utilized more as ball carriers than down the field pass catchers. Edelman, by the way, was spectacular. He had 11 catches, and just kept fighting after taking numerous big hits.
Blount Force Trauma is back. LeGarrette Blount is back. He finished today's game with 78 yards on 12 carries, with a pair of touchdowns. The running game was not a big part of the game plan, at least until garbage time, but Blount looked excellent on nearly every touch he received. His galloping, rumbling 34 yard pick-up in the 4th quarter was a thing of beauty. With the Patriots likely to dial up the running game more in the coming weeks, Blount looks ready to be a big-time contributor right away. Jonas Gray, by the way, didn't play a snap after being dismissed from team facilities Friday after arriving late.
Patriots secondary can be unreal. Today, they were unreal. Matt Stafford completed just 18 of 46 passes. Calvin Johnson finished with just 58 yards on four catches. Brandon Browner was matched against him most of the time, and effectively shut him down. The few catches Johnson did make on Browner were very well covered. Darrelle Revis also played excellent football, with several instinctive pass break-ups. The Lions did have their fair share of missed opportunities, but overall, the Patriots secondary dominated today.
Offensive line holds up, Tim Wright finally emerges. Quarterback Tom Brady was hit a few times throughout the day, but for the most part, the Patriots' offensive line did a nice job against the Lions ferocious front. Brady was not sacked, and while Suh did have a few plays in the backfield, it was a solid performance from the team's interior of Bryan Stork, Dan Connolly, and Ryan Wendell. An a mostly unrelated note, Tim Wright emerged today. He played a Patriots' career high of 60 snaps, which is a great sign in his grasp of the offense and his development as a blocker.
Patriots can generate a pass rush without Chandler Jones. One of the most positive signs of the game was the Patriots' ability to generate a consistent pass rush for perhaps the first time since Chandler Jones' hip injury. Both Akeem Ayers and Rob Ninkovich had strong performances of the edge. Both had a sack, and Ninkovich had a second wiped away by penalty. Matthew Stafford was under duress all day, and was constantly having to scramble out of the pocket. Combine the Patriots' improved rush with the spectacular coverage on the back-end, and it was a miserable day for the Lions' passing offense.