The New England Patriots dominated the first quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions, building up a 24-0 lead. The middle two frames belonged to the Lions as they staged a furious comeback, scoring 28 straight points.
Jimmy Garoppolo finally led a drive for points at the end of the fourth quarter to bring the score to 28-27. Then the Patriots defense held, giving the ball back to Garoppolo who led a game-winning drive. Stephen Gostkowski hit a 45-yard field goal to win the game.
It’s hard to lose a 24-point lead. Could you imagine blowing a 25-point lead? I don’t think any team could recover from that. Good thing the Patriots won this game and now Jacoby Brissett can watch Garoppolo’s tape on how to stage a fourth quarter comeback.
But even as the Patriots back-ups played terribly (again), there was still plenty to takeaway from the game.
Tom Brady is ready for the regular season
Brady started the game 11 of 13 for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns. His only two incompletions were on a dropped pass by Brandin Cooks and when a defender knocked the ball out of Rob Gronkowski’s hands. He finished his day with an interception after Chris Hogan gave up on a route, but that will simply serve as a lesson for the offense: play 60 minutes, no matter the score.
The Patriots will have to replace Julian Edelman
We will know more about Edelman’s injury tomorrow, but his injury did not look good. Edelman is one of the most important players in the Patriots offense so the team will cross their fingers and hope that he will be able to return. If not, then the Patriots will need to find a replacement. Austin Carr could be a choice to take the roster spot, but Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola will likely slide up the depth chart.
Chris Hogan could be the one to step up
Prior to giving up on that intercepted pass, Hogan reeled in all four targets for 70 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hogan has received a lot of praise from the coaching staff this offseason and he was going to improve on his first year with the Patriots regardless of Edelman’s health- but now he’s on center stage.
Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski were quiet
Cooks and Gronkowski, two of the Patriots blue chip offensive players, combined for 2 catches and 17 yards on 4 targets. They were not heavily involved as receivers, but this was a definite possibility. We’ll need to re-watch the game, but perhaps both Cooks and Gronkowski were drawing all the coverage, allowing Edelman, Hogan, and Danny Amendola to combine for 9 catches on 10 targets for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Patriots defensive tackles played into the fourth quarter
Alan Branch, Lawrence Guy, and Vincent Valentine all played late into the fourth. Branch is getting back into football shape and Valentine needs the experience, but Guy has been outstanding and probably doesn’t need to be out there. What about Woodrow Hamilton and Darius Kilgo? The Patriots kept the defensive tackles on the field much longer than any other position.
Kony Ealy had a strong outing against the back-ups
Trey Flowers drew the start with Kyle Van Noy on the edge, with Harvey Langi as the third man in the rotation. Ealy didn’t play at all with the top unit. But when he played against the back-ups, he dominated as one would expect from a starter against weaker competition. Ealy’s roster spot should be safe since he’s shown progress in each week on the field.
Edit: Whoops, Ealy has been released.
Stephon Gilmore looks like the real deal
Gilmore defended a pass and provided excellent coverage of his receiver. Malcolm Butler had a nice forced fumble to start the game, but he lost track of his receiver at times and allowed a touchdown for the second-straight week. Gilmore is proving why he received the big money- and Butler is showing why the Patriots didn’t pony up the cash.
The Patriots back-ups were #NotGood
The Lions back-ups clearly had the upper hand over the Patriots as Detroit mounted a major comeback. The Patriots offensive line couldn’t stop the Lions pass rushers or create lanes for D.J. Foster. The secondary couldn’t cover for more than two seconds and the front seven- outside of Ealy- couldn’t get anywhere near the quarterback. Many of the Patriots back-ups that took the field won’t make the active roster, but the drop in quality is striking.