For the second straight week, the New England Patriots played an uncharacteristically sloppy four quarters of football and therefore added another entry to their loss column. During their lackluster 26-10 defeat against the Detroit Lions, some disturbing trends and performances were on display: from an inability to stop the run to the wide receivers failing to get open. With that in mind, let’s take a look at yesterday’s winners and losers:
Loser: QB Tom Brady
Tom Brady had one of the least productive games of his NFL career agains the Lions and finished the day with just 14 completions on 26 attempts for 133 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His statistical output is not the only concern, however: Brady was visibly frustrated all game long and also made a bad decision on a deep pass that was intercepted. Not the best day for the 41-year old.
Loser: The run defense
Before yesterday’s game, Detroit went almost five years without a 100-yard rusher. On Sunday night against the Patriots, Kerryon Johnson was able to become the first Lion since 2013 Reggie Bush to break the mark again – a reflection of the sieve that was New England’s run defense. The team’s run stuffers up front were dominated up front by the Lions’ blockers while the linebackers behind them were unable to consistently make plays downhill. This, in turn, allowed the home team to control the pace of the game and keep Tom Brady on the sidelines for all but 20 minutes.
Winner: OT Marcus Cannon
After missing last week’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a calf injury, Marcus Cannon was back on the field against the Lions. While his return did not lead to a victory, it was a positive sign for the starting right tackle and New England’s offensive line as a whole after replacement LaAdrian Waddle had a tough time last week. Cannon proved to be a steady presence and played a key role as a blocker on a 19-yard screen pass to Rex Burkhead.
Loser: RB Sony Michel
The rookie running back again showed some promise but proved to be mostly ineffective in his second NFL game: Michel finished the game with 14 carries for 50 yards and one catch for -1 but did not provide the spark New England’s offense would have needed. The lowlights of his night include him getting stopped behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-short twice, and failing to come up with relatively easy catches on back-to-back plays.
Winner: DE Deatrich Wise Jr.
Against the Jaguars last week, the Patriots lacked urgency and showed little emotion. While it was more of the same yesterday, second-year defensive edge Deatrich Wise Jr. was not the reason why. Wise Jr., who stepped in for the injured Trey Flowers, was fired up coming out of halftime and tried to rally his teammates after positive plays. His energetic approach ultimately did not spread over on his teammates but it was still good to see him try.
Loser: Josh McDaniels
With the issues at the wide receiver position and the Lions’ supposed struggles against the run, it was no surprise to see New England try to establish the ground game early. However, it quickly became clear that the plan did not work and that Detroit was ready for Sony Michel and company. McDaniels, however, continued to stick to the run – maybe even when he should have trusted Tom Brady to make plays.
Loser: FS Duron Harmon
New England played plenty of two-deep safety looks with Duron Harmon lining up in his usual spot alongside Devin McCourty. But while he and the rest of the secondary were stout when it came to defending the deep pass, Harmon had a noticeable blunder in the third quarter that contributed to a 33-yard touchdown pass – one that shifted momentum again after the Patriots had finally established it: the veteran safety failed to pick up Marvin Jones who was open for the score to make the game 20-10.
Winner: LB Ja’Whaun Bentley
The Patriots’ linebacker corps had a below-average performance on the night, but Bentley was again a positive surprise – one that delivered the defense’s biggest play: on the opening drive of the second half, the rookie was able to intercept Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford on a pass intended for tight end Luke Willson. Bentley provided close coverage and was able to get inside position to pick off the pass. A good play by an emerging defender.
Loser: WR Phillip Dorsett
Phillip Dorsett was the Patriots’ leader in pass receptions entering yesterday’s game, but the Lions were able to erase him all four quarters: Dorsett was targeted five times by Tom Brady and failed to catch even a single pass against tight man coverage. While he had his moments in the first two weeks, yesterday was further confirmation that the former first-round draft pick was unable to replace Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola as the team’s go-to wideout.