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Preseason Patriots vs Lions game report: Rookie contributors, pass rush power New England’s 31-3 blowout win

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New England’s first preseason game is here.

NFL: Preseason-New England Patriots at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots open their preseason with a decisive 31-3 victory over the Detroit Lions. While preseason always has to be taken with a grain of salt, the Patriots certainly can feel good about today’s performance: the pass rush overwhelmed the Lions’ offense, the rookies led by Jarrett Stidham and Jakobi Meyers were productive, and the team dominated in all three phases while still leaving plenty for Bill Belichick to address moving forward.

With all that in mind, let’s recap tonight’s action.

Starting lineups

Offense

LT: Dan Skipper

LG: Hjalte Froholdt

C: Ted Karras

RG: James Ferentz

RT: Tyree St. Louis

TE: Matt LaCosse

QB: Brian Hoyer

FB: Jakob Johnson

RB: Brandon Bolden

WR: Jakobi Meyers

WR: Phillip Dorsett

Defense

DE/OLB: John Simon

DT: Danny Shelton

DT: Adam Butler

DE/OLB: Shilique Calhoun

LB: Ja’Whaun Bentley

LB: Jamie Collins Sr.

CB: Joejuan Williams

CB: J.C. Jackson

CB: Duke Dawson Jr.

S: Terrence Brooks

S: Duron Harmon

Game recap

First quarter

The game started with rookie punter Jake Bailey handling kickoff duties, placing the ball well to force a return from the -2 yard line. New England’s coverage unit was quick to the returner and stopped him short of the 20-yard line. The defense almost followed up with a perfect start as well, but surrendered a 24-yard pass on a 3rd and 9. However, the unit improved quickly and did not give up another first down on the opening series.

Detroit was forced to punt the football away after six plays, kicking to Braxton Berrios who ran the punt back 8 yards. New England’s offense — led by Brian Hoyer — did not fare much better. It did gain one first down thanks to a Brandon Bolden run, but also had to punt after a Matt LaCosse holding penalty put the team behind the chains. Bailey again entered the field, kicking a 45-yarder with a hang-time of 5+ seconds. Pretty good.

The Lions were unable to do much with their next series, thanks to the Patriots’ pass rush picking up the temp. First, Jamie Collins took down Detroit’s starting quarterback, Tom Savage, for an 8-yard loss with a speed rush off the edge. Then, Ja’Whaun Bentley cost the home team 7 more yards with another quarterback takedown. The team punted for the second time, and Braxton Berrios ran the kick back 14 yards.

New England answered in style. The team drove 47 yards in six plays — including N’Keal Harry’s first ever catch in a Patriots uniform, one that went for 11 yards — to put the first points on the board: on a 2nd and 12 Hoyer found Maurice Harris from 14 yards out to give New England its first lead of the night. The free agency acquisition fought through a potential hold to haul in the grab. [7-0 PATRIOTS]

After another Jake Bailey kickoff, one that went for a touchback, the Patriots’ defense forced another quick three-and-out. New England’s next series started with another Brandon Bolden run, followed by a terrific 25-yard back-shoulder catch from Harry. Unfortunately, the rookie came up hobbling after the reception and the left the field to end the first quarter.

Second quarter

While New England moved back after the Harry catch thanks to a 15-yard penalty, the team kept the chains moving even when forced to convert a 4th and 2: Hoyer hit Berrios for a 6-yard gain to sustain the drive, that ultimately ended with the Patriots’ second touchdown. The scoring play came when the quarterback hit training camp standout Jakobi Meyers from 3 yards out. [14-0 PATRIOTS]

The Patriots continued their strong performance on the Lions’ first offensive play of the next series when edge defender John Simon jumped up to knock down a pass only to end up with an interception. The pick set up another touchdown for New England, again by Meyers. This time, though, rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham was the one throwing it. The ensuing two-point conversion failed. [20-0 PATRIOTS]

New England’s dominance continued on Detroit’s next series, as a pair of sacks — the first by Shilique Calhoun, the second by Derek Rivers — led to another three-and-out. This time, however, the Patriots failed to capitalize as a promising-looking drive stalled and Stephen Gostkowski missed a 37-yard field goal attempt. Even though the team could not add to its lead, the first half was still a very good one for the Patriots between Meyers’ dominating performance and the defense registering six sacks through two quarters.

Third quarter

The third quarter started with a new kickoff returner for the Patriots: undrafted rookie Gunner Olszewski entered the lineup, but did not touch the ball as it sailed through the end zone. Starting from its own 25-yard line after the touchback, New England’s offense again moved the football well initially but failed to keep the drive alive when Stidham was unable to connect with Harris on a deep pass (that could have been called defensive pass interference, though).

The ensuing punt — handled by Ryan Allen — set Detroit up deep in its own territory. The team moved out of there quickly, in large parts because of a personal foul penalty against rookie cornerback Joejuan Williams, but ultimately New England’s defense held again to force the Lions’ fifth punt of the night. Olszewski was on the receiving end to run it back for 14 yards.

New England failed to get much going on the next drive and went three-and-out. That did give incumbent punter Ryan Allen a chance to show his leg, and he did: the veteran unloaded a 56-yarder with tremendous hang-time to flip the field position battle — similar to the Super Bowl. The Lions, meanwhile, again failed to get into an offensive rhythm and punted the football right back to the Patriots and Olszweski.

This time, the Patriots were able to create some movement again on offense. The unit marched 61 yards on eleven plays behind a healthy mix of Stidham throws and Nick Brossette runs. The latter then found the end zone from one yard out to add six more points to New England’s total. He was not done, though, as the undrafted rookie also caught the ensuing two-point conversion try to put his team up by four touchdowns. [28-0 PATRIOTS]

The next series was another strong one for the Patriots defense: it took the unit just three plays — one of which a 9-yard sack by rookie Chase Winovich — to get off the field again and force Detroit to punt the football back to the world champions. New England quickly moved down the field again, with a 27-yard pass interference call and a 20-yard catch by Braxton Berrios helping the team get into the Lions red zone to end the third quarter.

Fourth quarter

New England’s possession stalled near the goal line, but the team still was able to put points on the board as Stephen Gostkowski hit a 23-yard attempt to give the Patriots a 31-point lead. [31-0 PATRIOTS]

Detroit answered the Patriots’ field goal with another short drive that ended in a three-and-out as New England’s defense continued to outperform the Lions’ offense. Jarrett Stidham and company failed to add to their lead, however, despite driving into Detroit territory rather quickly again. The drive ultimately ended with an unsuccessful fourth down passing attempt. The target? No other than neo-wideout Danny Etling.

The unsuccessful fourth-down attempt paved the way for Detroit’s first scoring drive of the night, an eight-play, 51-yard series that ended with a 37-yard field goal. [31-3 PATRIOTS]

The rest of the game was rather unspectacular: a bunch of kneel downs, a delay-of-game penalty against Ryan Allen, and some more kneel downs. New England opens its preseason 1-0.