While preseason performance is in no way an indicator for future success — the 2008 Detroit Lions famously went 4-0 before delivering the first 0-16 regular season in NFL history — the New England Patriots can feel cautiously optimistic about the result from today’s game. The team defeated the Lions 31-3 in Detroit and dominated from start to finish and in all three phases of the game.
The first drive of the game already set the tone for the rest of the night, as defensive tackle Danny Shelton was able to take down quarterback Tom Savage on the Lions’ fourth offensive play of the day:
Shelton, who is fighting for a roster spot on a crowded defensive line, sacked Savage for a loss of four yards — the first of nine sacks New England’s defense registered on the day. The game in general was dominated by defense early on, but the Patriots broke the stalemate midway through the first quarter in part because of rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry:
The first-round draft pick finished the day with two receptions for 36 yards and showed strong athletic skills and soft hands on both plays. And even though he had to leave the game because of what appeared to be a minor injury — Harry already left Tuesday’s practice because of an apparent hamstring issue — he flashed his potential whenever he touched the football:
N'KEAL AGAIN!!!!!— '04 Rabih Abdullah (@ftbeard_17) August 9, 2019
But he hobbled off the field pic.twitter.com/9wxlYWX75c
Harry’s first catch paved the way for the Patriots’ first touchdown of the preseason, a 14-yard pass from quarterback Brian Hoyer to free agency acquisition Maurice Harris:
Hoyer had a terrific day commanding the Patriots’ offense — one that sat its entire starting offensive line and most of its running backs — and finished the day with 12 completions on 14 attempts for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The second of his scores came courtesy of another first-year Patriot, undrafted rookie wide receiver Jakobi Meyers who caught the following 3-yard pass from Hoyer in the second quarter:
Later that same period, the 22-year-old added another score — one that was made possible thanks to an interception by defensive lineman John Simon. Simon, who was re-signed this offseason in free agency, leaped to deflect a pass but was able to get the football in his hands for the pick. He returned it 9 yards to Detroit’s 20-yard line, and made it possible for Meyers and company to score for a third time:
Seven plays after Simon’s pick, the Patriots were in the end zone again. This time, however, it was rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham to throw the scoring pass with Meyers on the receiving end:
Stidham, in his first ever NFL action since the Patriots drafted him in the fourth round, looked terrific: he was comfortable in the pockets, made solid decisions, and delivered accurate passes. While he was mostly going against second and third string players, Stidham did his job well and showed plenty of upside along the way — especially for a rookie quarterback in New England’s notoriously challenging offense.
Speaking of challenging, the Lions’ offensive line was challenged consistently by the Patriots’ pass rush. The unit, as noted above, finished the day with nine sacks and the following play — a takedown from rookie Chase Winovich — illustrates the defense’s dominance quite well:
ANOTHER SACK FOR THE PATS DEFENSE! pic.twitter.com/h8qqQqn5y8— '04 Rabih Abdullah (@ftbeard_17) August 9, 2019
All in all, the preseason opener was a positive game for the Patriots — and an encouraging next step for plenty of the team’s younger players.