The New England Patriots got back into the win column with a dominant 29-0 victory over the Detroit Lions. While things were mostly on the positive side, here’s who stood out for better, and for worse, throughout the Week 5 contest.
Winner: RB Rhamondre Stevenson. With Damien Harris departing early with a hamstring injury, it was the Rhamondre Stevenson show for the Patriots. The sophomore back answered the call, running for a career-high 161 yards on 25 carries. Stevenson continues to be one of the best backs in the league after contact, which was evident on his 49-yard scamper in the first quarter.
His performance earned some serious praise from Bill Belichick postgame.
“You have to give him a ton of credit,” New England’s head coach said. “With Damien out, we only carried two backs for the game, and he put it all on his shoulders and finished with a couple of first downs there at the end of the game in the four-minute offense. Yeah, he is always good. He does a great job with the ball in his hands. He is a strong runner, but he can make people miss.
“He is a really good football player. Really a good football player. So glad we have him. Had a couple of blitz pickup plays right up the middle where he stepped up there. He is a good all-around back. Love him. Love him.”
Winner: Edge Matthew Judon. Matthew Judon’s game was as strong as his postgame outfit. He was a constant force in Detroit’s backfield, highlighted by his two sacks and forced fumble that safety Kyle Dugger took 59 yards for a score. The two sacks now give Judon six on the season and at least one in each game, marking him the first Patriot ever to record at least one sack in each of the first five games in a season.
Defense doing their thing.@man_dammn | @KingDugg_3— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 9, 2022
: #DETvsNE on @NFLonFOX pic.twitter.com/rESG3E2Lva
Loser: WR Nelson Agholor. With six wide receivers active, the Patriots continued to heavily rely on 11 personnel. The receivers in that group usually featured Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, and DeVante Parker.
As for Agholor, he came up grabbing his hamstring on Stevenson’s long first quarter run, but eventually returned. When he did, he saw a Bailey Zappe pass go through his hands and result in an interception. Coming out of halftime, the receiver stood on the sidelines without a helmet before eventually being ruled questionable to return. He never did.
Winner: QB Bailey Zappe. It was a second straight admirable performance for Zappe, who made his first career NFL start on Sunday. He was extremely efficient going 17-for-21 and took care of the football beyond the interception that Agholor played a larger role in. Zappe moved well in the pocket and delivered perhaps his best ball of the season, lofting a 24-yard touchdown right in the Cover 2 hole to Jakobi Meyers.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers. Speaking of Meyers, the receiver returned from a two-game absence and didn't miss a beat. Meyers led New England in targets (8), receptions (7), and receiving yards (111), which marked the third time he’s eclipsed the century mark in his career.
His day could have been even bigger, as he appeared to beat his man on a crosser for an easy six in the first quarter, which Zappe never saw. It was yet another strong performance from New England’s most reliable receiver.
Winner: OT Trent Brown and the Offensive Line: Brown gets the individual recognition for erasing second-overall draft pick Aiden Hutchinson in this one, but the Patriots offensive line as a whole dominated Detroit’s front upon initial viewing. Beyond helping Stevenson run for 161 yards, the unit did not allow either a QB sack or hit on Bailey Zappe the entire game. Zappe later described the starting unit, plus Marcus Cannon, as the game’s MVP.
Honorable mentions: Nick Folk continues to be automatic for the Patriots inside 50 yards. He went 5-for-5 on field goals on Sunday inside a windy Gillette Stadium. Bill Belichick made sure to complement his kicker postgame.
“I can’t say enough about Nick Folk,” he said. “He is so professional, so consistent, so dependable. When you stop and think about how hard that job is over the amount of time we’re talking about, it’s really, really impressive.”
While Folk had a strong day, the Patriots’ special teams unit did allow Detroit to break off a 47-yard kick return in the first half. Josh Uche also negated a Marcus Jones punt return with a hold later in the half.
Defensively, Kyle Dugger made his presence felt immediately. On Detroit’s first drive, the safety powered his way through two blocks to record an impressive tackle for no gain. He later was there to scoop up Matthew Judon’s forced fumble and take it to the house. Rookie cornerback Jack Jones also hauled in an interception for the second straight week.
With Jonnu Smith sidelined, Hunter Henry appeared to play every offensive snap for the Patriots. He also set new season-highs in targets (5), receptions (4), and receiving yards (54) — a positive development for New England’s passing attack.