Following last week's dreadful performance in Cleveland, the Detroit Lions really needed to turn things around this week against the New England Patriots. Sure, it's only the preseason, but another ugly performance would have been extremely concerning. That's why it was so nice to see the Lions play so well against the Patriots. There were certainly some mistakes along the way, but the Lions put together an impressive performance en route to a 40-9 win over Tom Brady and the Patriots.
The Lions really set the tone for this game on New England's opening drive. Yes, the Lions' pass defense got carved up by Brady, but the theme of the first half was turnovers. On the Patriots' opening drive, Glover Quin drilled Zach Sudfeld at the 10-yard line to force a fumble that was recovered by Louis Delmas. The play was a nice welcome back for Delmas, and it was the first of four turnovers forced by the Lions in the first half.
Unfortunately, the Lions couldn't capitalize on the turnover with a touchdown. Reggie Bush did show off his play-making ability on the drive, though. Bush took a screen from Matthew Stafford on third-and-10 and went 67 yards. The drive stalled following the big play, leading to a 23-yard field goal by David Akers.
After each team had a three-and-out, the Lions got another turnover. This time, DeAndre Levy crushed Brandon Bolden on a screen. Jason Jones recovered the fumble and took the ball down to the 4-yard line, but a C.J. Mosley personal foul backed the Lions up. (Nick Fairley had a personal foul of his own after the first turnover.) A 7-yard sack backed the Lions up even more, and Akers actually missed a 31-yard field goal. Yes, the Lions got no points despite initially having the ball inside the 5-yard line (before the penalty, that is).
The Patriots responded with another turnover, this time on a pass. Chris Houston picked off Brady, and the Lions managed to take advantage of the good field position this time around. Stafford found Brandon Pettigrew for 12 yards, Bush for 14 and Tony Scheffler in the end zone for 9 yards on a solid drive. The Lions took a 10-0 lead, and after a Shane Vereen fumble on the next drive (forced by Bill Bentley and recovered by Ziggy Ansah), they added a 31-yard Akers field goal.
Brady did get things going on the next possession by again carving up the Lions' pass defense. He quickly moved New England down the field, but the drive stalled at the Detroit 13-yard line. The Patriots had to settle for a 31-yard field goal of their own as a result, making this a 13-3 game.
After the two teams traded punts on the next few drives, the Lions came up with a stop on fourth-and-1. The defensive line was really outstanding in this game, as evidenced by them stuffing the Patriots on that play.
The offense ended up with another punt after the stop, but Sam Martin's 57-yarder went out at the 1-yard line. After a quick stop thanks again to the outstanding play of the D-line, the Lions got the ball back and managed to add another field goal -- this time from 49 yards out by Akers -- before halftime.
The Lions opened the second half with their backups in the game, and Joique Bell and Kellen Moore really looked good. Bell had a reception for 11 yards, and he had runs of 21 and 13 yards. As for Moore, he moved the chains on third down with a 14-yard pass to Ryan Broyles, and he hit a wide open Joseph Fauria in stride for a 22-yard touchdown.
After a Patriots punt, the Lions put together another scoring drive. It was really moving before a chop block penalty on Fauria killed it, but the Lions still managed to get a 47-yard field goal by Akers. The expectation was for Havard Rugland to take over field goals since this was in the second half, but Jim Schwartz made it pretty clear who his starter will be by keeping Akers in the game.
New England looked poised to add to its point total on the following drive, as Ryan Mallett moved the Patriots all the way down to the 4-yard line. However, the Lions once again held tough on fourth down. The crowd really got into it, and the Lions came up with a stop thanks to solid coverage by Jonte Green.
The Lions did add to their point total after getting the ball back. A 38-yard screen pass to Bell got things moving, as did a 14-yard pass to Micheal Spurlock. Later in the drive, Moore found Spurlock again on a beautiful pass that was caught in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown.
Following yet another Patriots punt (Mallett did not look overly impressive in this game), the Lions took over with great field position. Thaddeus Lewis entered the game at quarterback, and the offense kept rolling. Fauria caught a pair of passes for 11 yards, and Lewis got the Lions down to the 2-yard line on a draw. One play later, Theo Riddick found the end zone from 2 yards out, giving the Lions a 40-3 lead.
The final score in this game ended up being 40-9 after a late Patriots touchdown. Mallett found James Develin for a 9-yard touchdown, and the Patriots actually went for two for some reason. They failed to get it, hence the final score being 40-9 instead of 40-10.
This game was just what the doctor ordered for the Lions. Don't get me wrong, there are still a lot of things that need to be corrected, but they looked really impressive throughout Thursday's game. Perhaps most importantly, the Lions made a lot of plays against the Patriots' starters, especially on defense, and they now have some momentum heading into next week's preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills.