The Detroit Lions had an opportunity to go into the bye week on a high note after getting thrashed by the Seattle Seahawks’ offense last week. The New England Patriots aren’t a good team, and they were starting their third-string quarterback—a fourth-round rookie who was making his NFL starting debut.
Instead of making a statement and potentially taking some positive momentum into the bye, just about everything went wrong for the Lions in Foxborough. Detroit shook up the roster in the secondary, only for just about every defensive back to get injured—leaving the Lions without the help of Amani Oruwariye and JuJu Hughes, two former starters who were healthy inactives in this game.
Offensively, the Lions completely dried up. Despite seven trips into Patriots territory, the Lions were left scoreless until the game was already decided. Jared Goff turned the ball over twice—both on the Patriots side of the field—and the Lions offense went 0-for-6 on fourth downs.
The game was blown wide open when the Lions made a curious decision to go for it on fourth-and-9 instead of attempting a field goal with new kicker Michael Badgley. At the time, the game was just 6-0 with under four minutes remaining in the first half. But Goff took a sack, fumbled and Kyle Dugger took it 59 yards for a touchdown. The Lions never regained their footing after that.
Here’s how the entire game played out.
The Patriots won the toss and deferred, giving the Lions offense a chance to take the lead early. Detroit got to their own 45-yard line and faced a fourth-and-less-than-1. Dan Campbell opted to go for it, and a fullback run with Jamaal Williams was stuffed for no gain, giving New England the ball on the Lions side of the field.
Bailey Zappe quickly connected with tight end Hunter Henry for 23 yards after Saivion Smith immediately fell down with what appeared to be a serious injury on just the second defensive play of the game. Medics brought out a backboard and an ambulance for Smith, who was transported to a local hospital for a neck injury.
After a long, scary scene, the two teams resumed play. The Patriots were unable to get another first down, but the play to Henry got them close enough to kick a 37-yard field goal. 3-0 Patriots.
Detroit was able to move the ball deep into Patriots territory thanks to a couple of nice runs from Craig Reynolds, but on a first-and-10 play from New England’s 18-yard line, Jared Goff stared down T.J. Hockenson, which allowed Jack Jones to anticipate the throw and step in front of it for the interception.
The Patriots were backed up in their own zone, but not for long. Rhamondre Stevenson ripped off a 49-yard run after breaking several tackles.
New England continued to pound the Lions defense on the ground, moving into the red zone as the game moved into the second quarter.
Facing a third-and-1, the Patriots could not get any penetration and Lions defensive tackle Alim McNeill got the tackle for loss, forcing another chip-shot field goal for New England. 6-0 Patriots.
Maurice Alexander tried to give the Lions a spark with a big 47-yard kick return after reversing field. Detroit appeared to get in field goal position, but Goff took a sack on third-and-7 after Matt Judon beat Taylor Decker around the edge. That pushed Detroit out of range, and they were forced to punt.
Though New England was able to drive out of their own end zone, Lions safety DeShon Elliott gave the ball back to the offense after a Zappe pass bounced off of Nelson Agholor’s hands and into the cradle of a diving Elliott.
Kalif Raymond picked up a clutch third-and-16 to kickstart the drive, after a holding penalty on T.J. Hockenson set them back. But on a third-and-2, there was an awkward handoff between Goff and Reynolds, and the Lions back lost 7 yards on the play. Rather than try a 50-yard field goal with new kicker Michael Badgley, the Lions decided to go for it, and then this happened.
Detroit had one more opportunity to right the ship before halftime, but Detroit quickly went three-and-out.
With under two minutes remaining, the Patriots were able to move quickly downfield thanks, in part, to a pass interference penalty on Jeff Okudah that gave New England 22 free yards. The Patriots would settle for a 44-yard field goal and take 16-0 Patriots lead into the half.
The Patriots got the ball moving early. Another pass interference on Okudah—a questionable one—gave the Patriots 25 yards. Detroit, again, stood up after New England got in field goal range, but the Patriots pushed the lead to 19-0.
For the fourth time this game, the Lions offense worked its way into Patriots territory. And just like the four drives before this one, Detroit came up empty handed. On a fourth-and-2 attempt the Goff found Amon-Ra St. Brown for zero yards.
The Lions defense started to fall apart. The injury list in the secondary continued to grow as cornerbacks Jeff Okudah and Will Harris left the game, then safety DeShon Elliott came up limping and was carted to the locker room. A few plays later, Ifeatu Melfionwu suffered an injury.
With rookie Chase Lucas in at safety, it only took a few plays for Zappe to take advantage with a 24-yard touchdown strike. 25-0 Patriots.
Detroit’s offense connected on a big screen pass to Craig Reynolds that moved them into Patriots territory for the fifth time on the day.
After being gifted a roughing the passer call and a new set of downs, the Lions had four shots at the end zone in a goal-to-go situation. They did not convert. But, hey, the Lions defense finally forced a punt on the subsequent possession—their first since Minnesota in Week 3.
Detroit would go on to again fail on fourth down in Patriots territory. The Patriots would add a field goal, but let’s be honest, you’re not reading this far anyways.
The final score was 29-0 Patriots.