BOSTON (CBS) – After their tumultuous off-season, it was nice to see the Patriots put together two solid games to open the preseason.
But if those two meaningless wins made you feel great (should we say, super?) about the team, we’d hate to hear how Thursday night’s loss to the Lions makes you feel.
As fun, and easy, as it is to overreact to preseason wins, the same applies to preseason losses.
But Thursday night was not just a loss. The Patriots were blown out by the Lions 40-9 on Thursday night, and that is putting it nicely. They couldn’t seem to hold on to the ball on offense, and the defense had trouble with some of the most basic tackling throughout the evening.
But these preseason games are just a learning tool for the Patriots, and you can count on Bill Belichick making all of the mistakes of Thursday night into a nice compilation for the team to watch over and over heading into next week’s preseason finale.
While the majority of it was bad for New England, there were a few bright spots. Here are the 4 Ups and 4 Downs from the Patriots preseason loss to the Lions:
This kid looks like the real deal. He led the Patriots with eight catches on 12 targets for 116 yards. He had a drop early on, but that didn’t keep Tom Brady from going his way throughout the game.
With no Danny Amendola, Thompkins stepped up as the Patriots’ slot receiver and put up big numbers. He had a big 37-yard completion from Brady in the first quarter, and a big grab from Mallett in the third quarter that picked up a first down on a 3rd and 7.
Thompkins continues to turn heads this preseason, and should have plenty of confidence heading into the regular season.
Solid D In First Half
The Patriots offense didn’t give the defense much field to work with thanks to four turnovers, but the first-unit looked pretty good given the situation. They only surrendered 13 points off those four turnovers, coming up with three red zone stops, and held the Lions to 2-for-9 on third downs in the first half.
Rob Ninkovich continues to be a beast off the line, leading the way with three tackles, one tackle for a loss, half a sack and another QB hit. Chandler Jones, rookie Jamie Collins and newcomer Tommy Kelly were all active off the line, and in the secondary rookie defensive back Logan Ryan was impressive in his extended time on the field.
Things fell apart in the second half, but the Patriots defense looked very solid in the first half.
Connolly, McCourty See Extended Action
A few injured players returned to action for the Patriots, as both Dan Connolly and Devin McCourty saw the field for the first time.
Connolly came on late with the first unit, while McCourty played the whole first half.
Tight end Jake Ballard also played an extended stretch with the first team offense, as he comes back from the 2011 knee injury that kept him out all of last season. He played a good chunk last week against the Bucs, and now has back-to-back games of extended action under his belt.
Aside from a leg injury to rookie defensive lineman Cory Grissom in the fourth quarter, the Patriots have stayed relatively healthy this preseason.
Four turnovers in the first five possessions of the game. There really isn’t much more to say.
Rookie Zach Sudfeld coughed up the ball on what should have went down as a nice catch-and-run on the Pats’ first offensive possession, setting the tone for the rest of the game for the first-unit offense.
Brandon Bolden also coughed up a catch, which could seal the bubble player’s fate.
Shane Vereen fumbled in the second quarter, leading to three points by the Lions, and Brady’s interception led to a Lions touchdown.
To state the obvious, the Pats have to do a much better job holding onto the football. A few of them may find themselves with one tucked under their arm all of next week. But, they gave Bill Belichick plenty of game tape to show them over, and over, and over again leading up to the preseason finale next Thursday.
The Lions defense pushed the New England offensive line around early and often, and Tom Brady hit the deck because of it.
Brady was sacked twice and hit five other times, and ended the first quarter with a cut on his hand because of it.
Ryan Mallett was also hit twice in his half of football, and Pats rushers had little to work with throughout the game. Overall, the Patriots had just 68 rushing yards in the loss.
His numbers will look a little better after a final-minute touchdown drive, but Mallett couldn’t get anything going for the majority of the evening.
The second-stringer finished 11-for-22 for 96 yards and a touchdown, but missed on several short passes that he should have made.
The veteran safety saw most of his time as a hybrid-linebacker, and spent most of that time chasing whoever had the ball. He appeared to be a step behind when a play came his way, and might be out of a job in a few weeks.
Tune in to the Patriots preseason finale against the New York Giants on Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub and WBZ-TV — the flagship stations of the New England Patriots.