By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If only every preseason game could be as exciting as the one on Friday night in Detroit.
From the very start, the Patriots made sure to make their previous weekend’s game in Houston a distant, mostly boring memory, as they put on display exactly how dominant they can be in 2017.
It wasn’t all positive, though, as the team suffered an injury that seems likely to deeply impact the season ahead.
Year two of the Tom Brady-Chris Hogan connection appears to have some promise. Hogan made just four catches, but he made them count, too, picking up 70 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns.
On the first touchdown, he ran a simple option route to free himself when the Patriots were deep in the red zone. The second was a thing of beauty, with Brady lobbing a deep ball up the left sideline and Hogan fighting through a defensive hold and making a perfect over-the-shoulder catch while tumbling into the end zone.
The fourth was nice, too, as Hogan sprinted back along the right sideline as Brady scrambled to extend a play. Hogan made a toe-tapping catch on the sideline on a pass that looked like it was destined to be a throwaway.
Solid showing for Hogan.
There were many eager eyes hoping to see how well Mike Gillislee would fit in with his new team. And though it was only limited action in a preseason game, he seems like a perfect fit.
His first touch was, nicely enough, a touchdown, as he waltzed in untouched from the 1-yard line for the Patriots’ third touchdown of the night. After a Detroit penalty on the PAT, the Patriots elected to go for two, and they ran the same exact play — with the same result.
Gillislee later showed off his burst when he broke a 27-yard run, and he finished his night with 38 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, plus the 1-yard two-point conversion.
After losing LeGarrette Blount and his 299 carries in the offseason, the Patriots need Gillislee to seize that role. So far, so good.
He’ll end up with a mention in the Downs, too, but what he did on the Lions’ first play from scrimmage was enough to warrant mention with the Ups.
With New England leading 7-0 a little more than three minutes into the game, Matthew Stafford threw to Golden Tate on the right side for a short gain. Rather than going for a tackle, Butler punched down right on the football and jarred it free from the receiver’s hands. Jordan Richards hopped on the loose ball, and the Patriots took over at the Detroit 32-yard line.
Brady turned it into a touchdown just one play later with that 32-yard pass to Hogan. Had this been a real game, Butler’s play would’ve stood out as a major game-shaping play.
Congratulations to Tom Brady for landing on this list for the 5,000th time of his career. In a preseason game, it probably means a lot to him.
Jokes aside, it is remarkable that even with all that we’ve seen from Brady over the past 15-plus years, Brady can still make a Friday night preseason game exciting to watch. He continues to impress, which you’d think would be impossible by now.
But he was nearly perfect in this one, going 12-for-15 for 174 yards and a touchdown. He did end his night with a pick, but it was on a ball he’d certainly never throw in a real game. This was evident when he smiled in semi-shame after the pick had been made in the end zone.
This was, essentially, what everyone has been waiting to see again since February. They’ll be hoping he continues the performance two weeks from now against Kansas City.
Patrick Chung, for laying the wood.
Rob Gronkowski, for drawing two big penalties on the defense.
Stephen Gostkowski, for recovering from an early missed PAT and drilling the game-winning 45-yard field goal.
Alan Branch, for needing just one free arm to sack Matthew Stafford.
No. 11 looked like an All-Pro on the opening drive, making catches for gains of 11 yards, 23 yards and 18 yards on three of the first five plays of the game. But it was after that third catch when Edelman went down with a non-contact injury, clutching his right knee.
The Patriots offense can probably survive without Edelman, but it won’t be nearly as potent.
It’s a bit of a sweeping generalization to apply blame to all the backup players on both sides of the ball, but, well, when a 24-0 lead turns into a 28-24 deficit, that is the result of a team-wide breakdown.
From the start of the third quarter until the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the game was completely one-sided. The offensive line fell apart, receivers and tight ends dropped passes, and the defense could not come up with a stop.
The final drive — led by Jimmy Garoppolo — will help to remove some of that sting, but for far too much of that game, the men who are supposed to be proving they belong on the final roster did not do the best job of making their cases.
“But wait,” you say, “wasn’t he on the Ups?” You betcha, reader. But for one, this is the preseason, so rules don’t apply. But secondly and more importantly, there are no rules.
So, Butler lands on the Downs here for giving up a 23-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones in the second quarter. Butler was in good position while running step for step with Jones, but Butler looked back over his right shoulder to try to find the football. He couldn’t find the ball, and when he turned his head back, he couldn’t find the receiver either.
Butler had a rough week vs. Houston, and he expressed his disappointment in himself afterwards. He’ll likely be stewing about this one for a couple of more weeks.
His play was OK, but the timing of his play does not bode well for his roster spot. He didn’t play at all until the second half, and he was still playing late into the fourth quarter.
Maybe Bill Belichick is just really making Ealy learn what to do in the Patriots defense. But it’s more likely that Ealy’s time in New England may be running out.