By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The defending champs are back. Boy are they ever.

Granted, it’s only preseason, but New England took the field Thursday and looked better than even the most ardent Patriots fan could have expected. The beatdown was so thorough that the Lions found themselves getting booed by their home fans on their walk back to the locker room at halftime.

The Patriots ended up winning, 31-3. (And it wasn’t even that close.)

Normally, we like to list four players in the Ups category and four players in the Downs category. But when a game goes like it did on Thursday, the numbers can end up being a little skewed toward one category.

FOUR (OR EIGHT) UPS

Brian Hoyer

Brian Hoyer (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The only quarterbacks that anyone wants to talk about in New England these days are Tom Brady and Jarrett Stidham. That’s understandable. But veteran Brian Hoyer made his case for the backup job on this team with his performance on Thursday.

Hoyer was nearly perfect, going 12-for-14 for 147 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Not bad at all.

Jakobi Meyers

Jakobi Meyers (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

With the way this undrafted rookie was getting talked about by everybody who attended every training camp practice this summer, there was almost no way that Jakobi Meyers could actually live up to the hype.

… And then he went out and caught two touchdowns in the first half.

Meyers was improbably better than advertised, catching six passes for 69 yards and the two scores.

Nothing is set in stone just yet, but Meyers looks like he has quickly carved out a role on the Patriots’ offense.

Pass Rush

It was very dangerous to be a Detroit Lions quarterback in this game. In the first half alone, the Patriots piled up five sacks; Derek Rivers had two, while Jamie Collins, Shilique Calhoun and Ja’Whaun Bentley each recorded one. Rookie Chase Winovich got in on the fun in the second half with a sack, as did Danny Shelton. Terez Hall picked up a sack in the fourth quarter, too. Winovich and Byron Cowart combined for a sack late in the game to give the Patriots nine on the game.

Braxton Berrios

With Julian Edelman shelved due to a thumb injury, Braxton Berrios did a fairly solid Edelman impression. He was excellent on punt returns (averaging 8.8 yards on his four returns) and he came up with three catches for 45 yards. That included an 8-yard pickup on a fourth-and-2 in a drive that ended with a touchdown.

Jarrett Stidham

Jarrett Stidham (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

The stats are the stats — 14-for-24, 179 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT — but given that a bulk of his work came when third and fourth-stringers were in the game for both teams, the numbers aren’t as important as some of the traits on display. And Stidham looked good.

His numbers could have been even better, too. He threw two deep balls right on the money, but Maurice Harris was unable to snag either one. Dontrelle Inman also came down about an inch shy of a touchdown, which would have gone on the stat sheet for Stidham.

Regardless, Stidham looked very comfortable in the pocket, he knew when to bail and when to take a shot, he could stand in and deliver a pass when facing a rush, and he definitely had an NFL arm. We’ll stop there before making any grand declarations on the rookie’s NFL career, but in his debut, he certainly looked capable.

John Simon

John Simon (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Probably the least-heralded contributor to last year’s Super Bowl win, John Simon made his presence felt in this one. He came up with a run stuff on the opening drive, and then he came up with a terrifically athletic interception.

Jerod Mayo

A tremendous debut for the rookie coach who appeared to be calling plays for the defense. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Lions had negative-11 passing yards for the entire game.

The Lions put together a long field goal drive to get on the board in the final minutes of the fourth, but the Patriots’ defense still held Detroit to three points and 93 total yards on the evening.

Chase Winovich’s Hair

I mean …

Chase Winovich (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

It came to play.

FOUR (OR THREE) DOWNS

N’Keal Harry

The first-round pick looked dynamite, catching the only two passes throw his way. But after catching the second, he popped up to the turf because he didn’t hear a whistle, and he kept running up the field. That led to him getting tackled, and when he got up, he was clearly limping.

Harry tried to stay in the game, breaking the huddle for the next play, before he was called to the sideline, where he was tended to by the medical staff. He suffered an apparent hamstring injury at practice on Tuesday, and if this setback was related, it may lead to some missed time this preseason.

Joejuan Williams

The rookie second-round pick out of Vanderbilt showed some suspect awareness when he picked up a personal foul penalty for chucking running back Ty Johnson to the turf when the two had run a solid two steps out of bounds.

It wasn’t a bad night for the rookie, but in a real game, such mistakes won’t be tolerated on Bill Belichick’s team.

Matt LaCosse

The tight end was likewise injured in the first half, after he had looked pretty good in his Patriots debut. LaCosse caught two passes for 37 yards before suffering the apparent leg injury.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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