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NFL Preseason 2013: New England Patriots Takeaways from Week 3 at Detroit Lions

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NFL Preseason 2013: New England Patriots Takeaways from Week 3 at Detroit Lions
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Preseason game results must always be taken with a grain of salt—a lesson we learn over and over again with teams like the 2009 Indianapolis Colts.

Saying that, the New England Patriots looked terrible on Thursday night against the Detroit Lions. They lost the game 40-9, failing to score a touchdown until their last possession of the game.

With question marks defensively since 2010—a concern muted by their high-powered offense—and without three key offensive weapons, the Patriots are entering the 2013 season a very different team than previous years.

Short of making any regrettable predictions for their 2013 prospects, I will say that Tom Brady is the single most important player to any team this year. The guy flat-out is the team, and any hopes of success lie with him. Thursday's game in Detroit showed how hard it really is to be a one-man team.

 

Offensive

The Patriots offense turned the ball over four times (three fumbles and one interception) in the first half.

Rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld, shown coughing up the ball after catching a 15-yard pass from Brady in this article's cover photo, was the first guilty party. I can imagine the Patriots will be missing the injured Rob Gronkowski and legally occupied Aaron Hernandez if this is what they can expect from their replacements all year. 

Running backs Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen contributed the other two fumbles on equally unremarkable hits.

The interception by Detroit cornerback Chris Houston was probably the least worrisome of the turnovers considering it was likely the result of preseason kinks. Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson ran cross slants, and Dobson just never got to the spot where he should have been. The pass all but fell into Houston's lap.

I don't have access to coach Bill Belichick's practice plans, but I would imagine he will stress ball security this week. Sometimes when turnovers happen, you can credit the defense for clever positioning or bone-crunching hits, but the three fumbles were caused by relatively routine tackles, and the interception looked like a mix-up on the part of the Patriots.

I wouldn't run to the hills just yet. Patriots fans can always fall back on knowing they have one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

 

Defensive

You can't blame all 40 points given up in Thursday's game on the defense. It can be hard to stop a team when your offense is giving it extra possessions.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Excuses aside, the Patriots defense fell victim to a bevy of missed tackles on the Lions' running back duo of Reggie Bush (embedded photo) and Joique Bell, who each went for over 100 all-purpose yards.

Short screen passes to these two caused big problems for the Patriots—the most notable of which was a 67-yard play to Bush where his agility and acceleration proved too much for the defense.

In the fourth quarter, a screen to Bell went for 38 yards (video here), and the backup running back more than exploited the Patriots' anemic tackling attempts. 

There were a lot of mistakes made in Thursday's game that Patriots fans can safely assume won't happen in every game during the regular season. However, only the most stubborn fans could ignore the team's blatant deficiencies and personnel questions.

 

Final Notes

The Lions defense was a little chippy for my taste in Thursday's game. Contained within the highlight video below is defensive end Willie Young taunting Tom Brady in his own end zone after rushing the quarterback and forcing an incomplete pass (apologies for the analysts in the background).

Apparently something was in the Lions' water because defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, both of whom are no strangers to unsportsmanlike conduct, also got in on the act. A shove by Suh is contained in the above video. I could not find Fairley's offence, but Matthew Gannon from Yard Breaker saw what I saw:

One other observation…Detroit’s frontline seemed to make a point of, well, trying to intimidate Brady. Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh each gave TB12 shoves at the conclusion of plays.

Being an intimidating force and playing dirty are two very different things, and it looks like Suh still hasn't figured that out. Referees should have their flags ready for Lions' games, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would do well to show no mercy to such acts.

On the lighter side of things, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford says "you know" a lot. Exhibit A: the video of the postgame press conference. Stafford managed to utter the phrase 34 times in just 3:24—about once every six seconds.

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