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Snap Judgments: Patriots 45, Lions 24

11.25.10 at 3:47 pm ET
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It wasn’t a masterpiece for the Patriots on Thanksgiving but it’ll do, as Tom Brady threw four TD passes (two each to Wes Welker and Deion Branch) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for another two scores in a 45-24 win over the Lions. The win moves New England to 9-2 on the season, for now the best record in the NFL (the 8-2 Jets host the Bengals on Thursday night).

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Another big game for Brady: Tom Brady did nothing to silence those who feel he has been the 2010 NFL MVP to this point, completing 21-of-27 passes for 341 yards and four TDs. All four TD passes and 231 passing yards came in a brilliant second half from Brady, who continued to use more and more play action to set up big gainers in the game, something that has really clicked since the Sunday night win at Pittsburgh. Despite a near-constant pass rush in the first half and a couple of tough hits in the second half, Brady again managed to avoid throwing an interception. Brady hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 6.

Welker and Branch: Wes Welker found the end zone twice (now has six for 2010) and finished with eight catches for 90 yards as he continues to look more and more like the pre-injury Welker each week. But the story of the game for the Pats offense was Deion Branch, who had zero catches in the first half but exploded in the second, first hauling in a 79-yard TD pass to tie the game at 24-24 at the end of the third quarter (which included Branch abusing Alphonso Smith after the catch — Smith was also run over by BenJarvus Green-Ellis on his first TD rush) and then grabbing a 22-yard TD on a skinny post to give the Pats a 31-24 lead early in the fourth. Three catches for 113 yards and the two TDs for Branch, who last had a 100-yard game with the Patriots on October 9, 2005 (Atlanta).

Devin McCourty: The Patriots defense needed someone to step up and make an impact play on defense, and McCourty came through, intercepting Hill on the opening possession of the third quarter (nice leaping catch on a pass intended for Calvin Johnson) and returning the pick for 23 yards. The Patriots took advantage of the short field, putting together a 26-yard TD drive. McCourty collected his second INT of the game in the fourth quarter (and fifth of the season — tied for NFL rookie lead), returning it 50 yards with just over five minutes left to put the game away.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Pats O-Line was dominated early: A group that has been a huge strength for the Patriots in 2010 had a rough outing on Thursday, particularly in the first 30 minutes. Tom Brady had almost no time to make plays in the first half, being pressured six times, knocked down five and sacked once. Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch each knocked down Brady twice in the first half, as Sebastian Vollmer and Logan Mankins both struggled to contain the Lions. A much stronger effort by the O-Line in the second half, but overall the weakest performance by the group all season.

Where’s the pressure?: As has been the case all season, the Patriots defense was unable to get to the opposing quarterback, which was as big a reason as any why Shaun Hill was able to lead the Lions on a pair of long scoring drives in the first half and another in the third quarter. And even when the Patriots got close to Hill they came up short, as Rob Ninkovich, Jerod Mayo and Tully Banta-Cain all whiffed on a third-and-6 Hill run on the Lions second TD drive.

Curious Fourth-Down Call: With the Patriots facing a fourth-and-1 at the Lions two-yard-line on their second drive of the first quarter, Bill Belichick surprised everyone and elected to eschew his trademark “go for it” approach and instead send Shayne Graham out to kick a 19-yard FG that gave the Pats a 3-0 lead. The Lions were far more aggressive in the Fourth Down Department, scoring a pair of TDs on fourth-down rushes in the first half.

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