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Snap Judgments: Lions crush Tom Brady, Patriots in third preseason game

08.22.13 at 10:41 pm ET
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The Patriots suffered their first loss of the preseason Thursday night in Detroit, dropping a 40-9 decision to the Lions.

As is the case with the third preseason game, the starters went deep in this one. Quarterback Tom Brady — who finished 16-for-24 for 185 yards and one pick — played the first two quarters before giving way to backup Ryan Mallett (who ended up 11-for-22 for 96 yards and a touchdown). However, the New England offense struggled for much of the first two quarters, with the lone bright spot being rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who came away with eight catches for 116 yards on the evening.

But it was a forgettable outing for the offense, as four turnovers (and two more turnovers on downs) added up to a miserable night for New England.

The Patriots wrap up the preseason next Thursday at home against the Giants.

Here are a few quick notes:

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE PATRIOTS

‘€¢The Patriots defense was up to the task early, helping stem the bleeding out of the gate. Four early turnovers from the offense yielded “only” 13 points from Detroit, thanks in part to some pretty good defense across the board. In his role as an end-of-the-line defender, Rob Ninkovich flashed positively once again. On Detroit’s second offensive series, he was dominant, forcing a negative play on first down and showing nice hustle to take down the ballcarrier on third down. On the next series, Ninkovich delivered a sack and forced the Lions — who got the ball deep in New England territory — to attempt a field goal. Chandler Jones and Tommy Kelly also did a nice job consistently caving in the pocket early as part of another good week for New England’s No. 1 pass rush.

‘€¢It’s also worth mentioning that rookie defensive back Logan Ryan got a ton of snaps for the second consecutive week, and was on the inside (in the slot) and outside. He appeared to handle himself well, and continues to progress nicely.

‘€¢There were some rookie moments — including a flat-out drop — but Thompkins did nothing to dissuade the coaching staff from keeping him at the No. 2 receiver spot. The receiver finished the contest with 12 targets (he’s been targeted 20 times through three preseason games, more than anyone else on the roster), with his best moment of the night coming in the first quarter when he hauled in a 37-yarder from Brady down the sideline. While many other aspects of the Patriots offense struggled Thursday, Thompkins was excellent.

‘€¢New England didn’t appear to suffer any injuries on the night — in fact, the guys who had been a little nicked up got some significant time. Tight end Jake Ballard (who was out all last year because of a knee problem) saw a good stretch of time in the first half, and defensive back Devin McCourty, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery, saw his first action of the preseason. Brandon Bolden appeared to get a little shaken up, but it’s debatable as to how much his absence had to do with any injury and how much it had to do with an early fumble.

This doesn’t necessarily go under “right” or “wrong,” but maybe just interesting: the Patriots started without Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. Wilfork didn’t play, and Mayo was used only in dime coverages. In Wilfork’s place, New England used Joe Vellano, while rookie Jamie Collins was out there in place of Mayo.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE PATRIOTS

‘€¢Four turnovers in the first quarter-plus of action won’t make anyone happy. Brady threw a pick (on a ball intended for Aaron Dobson) and the Patriots fumbled the ball away three times — one by Shane Vereen, one by Zach Sudfeld and one from Bolden. The New England offense was unable to get much of anything going over the first two quarters — in the first half, the Patriots had nine possessions and picked up just three points total. It stands in stark contrast to the work of Brady and the offense over the first two preseason games, which was really sharp. For what it’s worth, Vereen, Sudfeld and Bolden all saw a drastic drop in playing time for the rest of the first half after their turnovers — the first two appeared to return for garbage time.

‘€¢The Patriots’ offensive line consistently struggles with tough, physical front fours like Detroit, and Thursday night was no exception. It didn’t help things that New England had to utilize third-string right guard Will Svitek for a sizable portion of the game (Dan Connolly did see some time in his first action of the preseason), but regardless, it was a struggle for the Patriots’ starting offensive line — Brady was sacked twice and hit four times, including once in the first half that caused a cut on his left hand.

‘€¢As well as Thompkins played, there were struggles for Dobson. He struggled to get good separation when he was on the field Thursday night, and ended up with three catches (on seven targets) for 37 yards.

‘€¢Two breakdowns led to both Detroit touchdowns, both of which came off play-fakes. On one, on the Stafford-to-Tony Scheffler touchdown pass in the first quarter, it appeared at first glance that there was miscommunication on the New England side of the ball. Linebacker Dane Fletcher appeared to pass Scheffler off to Steve Gregory or rookie Duron Harmon, but neither safety was there. (They appeared to freeze on the play-action fake.) And two, Collins bit on the third-quarter touchdown pass from Kellen Moore to Joe Fauria — which also came off a play-fake — allowing the tight end to get behind the defense for the 22-yard touchdown.

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