Disappointment as a noun is defined as an event that fails to meet expectations. Under examples of this definition, the Patriots vs. Lions game should be listed. New England lost to Detroit with a score of 26-10, and Detroit dominated from the start.
This game mirrored the Patriots last game against the Jaguars, except now they can’t blame the weather. Belichick still has many problems to fix within his team, but a pattern is beginning to form. For the second week in a row, the same three units are trending down, with one addition to the list.
Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady
These two offensive players determine the offense. It’s both of their jobs to read the defense and utilize their running backs/receivers/tight ends to beat that defense. Neither Josh McDaniels nor Tom Brady did their job on Sunday. New England’s first three drives of the game resulted in three and out’s. The offense may not have been presented with many drives in the first half, but they did nothing to convert when the ball was in their possession.
At the end of the day, New England only had 12 first downs (compared to Detroit’s 25). The Patriots had a 22% first down efficiency and only covered 209 net yards in the entire game. On top of all that, the Lions quarterback received a rating significantly higher than “the greatest NFL quarterback of all time”. As frustrated as Brady and McDaniels are, they need to use these past two games as a learning experience. They need to step up and make the defense play their game if they intend to win any more games this season.
While all the players on the defense contributed to New England’s loss, the secondary unit, in particular, helped Detroit an awful lot. Most of the Lions’ first downs came from passing (16 out of 25 to be exact), and they did a great job of realizing the secondary wasn’t playing a tight game. Detroit earned 255 of their 414 net yards solely by passing. Not to mention both of their touchdowns came off of long passes that the secondary refused to contest. Although a couple players made a few promising plays, in the long run, that type of energy will lose the game every single time.
Similar to the secondary, the defensive line simply got out-played. The Lions rushed for 159 yards, over a full 1.5 touchdowns (and they only scored 2 touchdowns in total). Kerryon Johnson is responsible for 101 of those 159 yards. He is the first Lions player to have a 100-yard running game since 2013, and that was all made possible thanks to New England’s defensive line. Also, for the second game in a row, the opposing team’s quarterback was able to escape the pocket and run for an easy first down. Wind sprints are in the distant future for the members of this unit.
Everything White did to score New England’s only touchdown of the game wouldn’t have been possible without Ja’Whaun Bentley. Bentley was responsible for the interception that changed the momentum of the game for that brief drive to victory. The linebacker intercepted a pass intended for Lions tight end Luke Willson. Bentley gave the Patriots their best shot at redemption. However, in the end, they still fell short.
Rex Burkhead and Rob Gronkowski
Following Bentley’s interception, Rex Burkhead teamed up with Rob Gronkowski to push their team downfield and set James White up for a touchdown. Neither of these players was truly able to make a difference in the overall game because Gronkowski was always double teamed and Burkhead appeared to be forgotten about. Burkhead wrapped up with 2 receptions for 29 yards and Gronkowski caught 4 passes for 51 yards. Little differences made a huge impact on this game, and every play these two were a part of helped to contribute to that difference.
Even though Brady did a horrible job of utilizing the running backs, James White still found a way to liven the team up. White finished the game with 4 carries for 37 yards (averaging 9.3 yards-per-carry), and 3 receptions for 14 yards and 1 touchdown. Following a series of promising plays by Burkhead and Gronkowski, White was able to finish the job and score New England’s first touchdown of the game. This touchdown came five minutes into the third quarter of the game, making the score 13-10. Had the defense been able to force a turnover by Detroit after this, the ending to this game could have been very different. Unfortunately, White was never given the opportunity to propel his team forward again.
New England finds themselves in a hole. They began digging in Jacksonville and couldn’t climb out in time to defeat Matt Patricia’s Lions. Another week presents itself with the opportunity for improvement, that is, only if they want it. The Patriots have to want to be better. Next week, they face off against the Miami Dolphins; a team sitting on a 3-0 record. Will New England be able to break their streak? Stay tuned…
-Caitlyn Allen is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @caitlyyyn_allen