The New England Patriots defense picked up right where it left off in Super Bowl LIII, stifling the Lions in the preseason opener by recording nine sacks in a 31-3 victory.
It was an especially impressive first-half performance for the New England front seven. And how fitting was it that the defense showed its teeth against the team’s former defensive coordinator – Lions coach Matt Patricia.
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Derek Rivers put his name in the hat as the likely occupant of the final defensive end spot on the roster with a pair of sacks. He finished with three tackles and two QB hits in one half of work.
The play of the half came on an interception by edge linebacker John Simon to set up the third Patriots’ scoring drive. It gave rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham a short field from the Detroit 20-yard line on his first career series.
That series turned the game decisively in the Patriots favor, resulting in a third touchdown pass – second to Jakobi Meyers – which gave New England a 20-0 lead.
First Half Onslaught
The Patriots scored on three straight drives in the first half thanks to some accurate passing by both Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham.
Hoyer, who started the preseason game and played a quarter and a half, finished 12 of 14 with 147 yards and two touchdowns. His first came to Maurice Harris on a 14-yard pass to the right sideline. The drive was set up by a Braxton Berrios punt return into Lions territory.
The second came on a 13-play drive lasting nearly eight minutes and covering 87 yards. Hoyer finished his night with a touchdown to rookie Jakobi Meyers over the middle. On the drive, Hoyer connected with N’Keal Harry for 25 yards to get out from under the shadow of their own goal-post.
Meyers caught Stidham’s first touchdown pass on a similar crossing route over the middle. The undrafted rookie finished with six catches for 69 yards and the two scores.
As much as the offense cruised, the Patriots’ defense put on the real show. Aside from Rivers’ two sacks and Simon’s pick, seven other Patriots recorded a sack as Lions quarterbacks Tom Savage and David Fales combined for seven completions and a net of 21 yards passing.
Chase Winovich (1.5), Shilique Calhoun, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Danny Shelton, Terez Hall, Jamie Collins, and Byron Cowart (0.5) all got to the quarterback and forced quick throws or negative rushes all night. Joejuan Williams led the team with five tackles, four solo, and looked strong in coverage against bigger receivers. He showed his inexperience, however, by taking an unnecessary roughness penalty after a late hit.
Most impressive, New England allowed just 93 yards of total offense on the night and only eight first downs, two of which resulted from penalties.
- Nick Brossette added a rushing score and two point conversion, finishing with 66 yards on 22 carries. Brandon Bolden (12 carries, 41 yards), Andrew Beck (1 carry, 3 yards) and Gunner Olszewski (1 carries, 7 yards) also took handoffs.
- Jarrett Stidham also showed his mobility, extending a scoring drive with a first-down rush on a 3rd & 10 and finishing with four rushes for 16 yards.
- Jake Bailey handled most of the kickoffs and even got a turn to punt once for 45 yards. Ryan Allen punted twice for 91 total yards and served as a holder on field goals and extra points. Stephen Gostkowski went 1 for 2 kicking field goals.
- N’Keal Harry and Matt LaCosse both went down with leg injuries. Harry had been dealing with a hamstring injury suffered Tuesday while LaCosse looked to be in some pain limping off the field. Both did not return.
- Gunner Olszewski and Braxton Berrios split the punt returning duties. Olszewski had three returns for 34 yards, Berrios had four for 35 yards.
- A.J. Howard and Terez Hall had strong performances in the second half, combining for seven tackles.
- Penalties were an issue for New England as the Patriots were flagged 12 times for 135 yards. Detroit took five penalties for 52 yards. We even saw a potential missed pass interference on Joejuan Williams challenged, but the play stood as a no-call.
- Detroit’s Jermaine Kearse suffered a gruesome leg injury in the first quarter than will likely cost him the season.