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Lions 34, Patriots 10

Patriots put forth a sorry exhibition

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / August 28, 2011

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DETROIT - From Bill Belichick on down, the Patriots have stressed over the last week-plus that despite their showing last week in Tampa Bay, there was still a lot of work to be done.

After last night, it is quite a bit easier to believe them.

The Patriots went into Ford Field to face the Lions, knowing they would get a good challenge for the all-important third preseason game from a young, hungry team intent on making its mark in the NFC.

The Patriots got all of that and more, as the Lions raced to a 10-0 lead and 27-10 halftime cushion, as both teams played nearly all of their starters for at least the first two quarters.

New England lost, 34-10.

“We have a lot of work to do. We’ve been saying it and now you see it,’’ Deion Branch said.

Belichick expanded on that.

“There’s no question who the better team was,’’ he said. “Obviously, I did a poor job making the team ready to play. We didn’t do anything very well, in any phase of the game . . . There’s no one area that should be highlighted more than any other.’’

The Patriots struggled to protect Tom Brady, who played into the third quarter and completed 12 of 22 attempts for 145 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked twice but hit at least three other times, as defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh, Cliff Avril, and Corey Williams were successful in penetrating the Patriots’ offensive line.

Suh was able to wreak even more havoc after starting right guard Dan Connolly left with an ankle injury and Rich Ohrnberger was inserted; to say Ohrnberger had problems stopping the second-year tackle is an understatement.

Asked about the protection for Brady, Belichick again said that nothing was done well. “We didn’t throw it well, catch it well, block well, tackle well, cover well, coach well,’’ he said.

Belichick conceded that there may have been one or two things done properly, but wouldn’t know until looking over the film.

Perhaps he might point to the defense forcing the Lions into a three-and-out, Julian Edelman’s 26-yard punt return that allowed the Patriots to start a possession in Lions’ territory, and the 44-yard, play-action strike from Brady to Wes Welker. But those may have been the only bright spots.

Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford was pulled after that three-and-out, which included just his second incompletion of the night. He finished 12 of 14 for 200 yards and two touchdowns.

The Lions ran a no-huddle offense from the start, and had the Patriots on their heels. On third and 2 on their first possession and working out of the shotgun, Stafford hit Nate Burleson for a 37-yard gain; Devin McCourty was in coverage and may have lost the ball in the lights.

The Patriots’ defense held, and the Lions kicked a 33-yard field goal. On their second drive, the Lions covered 57 yards on four plays, with Burleson getting into the end zone.

“That’s the beauty of it,’’ Stafford said of running the hurry-up. “We wanted to get some work [on it] in this game, and guys stepped up and did a great job. It’s part of our game that we can implement at any time. We just get into it, get back out of it, and then get back into it. It makes it tough on defenses.’’

McCourty had an off night, but he wasn’t the only one, and he couldn’t pinpoint a reason why.

“We just didn’t play well,’’ he said. “I feel like they outplayed us . . . We didn’t take the field and say, ‘We’re not going to play well because it’s preseason.’ ’’

As he often does, Belichick placed a lot of the blame on himself, but Branch targeted execution as the big problem.

“That’s Coach being Coach. We didn’t execute the plays. We had a great game plan, we just didn’t execute,’’ he said, noting that the Patriots made a lot of mistakes they could control, such as dropping passes, penalties (10 for 74 yards), and in general playing “bad football.’’

New England plays its final exhibition game in just four days. Asked if their performance last night could impact how the Patriots play Thursday night against the Giants, Belichick said “probably.’’

Last year, after losing to St. Louis in the third preseason game, Belichick took the unusual move of having many of his starters play in the preseason finale.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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