DETROIT – So after a few tense moments, it turned out to be a very happy Thanksgiving for the Patriots as they improved to 9-2 with a 45-24 victory over the Lions at Ford Field.
Let’s take a look back:
WHY DID THE PATRIOTS WIN?
They got a big assist from the Lions who, as has become customary for them, had a few key penalties, turnovers and blown plays to hurt themselves in a game where they had leads of 14-3, 17-10 and 24-17. But the Patriots did win this game because quarterback Tom Brady was perfect (no, really, he was with a 158.3 rating) and both sides of the ball found a way to make big plays (mostly from CB Devin McCourty and WR Deion Branch). When you limit your mistakes – Patriots had no turnovers and just five penalties – you’re going to be hard to beat when you make explosive plays.
S Brandon Meriweather was shaken up but returned three plays later.
DE Gerard Warren (shoulder) was being looked at on the sideline but continued to play.
THREE THINGS TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT
1. Passing offense: After seeing his completion percentage go down after the Randy Moss trade (61.4, 59.4, 59.3 to 52.8 vs. Browns), Brady has been on the rebound with 69.8, 76 and 77.8 against the Lions. Brady had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 against the Lions as he went 21 of 27 for 341 yards and four touchdowns. The emergence of WR Deion Branch has really helped the offense. He played on one hamstring against the Vikings and the Browns. You can see what a difference a healthy Branch makes.
2. Growth of McCourty: Rookie cornerback Devin McCourty continues to play better with each game. He had two interceptions against the Lions and the first was on a beautiful read against Calvin Johnson. It’s obvious McCourty is studying his butt off because you can’t just make those plays on instinct, you have to know tendencies of the opposing offense. He did the same thing agains the Colts. It’s hard to imagine where the Patriots’ shaky secondary would be without McCourty. He’s just been so solid, which is a great thing for a rookie.
3. Offensive line adjusted: Maybe the veterans were a little creaky in the early going or they figured out the Lions’ games on the lines, but for whatever reason the offensive line was much more sound in the second half. Brady was beat up in the first half but was kept much more clean in the second half when he was 10 of 14 with four touchdowns.
THREE THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT
1. Safety play: James Sanders does a decent job in the back end even though the Patriots could really use Patrick Chung’s athleticism back there. Brandon Meriweather continues to struggle. The Lions had two big plays to Calvin Johnson and on both of them, Johnson was the only receiver on that side of the field – same side as Meriweather’s. Yet Meriweather was slow each time getting over. The Patriots will need him to make better and quicker reads as the games become more important – like next Monday night’s showdown against the Jets.
2. Brandon Tate: The Patriots could also use a legitimate deep threat to keep defenses honest and Tate hasn’t been getting it done. He had a crucial drop in the first half on third down. Tate needs to make those plays more consistently.
3. More hits on the quarterback: OK, so you don’t need the huge sack totals (although those help) but the Patriots definitely need to thud the quarterback a little bit more. Officially they had three quarterback hits and two of them were sacks recorded on the Lions’ final drive in garbage time. Patriots will need to rattle the likes of Mark Sanchez and Aaron Rodgers more.
New York Jets (8-2) at Gillette Stadium
Next Monday night, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
What they’ve been up to: Host the Bengals tonight on NFL Network. Last Sunday the Jets pulled off their third-straight thrilling victory with a 30-27 decision against the Texans….It’s obviously a huge game for both the Patriots and the Jets, who won the first matchup 28-14 between both teams. If the Patriots want home field in the playoffs, they’re going to need to win this game in all likelihood…And yes, this will be the longest 10 days of your life waiting for that game.