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Breakdown: Lions 34, Patriots 10

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  August 29, 2011 07:00 AM

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DETROIT - And that look from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, taken in the aftermath of the Lions' final score of the first half, about says it all.

The Patriots’ trip to Detroit was pretty much an abject failure with a 34-10 loss. A viewing of the television copy did nothing to change that opinion.

The Patriots’ defense, one week after wreaking havoc against the Tampa Bay Buccaners, made Lions QB Matthew Stafford look like an All-Pro, as he completed 12 of 14 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 158.3. Yes, a perfect passer rating.

The biggest reason for that? The Lions came into this game determined to have a quick passing attack, probably after watching the film of the Patriots swarming the Buccaneers. Last week, between the DL and LBs, the Patriots combined for an amazing 35.5 total quarterback pressures (sacks, hurries, hits and holding penalties combined).

Against the Lions? Not so much.

Patriots LBs and DL combined for one sack, three hurries and five hits for nine total quarterback pressures. That’s it. The group was much-improved against the run with nine bad runs (those of 1 yard or less) but no one really cares about that after this game.

Why did the Patriots’ defense have zero pressure against Stafford and the other quarterbacks? For one, they didn’t bring much pressure. The Patriots blitzed the Buccaneers on 48.6 percent of dropbacks. Against the Lions, the Patriots blitzed 27.5 percent of time total (11 times on 40 dropbacks). Against Stafford, the percentage was even less (18.8 percent, 3 of 16).

Now, the Lions had a lot to do with that. They were not going to let the injury-prone Stafford sit back there and get pounded (wise decision).

On his 16 dropbacks, Stafford’s average release time was 2.07 seconds. Almost everything was a three-step drop, and throw on first read. Seven of his passes got off in under 2 seconds. So even if the Patriots’ blitzed, it probably wouldn’t have worked. But it couldn’t have been any worse. The Patriots got a sack (Kyle Arrington) and hit (Jerod Mayo) on two of their three blitzes against Stafford. The other sack, by Niko Koutouvides on Drew Stanton, also came on a blitz.

The only time Stanton held the ball over 3 seconds, he was sacked.

To contrast Stafford’s get-off time, Tom Brady’s was a very respectable 2.37, which throws a little bit of cold water on his “the protection wasn’t that bad because we were trying to get the ball downfield” explanation. But 18 of his passes took longer to get off than Stafford’s average. Brady did have five get-off times over 3 seconds, so the Patriots were definitely trying to take some shots down the field.

On offense, the Patriots just continuously shot themselves in the foot. First drive had a penalty and a sack. On the second, there were no negative plays and it resulted in a field. Third and fourth each had big penalties. Fifth did not, and they scored a touchdown. The sixth ended with an interception. Too many negative plays.

With that, let’s get on with the carnage.

QUARTERBACK (Rating: 2 out of 5)

Definitely not Brady’s finest hour, but it wasn’t terrible. He had three really poor throws, but three very good ones. Brady made terrific throw under pressure to get 8 yards to TE Aaron Hernandez. Brady also had good blitz recognition – knowing no one would pick up the blitzer – and releasing in time to get Hernandez on a 14-yard pick up on third-and-3. … Patriots used a lot of playaction and deep drops, but balanced it with their usual quick passing … Brady just made a bad throw with 8:40 left in the first half when Lions S Amari Spivey bit on play action. Welker had a touchdown if Brady, who had a ton of time, led him. … Got Erik Coleman, the former Jet, to bite on the playaction on the 44 yard touchdown to Welker. Nearly the identical play they should have scored on earlier. The play is one of the staples of the Patriots’ offense. The left guard pulls with the playaction, and then Brady goes up top. When it works – as it often does – it’s just sweet music. … Thought Brian Hoyer (6 of 12 for 88 yards) played fined, other than his final throw when he missed an open Matthew Slater on fourth down. Need to make that play. … Ryan Mallett (9 of 14, 65 yards) was subpar with four poor throws. He seems to always tease you once in the games, like on his 21-yard dig route to Brandon Tate. Really well thrown.

RUNNING BACKS (Rating: 3 out of 5)

Really this should be an incomplete because they didn’t have many opportunities, and they got about as much as they could given the blocking. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had one nice run, as did Danny Woodhead. Woodhead couldn’t hold up a blitz and it resulted in a hit on Brady. Opposing scouts think the Patriots are hiding RB Richard Medlin to get him on the practice squad. Is there any other reason he gets one carry, and Sammy Morris gets three? Disturbing to see Woodhead take another head shot, this time in the first quarter from LB Stephen Tulloch.

RECEIVERS (Rating: 2.5 out of 5)

Wes Welker was beaten to the spot by the CB Brandon McDonald on Woodhead’s promising run with 10:33 left that yielded just 2 yards. Not really anything Welker could do. Threat of pass didn’t delay McDonald…. Welker did miss a run block later. … The illegal crackback block call on Welker was poor. He came from the front of the defender. The offensive pass interference call against Chad Ochocinco, appeared legit. He was blocking too early on a quick pass. The other guy just happened to hit him harder. … Ochocinco was a complete non-factor with four targets and zero receptions. He had a bad drop. One thing that was a little disturbing happened on a screen pass to Woodhead with 1:07 left in the first half. Ochocinco was in the X position and slowly got off the line. Contrast that to Welker, who was next to him in the slot. He flew off the line to sell the play. One play doesn’t make it Randy Moss territory or anything, but something to watch…. Aaron Hernandez is always terrific in the open field and broke two tackles. …. TE Rob Gronkowski gave up 1.5 bad runs, but did break one tackle to pick up extra yardage. …Taylor Price got a lot of early action to show that he can play with the unit – perhaps if Brandon Tate is released – and he was so-so. Really should have fought back better on the purposely underthrown ball with 2:21 left in the first quarter. That kind of pass is a staple in the Patriots’ offense…. Price later had a mixup with Brady that shouldn’t happen. …Tate had a nice leaping catch … Matthew Slater continues to impress in his stints, this time with a nice run-and-catch where he eluded a tackle for 53 yards. …Neither of the third TE candidates stood out. Will Yeatman just let Lions DE Willie Young – who the Patriots made look like an All-Pro on the defensive side -- go around him and take Green-Ellis down after 4 yards late in the first quarter.

OFFENSIVE LINE (Rating: 1.5 out of 5)

It wasn’t a complete disaster, but it certainly wasn’t good. Your grand totals when Brady was in the game: two sacks, four hurries and three hits for a total of nine quarterback pressures in 24 dropbacks (37.5 percent). That obviously can’t happen during the season. The blocking unit also produced three bad runs. …. LT Matt Light was fine in his first limited action besides sharing a sack with RT Sebastian Vollmer. Light and Vollmer were beaten with speed by Lawrence Jackson and Cliff Avril, respectively. Brady only had 1.89 seconds before trying to evade the rush…. RG Dan Connolly (two QB hits) was hurt on the first kickoff return when Brandon Tate and his tackler rolled up on his right ankle. Yeatman replaced Connolly on KO…. On the first run of the game, C Dan Koppen and Connolly had so much trouble with Ndamakong Suh that Connolly couldn’t get to the second level and spring BenJarvus Green-Ellis from LB Stephen Tulloch for more than 2 yards. … Vollmer (two hurries, 1.5 bad runs, ½ sack) had a tough time early on with DE Cliff Avril. There was the sack, and Vollmer was also beaten twice but it didn’t affect Brady. Then he got walked back a few steps by Young, while Connolly got way too high on Suh, who shed the block and got a hit on Brady…. Another time Connolly whiffed on Suh, Brady got rid of it. … Rich Ohrnberger came in and promptly put distruptive DT Corey Williams on his back. … On a big third-and-1 play at the Detroit 14 on the final play of the first quarter, either Vollmer or Gronkowski blocked the wrong player because they both allowed Tulloch to get in free and take Green-Ellis down for no gain. …. When Woodhead was taken down for a 3-yard loss, it was just a completely blown play by someone. Best guess is Gronkowski. Looks like he was running the wrong play. If he hit Williams on a wham block, Woodhead has a nice gainer. Could have been Logan Mankins, but it didn’t appear that way. … Ohrnberger (hurry, hit, poor run block) just whiffed on Suh as he got a hit on Brady in 2.22 seconds…. On the next play, the Lions ran a game on the right side of their line against Mankins and Solder. Mankins played it right. Solder didn’t have leverage and allowed Williams to collapse the pocket and Brady ran into a sack by Avril, who should have been out of the play. The sack wasn’t on Vollmer, but he didn’t exactly cover himself in glory against a speed rush. …Solder had a rough go. He allowed a sack, a hit, hurry, a penalty and a poor run block. … Among the backups, Thomas Austin had ½ bad run and a penalty while Mark Wetterer allowed a hit and hurry.

DEFENSIVE LINE (Rating: 3 out of 5)

Mark Anderson got a lot of playing time at left end and showed he is a much more natural rusher on the right side. He couldn’t do much against Gosder Cherilus, who Anderson should know very well from when he played with the Bears. Had one nice tackle shedding the block of a tight end. That was it until late in the game against the Lions backups when he got a hit on third QB Drew Stanton. But he failed to make the easy sack and Stanton was able to pick up a big third down. … Vince Wilfork totaled one bad run and clogged the middle. …Andre Carter had a nice run tackle and a QB hit… In limited time, Eric Moore had a bad run (tackle for loss), a hurry and a plus play against the run. He has a tendency to break his contain lane. But it didn’t hurt against the Lions. …Gerard Warren had a bad run but otherwise wasn’t much of a factor …Myron Pryor had a QB hit. … Among the backups, Alex Silvestro had 1.5 bad runs, but also a penalty. …Landon Cohen had a tackle for a loss, while Kade Weston chipped in a half bad run.

LINEBACKERS (Rating: 3.5 out of 5)

On the Lions’ final touchdown before halftime, there was a lot of confusion between the Patriots’ linebackers and the defensive backs on coverage. Evidently they didn’t get it straightened out. Mayo allowed RB Aaron Brown to gain inside leverage, and Mayo had no help there. By Mayo’s reaction, he thought Chung should have been there. Coming off the field, there was a lot of discussion between Mayo and Guyton, who was doing most of the talking. Maybe Mayo was supposed to play inside leverage there and force Brown to go up the field. The way it was covered, that would make sense. … Besides that, Mayo continued to be outstanding with a half a bad run, a QB hit, a pass defensed and a pass breakup. … Somebody must have gotten to Guyton (bad run) because, while there were limited opportunities, he was much better against the run than he has been. Much more physical taking on blockers. … Tracy White continues to make the case that he can play more than special teams in a pinch with a very nice open-field tackle … Marques Murrell finally showed up with a hurry, bad run and QB hit. Is it too late? … Ricky Brown (bad run) and Koutouvides (sack) got into the action. … Rob Ninkovich played nearly every snap at DE this time around. Patriots played a ton of sub packages.

SECONDARY (Rating: 1.5 out of 5)

CB Devin McCourty, in the same place he had an outstanding game last year, got off to a very rough start with four poor plays, but he rebounded by finishing with three strong performances … On the fourth play from scrimmage, McCourty just didn’t spot the ball quickly enough, hesitated and the ball went over his head to Nate Burleson for 37 yards. … Later in the drive McCourty was beaten for a touchdown but Burleson dropped it. McCourty underestimated Burleson’s speed and then never got his head around to locate the ball, which he could have made a play on. … Good hustle shown by CB Darius Butler on the perfectly executed 52-yard screen pass to Jerome Harrison. He came from the other side of the field to save a touchdown. While you have to give much of the credit to the Lions, Calvin Williams owned McCourty on the outside, Guyton didn’t exactly get in front of the play and force it back to the middle, and S Brandon Meriweather couldn’t get off the block of the 198-pound (maybe) Burleson. …On the Lions’ first touchdown, Arrington had good under coverage against Burleson, but it sure looked like Meriweather took a false step on the play action, which made him late to cover over the top of Burleson. That’s two weeks in a row it appears Meriweather has blown a coverage. … James Sanders didn’t stake his claim to a starting role in his first action. He got dragged by TE Tony Scheffler for several yards. ….Arrington got a sack on the second of his two slot blitzes. Stafford recognized the first and got rid of it. Not sure why he didn’t on the second. The Lions coaches will tell Stafford just to throw it out of bounds. He should have gotten rid of it. No reason to try to make a play the way they were playing. Don’t take a negative play…. On the 30-yard pass to Calvin Johnson, McCourty never saw the ball. He needs to locate it. … On the next play, Arrington was trying to toy with Stafford and got burned when Arrington failed to get any type of jam on TE Scheffler and he scored an easy touchdown. Arrington actually got caught looking at the outside receiver when the ball was snapped so he was a step behind Scheffler the whole way. …Arrington got an interception later, but it was a late poor throw by Drew Stanton, who allowed McCourty time to make a play on the ball. …Arrington (missed tackle, penalty) did not have his best night, as apparently his problems with inconsistency have not been solved. ….Butler also didn’t do much to help his cause of being on this team. He had the hustle tackle on the screen, but then a penalty, he lost WR Tim Toone on a crossing pattern, and then got beat on an in-breaking TD by Derrick Williams.

SPECIAL TEAMS (Rating: 3 out of 5)

On the first kickoff return for Brandon Tate, Sammy Morris didn’t help by missing his block. On the second, either Morris failed to execute his block or Tate went the wrong way. Later, Tate did too much dancing trying to return kicks. He didn’t show much explosion and did not help his case for being on this team…Found it interesting that Jonathan Compas and not Thomas Austin replaced Connolly on field goal…. Julian Edelman was just outstanding – about the only one – both returning kicks and on one of his two pass reception, where he broke the ankles of LB Doug Hogue. Edelman is so good at making the first guy miss. Contrast that with Tate, who does too much dancing…. On his first three live kickoffs, Stephen Gostkowski averaged 4.19 hangtime with two touchbacks….Other than one punt that only had 3.82 seconds of hangtime, Zoltan Mesko was outstanding with 4.48 average on six punts with a net of 42.2 yards.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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