It was an ugly game for the Patriots, losing 40-9 to the Detroit Lions in what was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the regular season. We could end it right there. But there is more than enough to discuss about the loss, the jobs at stake, and if we’re reading too far into certain aspects of the game.
1) These are young guys — Zach Sudfeld fumbles. Kenbrell Thompkins drops a key pass on third down. Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden cough it up. These guys are still learning how to win and there is no better venue to do so than in a meaningless preseason game. If anything, after a miserable plane ride home and sure-to-be unpleasant film session, these players will be more conscious of their protection of the ball. Moving on.
2) Thompkins was stellar — Bouncing back from his first quarter drop, the rookie wide receiver out of Cincinnati finished with eight receptions for 116 yards. He caught passes of 37 and 27 yards, blowing right by his defenders for each grab. He showed tremendous speed and route running. But what’s more, on a throw from Ryan Mallett in the third quarter, he showed off how wide his catch radius is, stretching for a poorly thrown ball to the outside. He continues to look like a steal for the Patriots and should start in Week 1.
3) Fumble comes at a bad time for Bolden — Bolden, who is fighting for a job on this roster with players across multiple positions, made a critical error fumbling the ball. It’s unfortunate for him because the Patriots may not have the luxury of keeping five running backs if LeGarrette Blount makes the roster, depending on how strongly the team feels at other positions. He needed to have a solid performance to solidify his spot on the team and erase any doubt of his worth.
4) What an awful second half for the secondary — You thought the first half was ugly, but it just got worse in the second. The play was downright atrocious in stretches and, in my view, spiritless. But it was exemplified by the play of the defensive backs. Safety Duron Harmon and cornerback Justin Green missed at least three tackles between them as Lions Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure ran wild. (They combined for 84 rushing yards.) Harmon and Green also failed to communicate on a 15-yard touchdown, with Harmon getting caught looking into the backfield. The secondary, with all of its emphasis this offseason at improving via free agency and the draft, is still very much lacking at this juncture.
5) Tim Tebow didn’t play — And while Tebow didn’t play, safety Adrian Wilson found himself on the field in the second half getting reps with the practice squad hopefuls. What does that say about where each player stands with the team? My gut reaction is that Tebow’s fate has already been decided, whether he is a member of the team’s 53-man roster or not, while Wilson was getting a more extended workout after playing limited snaps in the first two preseason outings. I don’t think it’s possible to look into this further, but I’m sure everyone will anyway.