One question about the New England Patriots’ high powered offense with it’s added youth, athleticism, and speed is how will the rookies respond in the spotlight when the real games begin. With game three of the preseason the “dress rehearsal” and the perfect matchup for the Patriots on the road with the Detroit Lions lining up across from them. The Lions have a young, chippy defense and (even without all-world wide receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson) a high powered offense including free agent running back Reggie Bush.
On the Patriots offense’s opening drive, quarterback Tom Brady moved the team down the field. Inside the red zone, including a 37 yard completion to rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. After the team rolled into the red zone with the usual efficiency they have shown and when Brady hit rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld for twenty yards to the Detroit ten yard line, it looked like another quick scoring drive. Unfortunately, Sudfeld was stripped of the ball and Detroit recovered.
After the Lions took over, the Patriots defense gave up a huge 67 yard play to Detroit. On third and ten, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a screen pass to running back Reggie Bush with the Patriots defense over-aggressive and over-pursuing (and credit to Bush for some nifty cutbacks) that he turned into a big play. The defense held on inside the red zone and forced Detroit to kick a field goal.
The Patriots went three and out on their next drive as rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins simply dropped a third and two pass that him in the chest between the numbers and forced a punt. The first two drives of the quarter also saw running back Stevan Ridley stuffed on the first drive, with four rushes for zero yards. Second year back Brandon Bolden came on after detroit went three and out for a couple of nice runs. His first and best run was a 13 yard rumble brought back on a holding penalty on tackle Sebastian Vollmer, but he followed that with a nice run behind Vollmer for six yards. Unfortunately, the next play was a screen pass to Bolden where he was hit immediately and unexpectedly and fumbled the ball away at the thirteen yard line.
Again, the defense held in the red zone as the Lions let up a sack to the Patriots on first down. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly showed his inside pass rush skills as he collapsed the pocket into quarterback Matthew Stafford and defensive end Rob Ninkovich came in to help clean up the sack. The Lions had to settle for a 31 yard field goal, which they missed wide right.
Closing out the first quarter, Brady hit rookie Aaron Dobson across the middle and Dobson made a nifty catch in heavy coverage tipping the ball to himself. After another first down conversion by running back Shane Vereen on second and one, the first quarter ended.
Although the offense moved the ball, the young players made some mistakes as the Patriots offense put the ball on the ground a couple of times in the first quarter with costly fumbles. Add in a drive-stalling drop, and there was a definite theme of rookie mistakes by the Patriots offense. The only positive was that the defense was put in some tough spots and needed to step-up. Unfortunately, the Patriots offense went incomplete and interception to open the second quarter, a harbinger of how the offense can go from bad can go to worse.