Here are this week’s New England Patriots game grades:
Passing Offense: A-
Tom Brady sliced up the best defense in the league, completing nearly 72% of passes for 349 yards, and two touchdowns. The Lions had absolutely no answer for the Patriots’ passing game, whether it was Tim Wright in the red zone, Brandon LaFell, on the outside, or old reliable Julian Edelman abusing folks in the slot.
But as great as Brady and the offensive weapons were, it was the offensive line that stole the show in my eyes. Going up against the best defensive front in football, they gave up four quarterback hits, and no sacks. And on 53 dropbacks, mind you. This group up front has really come into its own over this seven-game winning streak, and it is one of the biggest reasons why the Patriots have made such a turnaround.
Rushing Offense: B
Considering the Patriots were facing off with the best run defense in the league, 90 yards on only 20 carries, and two touchdowns will do just fine. LeGarrette Blount received the bulk of the carries, as he averaged 6.5 yards a pop in his return to Foxboro. His ability to pound the ball against these big, physical defensive fronts will be huge for New England come playoff time.
In that cold January weather, nobody wants to tackle this 250-pound back.
Pass Defense: A+
Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner showed on Sunday that they are the best cornerback duo in the NFL right now. They combined to shut-down Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, arguably the best receiver duo in the league at the current moment. Both were the two highest rated corners on PFF this week, and they both made their week 12 all-star team.
Matthew Stafford completed a mediocre 39% of his passes, and finished with a 19.1 QBR. Yes, Stafford missed a few throws, and his wideouts dropped quite a few passes, but it was the dominant New England defense that made life tough for Detroit. Akeem Ayers showed up a few times in the pass rush once again, and Patrick Chung continued his excellent comeback season, making a few nice plays in coverage against the Lions’ tight ends.
Run Defense: A
Detroit was never able to get their ground game going, and it hurt them, as they were forced to go exclusively to the passing game very early. Vince Wilfork and Alan Branch set the line of scrimmage on the inside, taking up blocks, and even penetrating into the backfield on a few occasions. Then it was Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins making plays on the ball, whether it was setting the edge, or fighting off blocks on the inside to make the tackle. The Lions only averaged 3.6 yards per carry in this one, and that number is slightly inflated from Golden Tate’s 13-yard scamper, along with Matthew Stafford’s 10-yard scramble.
Collins committed a few costly penalties, but even the best are entitled to a few off-games. Collins has filled in admirably along with Hightower in Mayo’s absence, and one bad game shouldn’t change our thinking of the young star.
Ryan Allen boomed one of the best punts I have ever seen in the first quarter, and it really was a turning point in the game. The Pats were down 3-0 at the time, and Detroit was going to be set up with excellent field position. But Allen pulled off a magnificent 66-yard bomb, and changed the whole game. Danny Amendola‘s 81-yard punt return in the second quarter was also big, as that really let the floodgates open for New England.