It seems like just yesterday that Jonas Gray and the Patriots were running the ball down the collective throat of the Indianapolis Colts.With the Patriots rolling to a 42-20 win in Indianapolis, they’re now on to Detroit.
The Lions invade Foxboro on Sunday with their league-best defense in hopes of stopping – or at least slowing down – Tom Brady, who has quarterbacked the Patriots to six straight wins and flipped the script on his and his team’s early-season struggles.
Don’t expect the Patriots to put up another 42 points this week, despite playing at home where they’ve dominated over the last decade-plus.
While the Patriots are the favorites on Sunday (1 p.m., FOX), and deservedly so, the Lions pose some matchup problems that the Patriots will need to get familiar with.
Here are three things to keep tabs on:
1. It starts with the D-line
The Lions allow the fewest rushing yards (68.8) and fifth-fewest passing yards (290.3) per game in the NFL. They also allow the fewest points per game (15.6). All that success starts in the front on the defensive line, anchored by Ndamukong Suh. Suh is having the best season of his career – and perhaps just as important, he hasn’t been fined for any dirty plays in 2014. Even so, seeing him anywhere even close to Brady is enough to make any Patriots fan hold his or her breath.
“He’s a phenomenal player, and we’ve got to think about him on every play,” Brady said of Suh. “He can ruin a game. He’s a big, physical presence, and I think he really sets the tone for that defense.”
2. Mega problems
All year, the Patriots secondary has done an exceptional job of taking away opposing teams’ top receiver threats. On Sunday, they might have their toughest task to date. Calvin Johnson, a.k.a. Megatron, has returned from injury to the Lions, and he and quarterback Matthew Stafford have a great thing going. But don’t forget about Golden Tate, who had at least five receptions in every game up until last weekend, and is just 50 yards away from 1,000 on the season. Will they spend time on the island?
3. Back to the pass
The Patriots went and signed old friend LeGarrette Blount on Thursday, but don’t expect him or Gray to have a huge impact on Sunday against a stout run defense. While the game plan last week was clearly to run the ball, we should see Brady air it out more this weekend. And if a running back does get in on the action, look for it to be Shane Vereen.