Remember how good the Patriots offense looked over the first two games of the preseason? Yeah, not so much in Week 3. While it looked like the Pats were going to strike on their first drive of the game, it ended prematurely when undrafted rookietight end Zach Sudfeld fumbled on the Lions’ 20-yard line.
That would be a sign of things to come. The teams’ first five drives of the game went like this: fumble, punt, fumble, interception, fumble.
The Patriots scored on just one drive – a field goal in the second quarter – before a garbage-time TD late in the 4th, as they got mauled by the Lions, 40-9.
Sudfeld paid dearly for his fumble. He wasn’t targeted by Brady the rest of the game, and didn't make another catch until the final minutes of the blowout. The same goes for running backs Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen, who both fumbled. Bolden didn't see another carry, and Vereen got just one more in the final minutes of the game as well.
It’s certainly not good news for Bolden, who is one of the players vying for a final spot on the roster. He also got dinged up on a play. LeGarrette Blount lead all Patriots running backs with 26 yards on 10 carries.
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We tried our best to find three bright spots, and the names are familiar ones – which is a good and bad thing. It’s good because it shows these specific players are ready to go. It’s bad because it shows that not enough other players the team is waiting on have taken a big enough step to really be noticed.
1. Kenbrell Thompkins – Thompkins has come to play in each of the Patriots’ first three preseason games, but he saved his best performance for Thursday night against the Lions. Thompkins was targeted 12 times in all, hauling in 8 passes for 116 yards – far and away the team’s best receiver on the field. If there was any question about his roster spot, there isn’t any more. Brady has shown a trust in Thompkins early on, and even though he did make one key drop in the first quarter, he made a number of nice catches to more than offset it. The Patriots lined Thompkins up all over the field, having to get more creative without Danny Amendola. It would be quite the story if Thompkins can be a real asset to the Patriots, having gone undrafted out of Cincinnati this year.
2. Chandler Jones – It’s still early (obviously), but Chandler Jones looks like he could make a case for a Pro Bowl selection. Jones just seems quicker – both with his hands and his feet – than his opposition on the offensive line. Jones didn’t light up the stat sheet – two tackles, one solo – but it’s his presence on the line and ability to chase the quarterback out of the pocket and get in his face that makes him a real asset to the Pats. It seems like the Pats got a real steal in last year’s draft when they got Jones with the 21st pick. He’s very versatile on the line.
3. Rob Ninkovich – I know what you’re thinking: How can a team that gave up 40 points have two great players on the defensive line tonight? Well, did you see the offense? But it’s quite simple. The Patriots defense was put in terrible field position multiple times throughout the first half, including three drives that started on the Patriots’ 19-, 37-, and 7-yard lines. In fact, in the first half, the Patriots defense only gave up one touchdown (the 37-yard drive), and just one Lions drive lasted longer than four plays. Ninkovich was a big reason for the success. Along with Jones, Ninkovich was all over the field and Matthew Stafford. He finished with a team-high 6 tackles including 3 solo, and was credited for half a sack. Ninkovich is a very dependable player for the Patriots, and one who certainly can and has taken on a leadership role with the team.