For a while there, it appeared that the Patriots may have found themselves snagged in yet another trap game. Late in the second quarter, the Pats were down 14-3, with the Lions' defense hitting Brady like a pinata, and their offense motoring motoring down the field like a Ford Super Duty. Up until that point, the only uglier first half the Patriots had played this season was the meltdown at Cleveland. Things looked a little brighter when Brady led the team on an 85-yard scoring drive to close the gap 14-10, but then the defense continued its pourous ways, allowing the Lions to move the ball down the field in the final 0:45 to end the half with a field goal.
I'm personally a huge fan of the deferrement and always choose to take the ball to start the 2nd half when I play Madden, so needless to say, I love the fact that Bill Belichick feels the same way during the Patriots' real-life games. However, this time around, the Patriots weren't able to do much to start the half and were forced to punt yet again. Detroit continued to march down the field and crossed the 50-yard line. Already up by seven, the Lions were in prime position to really get the Ford Field crowd roaring and put the Patriots in a nasty hole. And then...
... Devin McCourty! Rookie, Devin McCourty, the man that nearly every Patriots fan was disappointed with when he was chosen as the team's 2010 1st round pick, came up with the huge interception that stopped Detroit's momentum on a dime and sent it soaring back in New England's direction. As has been the Patriot's M.O. this entire season, the defense that had bent throughout the course of the afternoon, broke out with a huge play to save the day. The Patriots would tie the game 17-17, trade touchdowns with the Lions again, and then go off on an offensive maelstrom in the 4th quarter to ice the game.
Some quick hits...
- Brady ended the day with a perfect passer rating. However, more impressive was the guts he displayed early on when the Lions' pass rush was coming at him hard and heavy. He shook off the big hits and continued to will his team to victory.
- The decision to kick the field goal on New England's first drive, with 4th and a foot from the 2 yard line was very un-Belichickean. The Lions later elected to go for it on 4th and short twice near the goal line, scoring 14 points. When Detroit was leading 24-17 late in the third, I was heavily second-guessing the Patriots' conservative approach. Thankfully, New England's late-game push made Bill's decision irrelevant.
- After New Englad spent much of the last two games hurrying Rapitsberger and Manning, the pass rush was surprisginly absent this afternoon in Detroit. The lack of pressure gave Shaun Hill plenty of time to find his recievers and was a big reason behind Detroit's good start.
- Branch's 79-yard TD catch, the longest of his career and the longest play for New England this season, was a thing of beauty. He zigged, and zagged, and zigged again, all the way to pay dirt. I'll tell you this much - Randy Moss never moved that good during his three seasons in Foxboro.
- Ngamjxriorqbarlipmurah Suh was clearly the front-runner for defensive rookie of the year heading into today's game, and while he looked phenomenal as usual today, Devin McCourty certainly made his case by snagging two picks. That's three in two games for the rookie. In the past three drafts, the Patriots' top picks were all defensive players - Mayo, Chung, and McCourty. Belichick hit each pick out of the park, and it's paying dividends.
- As Al Beaton from The Wayne Fontes Experience pointed out in his Q&A session yesterday, this was the Lions' Super Bowl. Consider today's game another stepping stone for this young Patriots team. They picked up another big win on the road, learned from their mistakes in Cleveland, and avoided the trap game.
Here's hoping that Carson Palmer, Ochocinco, and T.O go all Sigfried and Roy on Rex Ryan and his bunch of frauds.