The lack of energy and emotion showed in the Patriots' uneven performance yesterday against the two-win Detroit Lions. There were 10 penalties, three turnovers, and several breakdowns in pass protection, reports Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe. "Even pulling into the stadium, it seemed like the energy wasn't the same," said safety Artrell Hawkins.
Playing with all the urgency of an elderly driver, the Patriots barely showed up yesterday, reports John Tomase of the Boston Herald. The Patriots (9-3) have four weeks to straighten things out before the games become single elimination. Belichick has likened this stretch to a horse race and yesterday his filly practically tossed its jockey before being coaxed into the starting gate.
Shalise Manza Young of The Providence Journal reports that they got away with it against the Bears; they got away with it against the Lions. But at some point, you have to figure that the New England Patriots won't be able to get away with turning the ball over so many times and still come away with a win. For the second week in a row, the Patriots needed a fourth-quarter comeback to put a "W" on the board, this time coming from 8 points down to defeat Detroit, 28-21, for their 9th victory in 12 games this season.
Over the next couple of days, you will hear from a lot of people who insist on putting it out there that the silver lining is that the Pats emerged with the victory, says Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald: They'll be wrong. Buckley discusses the importance of winning in December and the "mojo" that should be created during that crucial month.
This is when the Patriots are supposed to be playing their best football and they are not playing good football, says Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe. "Everything was very average," said quarterback Tom Brady, who was picked off once. "We turned the ball over, the safety, penalties. It was ugly." New England turned the ball over three more times yesterday (that's eight times in two weeks) and added 10 penalties which cost 72 yards. They allowed a safety and found themselves trailing the awful Lions with less than nine minutes left.
The alarming part is not that they made mistakes. The alarming part is that they worked all week to correct those mistakes and then went out and repeated them, explains The Boston Globe's Ron Borges. They made the same mistakes against the Lions they had against the Bears, after a week of what many of them claimed was the kind of workload normally experienced only by coal miners, sweaty men in steel mills, and foundry workers. Perhaps they exaggerated a bit, but whatever they were doing it didn't change a thing yesterday. They still won, and they still looked alarmingly mistake-prone.
The Boston Herald's Mike Felger reports that ball security should be of chief concern to the Patriots at this point in the season before explaining that the Pats won the game by letting Brady work his magic in the spread formation. Brady completed 14-of-15 fourth-quarter passes as the Pats put up 15 late points to earn the harder-than-necessary victory over the lowly Lions. Most of those snaps came out of the no-huddle.
Hartford Courant writer Alan Greenberg reports that the Patriots made a mess in last night's game, but luckily Brady was able to clean it up in the fourth quarter.
Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe reports on a 2-point conversion that Brady said was a turning point in the game. The Patriots had just closed to 21-19 with 8:35 left in the fourth quarter, and Brady was in the shotgun. Just as the pressure closed in on him, he fired a pass to receiver Troy Brown in a tight spot over the middle.
Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe reports on linebacker Mike Vrabel, who was kneed in the head at the end of the game after making an interception. "I got my bell rung," Vrabel said. "Guy got me in the head with his knee. I just remember the ball in the air and then being in the locker room. I think we got good pressure on the passer. He threw it up for grabs and I tried to go up and get it and tried to come down and save the ball and keep possession." Vrabel appeared to be alright after the game.
Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald reports that Corey Dillon had an historic game against the Lions. He is now just one of 15 men in NFL history to have rushed for 11,000 or more yards during his career. Dillon had 10 touches for 30 yards in the Pats' win against the Lions, rushing for 25 yards on nine carries and adding a 5-yard reception. He also tied the franchise mark of three touchdowns in a game yesterday against the Lions.
Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald offers the game's best and worst occurrences.
The Boston Herald sports staff picks a Play of the Game. This week, it was a first-and-10 play in the fourth quarter. Rosevelt Colvin strip-sacked Lions QB Jon Kitna and lineman Mike Wright recovered the football. Read what the players had to say about the play.
Running back Laurence Maroney left the field early in the game and did not return, reports The Boston Herald's John Tomase. According to Tomase, Maroney absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit on the Patriots seventh play. The team announced he had the wind knocked out of him. "He's doing all right," Belichick said after the game. "I talked to him in there. He's banged up a little, but he's doing all right."
Rich Garven of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that the Patriots may be winning games, but they're also losing players here in the final stretch of the season. This week it was Maroney, Vrabel and Hawkins. Last week it was Junior Seau.
Joe McDonald of The Providence Journal offers analysis on the Patriots offense, defense and special teams. Included are thoughts on the Patriots intangibles in the Lions game.
Albert Breer of the MetroWest Daily News reports that The 361 yards of offense Detroit posted yesterday were the most yielded all year by the Patriots' defense. Breer discusses Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz in this piece.
The Providence Journal's Shalise Manza Young reports that though everyone in the Patriots' locker room professed cautious pleasure with Sunday's win over Detroit, there was at least one man who was quite upset with his performance: Heath Evans. Evans insisted on taking the blame for a missed block that resulted in a Tom Brady strip-sack for a safety.
MetroWest Daily News writer Albert Breer reports on the Patriots offensive line. Due to the line's poor performance, Brady was hurried five times, strip-sacked for a safety, sacked another time and thrown off-balance by a Lions defense that ranks 26th in the league in ratio of sacks to pass plays.
Jim Donaldson of The Providence Journal reports on an officiating error in the game.
Paul Kenyon of The Providence Journal offers a feature on wide receiver Reche Caldwell, who's contributions to the team are mounting on a weekly basis now. The wideout, who came in the offseason from San Diego via free agency, had another outstanding game Sunday, with eight receptions for 112 yards, as the Patriots beat the Lions, 28-21, at Gillette.
Jennifer Toland of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that at this point in the season, there are some teams the Patriots are just supposed to beat - for example, the Lions. The Patriots did win, but needed a near-perfect fourth-quarter performance from Tom Brady and two Mike Vrabel interceptions in the last eight minutes to overcome three turnovers and 10 penalties and pull out a 28-21 head-scratcher at Gillette Stadium.
The Sun Chronicle's Mark Farinella reports on the Patriots turnover problems. "We talk about it every week - try to take care of the ball and not give it up," Belichick said after the Patriots' mistake-filled 28-21 victory over the 2-10 Detroit Lions. "We had too many of them today. We had the penalties in there. Penalties hurt us too. We had a lot of those." The Patriots are now 9-3, and while still technically the No. 4 seed in the AFC if the playoffs were to begin this weekend, they're just a game off the pace for the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
This was a game the Patriots were supposed to right the ship, polishing up their ball-handling skills and begin the annual stretch run for the playoffs, explains Dan Pires of the Standard-Times. The Patriots and their opponents have combined for 17 turnovers in the last two weeks.
Michael Parente of the Woonsocket Call keeps things in perspective, explaining that the Pats quietly filed out of the locker room Sunday thankful to still have a two-game lead over the surging New York Jets in the AFC East. After another shaky win at home, the New England Patriots are more concerned about their lack of consistency over the past five weeks than wrapping up their fourth consecutive division title.
USA Today offers its Inside Slant on the Patriots, which hasn't been updated since before the Lions game. Check it out to see where the Patriots stood entering the win over Detroit.