Tom Brady and the bulk of the Patriots projected regular season starters saw significant action in Friday night's "dress rehearsal" third preseason game in Detroit and in the end it was enough for New England's first win of the summer, 30-28, on Stephen Gostkowski's 45-yard field goal with seconds to play.
Unfortunately, the loss came at a price, as Julian Edelman was carted off with a non-contact knee injury that NFL Network, ESPN and others report could be a season-ending torn ACL.
But on the night when the team lost its consistent, go-to slot option, the potential of the entirety of the offense was obvious with touchdowns on the first three possessions and a 24-0 lead in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, the defense put forth its best effort of the summer, at least early on, forcing two turnovers and three punts on Detroit's first five possessions.
Bill Belichick continues to express his summer-long theme of "we have a long way to go" but New England took a nice step forward on both sides of the ball in Detroit as final cuts and the Sept. 7 opener continue to draw near.
Here are the personnel highs and lows from the Patriots action against the Lions:
Chris Hogan –The receiver looks to be making a veteran version of the year-two jump in New England. He's been impressive all summer and put up big numbers early in Detroit with four catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns. The second score came on a great contested catch for a 32-yard score, an out-and-up down the left side after a Lions turnover. Hogan had an impressive first year in Foxborough but looks ready, willing and able to be an even bigger impact player in 2017.
Mike Gillislee –* *After missing two preseason games and a few weeks of practice action, the restricted free agent addition made an impressive Patriots debut Friday night. His first carry was a 1-yard touchdown, followed immediately by a two-point conversion on essentially the same play. Later in the first half he showed nice burst on a 27-yard run to finish the night with 38 yards on his eight attempts. If Gillislee can stay healthy he has already shown the ability to get into the end zone, including in goal line drills in practice early in camp, and also take advantage of opportunities that will come to him as a runner in the pass-first attack. Nice first impression for the former Bills backup who led the NFL with 5.7 yards per carry last year.
Tom Brady –* *Not that there is any question about Brady's ability at the age of 40 – unless you are a hot-take TV show host – but T12 continues to show his stuff and prove he's going to lead an elite passing attack once again in 2017. Other than a punt-like interception on his final throw of the night, Brady was on point leading the fast start. Five throws into the night Brady was 5-for-5 with 91 yards and two touchdowns. He would finish the night completing 12 of his 15 throws for 174 yards with the two touchdowns and one pick for a 126.8 rating. He also showed great sideline energy, staying focused while cheering his team on through the final gun. Vintage Brady all around.
Cameron Fleming –The fourth-year tackle continues to battle for the backup job, earning the start once again in place of Nate Solder at left tackle. He played the bulk of the game but it wasn't a great performance. He realized the fears of many Patriots fans when he gave up the edge to Anthony Zettel, who hit Brady's arm as he threw. Later he gave up another pressure to Alex Barrett. Fleming seems to have the inside lane to the swing-tackle backup job, but his play this summer hasn't exactly been consistently good enough to instill great faith in his pass protection abilities.
Jordan Richards –* *The third-year safety is among those players perceived to be battling for a roster spot. He's not had a great summer and that continued in Detroit. Richards was used in more of a linebacker or in-the-box role against the Lions, unfortunately his tackling wasn't exactly what you look for in that spot. His missed tackle keyed Dwayne Washington's catch-and-run 18-yard touchdown. Richards has struggled in both tackling and coverage at various points this summer as he battles for his professional life in New England.
Malcolm Butler/Stephen Gostkowski – Neither former Pro Bowler had a night that was all bad. In fact, each had key positive plays in the win. Butler punched a ball out of Golden Tate's hands on Detroit's first offensive play, helping build the big early lead. Then Gostkowski nailed the game-winning kick, his third made field goal of the night. But each is held to a higher standard. For Butler, that means his 23-yard touchdown allowed to Marvin Jones isn't good enough, especially after last week's struggles in coverage against the Texans. Gostkowski missed a PAT in the first quarter, his second missed PAT this summer and third missed kick overall. Both players are still elite players, but they are also held to a higher standard. They can and will be better.
What do you think of our lists? Alterations or additions to either category? Let us know with a comment below!