A shortened yet really long pre-season
By Shane A. Leketa
The New England Patriots were riding high after the first two preseason games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers outscoring their opponents a combined 78-26.
With the purpose of the preseason being one that is about learning, growing and saving jobs, it seemed that the Patriots had stumbled on a very successful change going to a 4-3 defensive scheme after some off season pickups in Andre Carter and Albert Haynesworth. Again, critics and fans alike were anointing the team as the favorites (outside of Philadelphia) to win it all in the end.
So, after the first two games, the Patriots were expecting to deliver the same level of excellence traveling out to Ford Field to take on the rising Detroit Lions.
After last year’s Thanksgiving game where the Patriots beat the Lions 45-24 spurred by a second half meltdown by Detroit which let Tom Brady throw for over 300 yards and 4 TDs, it seemed that the Detroit Lions were ready for revenge. Brady said all there was to be said after last night’s game, “"They’re a good team; they were a good team when we played them last year-it was a close game until the fourth quarter last year.”
Saturday night the Lions looked hungrier, more motivated and ready to play like it was the playoffs rather than a lowly pre-season game. Detroit dominated in all aspects of the game.
The defensive unit, led by upstart Ndamukong Suh, was all over Tom Brady, showing the holes and weaknesses of the Patriots’ offensive lines. The group from motown hurried and harassed Brady enough to make him nervous and panicky behind center. They sacked the Patriots quarterbacks twice and disrupted the timing on screen plays as well as patterns over the middle. Brady regularly under-threw his receivers including Chad Ochocinco who was never in sync with the reigning MVP.
The only positive pieces of New England’s offense were; a bullet thrown by Brady to a wide-open Wes Welker for a 44 yard touchdown pass and the overall play of second year TE Aaron Hernandez who caught 5 passes for 46 yards.
One of the biggest problem areas for the Patriots was their defensive secondary. Kyle Arrington was especially noteworthy, missing routes, losing coverage on receivers and turning in a gernally lack-luster performance. Secondary issues will be an ongoing concern for players like Leigh Bodden, Darius Butler or whomever plays oppostite Pro Bowl CB Devon McCourty. Even McCourty was burned on a few plays while showing signs of brilliance on others.
With decision time coming very soon for the Patriots (and the rest of the league) to trim rosters to the final 53, players on the bubble -- like Arrington and Butler -- need a better performance in this preseason to be sure to have the uniform on when the regular season begins on Monday night against the Dolphins on the 12th of September.
Tom Brady probably summed up the debacle in Detroit best when he said; “Look, its football. When you make a bad play, you’ve got to overcome it. There’s resiliency that comes into this game and mental toughness. Its all the things you’re trying to build on as a team; trying to figure out what kind of team you’ve got.”
Here is to looking forward to seeing the team bounce back at the New York Giants for the final preseason game.
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Shane Leketa is a long time Patriots fan who bleeds red, white and blue. Leketa runs the site MyPatsSpace on MySpace. Follow him on Twitter: @MyPatsSpace