It's preseason. It was ugly for both first team units. The New England Patriots came into Ford Field to face the Detroit Lions and it was widely believed that this would be a shootout.
Both starting quarterbacks can sling the ball better than 90% of the league. But there were some notable absences, like the leading receivers on both squads in Calvin Johnson and Danny Amendola.
And there were key battles to watch, such as the veteran offensive line of the Patriots against the strong defensive line of the Lions. So what did we learn tonight that we didn't already know?
1. The front four for the Lions really stepped up and did everything well in this game. Were they a little bit dirty? Well, we expected that! But they bullied the Patriots' vaunted front line, stuffing the run game and making Brady feel the pressure. Two sacks and many hurries caused Belichick's offense one big headache from start to finish.
2. Even when under pressure and plagued by mistakes, Tom Brady runs a pretty darn good offense. This isn't really new, but it shows that once Brady has his troops in sync, they will be a force to be reckoned-with.
3. The Patriots have an equally impressive front four despite the fact that Vince Wilfork was notoriously absent from the line-up tonight. Chandler Jones and Tommy Kelly showed why they will be driving offenses mad this year.
4. The Lions have created an effective backfield with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell sharing the rock. Bush has clearly hit his stride and looks fresh for a running back going into his eighth year. He will provide a strong presence on the ground, as well as, a reliable outlet in the air.
5. If they can bring it all together, the Patriots have some very nice, young additions on offense. Leon Washington showed flashes running the ball in relief of Ridley, et. al. And, undrafted rookie free agent receiver Kenbrell Thompkins appears to be the steal of the century. If he can fix his penchant for running out of bounds before contact, he just might become Brady's go-to guy very soon.
Aaron Dobson is also showing promise despite being drafted out of a smaller school in Marshall. Josh Boyce runs great routes and gets open easily while being elusive after the catch. Zach Sudfeld, despite a fumble tonight, will make Patriot Nation forget about Aaron Hernandez in a hurry.
The result of the game is a lot less important than some of the things the players were or were not able to do on the field. There were players who have played themselves off the rosters, while others proved why they were worth the money. But four turnovers is just unacceptable for any unit, any day.
The Lions bullied the Patriots and left them floundering. And don't forget that Brady actually out-played Matt Stafford, who completed just less than 50% of his passes. But when he did complete them, his receivers went for big yardage, and they managed to put the ball into the end zone.
And last but not least, I have to mention the peculiar absence of Tim Tebow. I am not surprised and I am getting the feeling that Belichick might not have room for him in his game plan. We shall see.
Congrats to the Detroit Lions for putting together a good show.