There was plenty to like from the starters in the Patriots’ 30-28 victory over the Detroit Lions for their first win of the preseason, although none of it means a thing if Julian Edelman did in fact tear his ACL.
Edelman was off to a typical start by his standards, with three catches for 52 yards on the first and only drive he played. But his third and final catch, which went for 14 yards, ended horrifically when his right knee buckled without contact at the Detroit 14-yard line.
An MRI on Edelman’s right knee is schedule for today.
The Patriots would score two plays later on a quick hook from Tom Brady to Chris Hogan, who moved in motion to the slot to Brady’s right.
New England’s offense showed even without Edelman, there’s not much that can slow it down. But the fact remains that without Edelman, who averaged more yards per game (99.1) than any wide receiver in the NFL from Week 10 on last season (including playoffs), an adjustment period will be needed for Brady and Co.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some other notable performers from last night’s game in the Motor City…
Brady, Hogan lead offense
Among qualified receivers, Hogan’s 17.89 yards per catch were second in the NFL last season, just percentage points behind DeSean Jackson of the Washington Redskins for the top spot.
Hogan caught four passes for 70 yards vs. the Lions, right in line with last season’s averages.
He caught two touchdowns, on consecutive offensive plays for the Patriots. After breaking the game’s scoring open, New England’s defense forced a turnover on Detroit’s very first play from scrimmage. With the ball at the Lions’ 32-yard line, Brady hit Hogan on and out-and-up route to give the Patriots a 13-0 lead just 3:23 into the game.
Brady placed the ball perfectly between Detroit cornerback Nevin Lawson and safety Glover Quin, who was late providing help on the play.
Brady finished 12 of 15 for 174 yards and the two touchdowns, but threw an interception on what wound up being his final throw of the night.
Quin came up with the ball in the end zone for the Lions on what was either an overthrow by Brady, or a misunderstanding by Hogan, who appeared to slow up as he approached the goal line.
“We’ll learn from them,” Brady said of the interception, as well as a few other mistakes. “It’s always good to calibrate where you’re at. Not everything’s going to be perfect all the time; you take the lessons you learn from the preseason game and try to apply them in a couple of weeks when it really matters.”
Up and down night for secondary
Stephon Gilmore was nearly flawless for the Patriots, his biggest moments coming on a pair of third downs early on in the game.
On a third-and-4 from the Detroit 27-yard line, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay on a drag route. Gilmore temporarily lost Golladay through a screen set across the middle, but maintained the correct angle of pursuit and tackled Golladay in the open field short of the first down marker.
Gilmore broke up a pass intended for Golladay on a third-and-7 for Detroit early in the second quarter, helping the Patriots maintain what was then a 24-0 lead.
Malcolm Butler was certainly better than his lackluster performance vs. Houston a week ago, but was again the victim of a touchdown his way in man coverage. Stafford found Marvin Jones up the right sideline for a 23-yard score with 2:43 to go in the second quarter for the Lions’ first score of the night.
Butler had two positive players for the Patriots as well, however. He stripped the ball from Golden Tate on Detroit’s very first play from scrimmage, and later tipped a ball which was intercepted by Eric Rowe.
Rowe gave up a completion of 22 yards to Tate on the play prior to Marvin Jones’ touchdown.
Fumble recovery aside, it was a rough night for Richards. A second round pick of the Patriots in 2015, his spot on the roster moving forward continues to appear tenuous at best. Richards missed a tackle on Stafford’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Washington, and he also slipped while in pursuit of Ameer Abdullah on a play that went for 14 yards.
Another solid night for pair of undrafted free agents
Adam Butler and Harvey Langi each had solid games while seeing plenty of time with New England’s starting defense.
Butler hurried Stafford on his errant throw which was picked off by Rowe and had another tackle for a loss on Theo Riddick.
Langi, who is getting closer and closer to “lock” status on the 53-man roster, showed up in multiple phases of the game once again. He stuffed Lions punt returner Jamal Agnew at his own 9-yard line on special teams and had a pressure which resulted in a sack for Alan Branch while playing on the defensive line.
Search for backup tackle continues
Cameron Fleming did nothing to help his cause as a reserve offensive tackle for the Patriots behind Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon – and that’s assuming Solder’s health for the team’s regular season opener on Sept. 7 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.
Fleming allowed a pair of quarterback pressures, once on Brady in the first half and once on Jimmy Garoppolo in the second.
LaAdrian Waddle struggled in the preseason game vs. Jacksonville and has since missed time with a concussion, while rookie Antonio Garcia is yet establish himself thanks to some injures of his own. The Patriots may have no choice but to keep Fleming.
Gillislee shines in debut
Newcomer Mike Gillislee made up for lost time in his first action of the preseason.
The restricted free agent via Buffalo carried the ball eight times for 38 yards, scoring a touchdown and adding a two-point conversion on the same score. His touchdown and conversion were his first two touches as a Patriot.
Gillislee, 26, led the NFL in yards per carry amongst qualified runners last season (5.7 yards per rush).
Garoppolo, D.J. Foster engineer game-winning drive
The Patriots offense looked downright pedestrian in the second half once the starters left the game – it had three straight three-and-outs to open the third quarter – a large part in why Detroit was able to turn a 24-0 deficit into a 28-24 lead.
Garoppolo finished the night 7 of 12 for 83 yards, but with help from Foster, put New England in position to win the game.
Trailing 28-27 with 2:01 to go in the fourth quarter and the ball at the Patriots 32-yard line, Garoppolo connected with Cody Hollister for 37 yards to get on the cusp of field goal range right off the bat. Foster gained 12 more yards on the ground on the drive, which was enough for Stephen Gostkowski to nail a 45-yard field goal with 0:02 left on the clock.
Gostkowski made all three of his field goals but missed an extra point. In all this preseason, he’s 6 for 7 on field goal attempts – his lone miss from 56 yards away – and 6 for 7 on extra points.
Kony Ealy on the trading block?
Reports surfaced Friday morning that the Patriots may be looking to trade Ealy, whom they acquired this off-season from the Carolina Panthers.
Ealy did not play until the second half, where he did have a pressure and a quarterback hit on the same drive. Ealy’s inconsistent preseason continues on.
Jacoby Brissett did not play for the first time this preseason, after leading potential game-winning drives that came up short in each of the first two weeks vs. Jacksonville and Houston.
Due to the unique circumstances regarding Brady’s looming suspension last preseason, he played in Week Four vs. the Giants. That seems extremely unlikely this year, which means Brissett should have ample time to make an impression – one way or the other – in the Patriots’ preseason finale on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.