Friday, August 23, 2013
Leftover thoughts from Pats' loss
By Mike Reiss
DETROIT -- Some leftover thoughts and observations from the Patriots' 40-9 loss to the Lions:
1. It seemed like incumbent punter Zoltan Mesko had created some separation on rookie Ryan Allen leading into the game, and that was reinforced after the game as well. Mesko punted four times, while Allen punted just once (it was a 53-yarder, but wasn't hit particularly well and took a favorable bounce). Mesko also held on kicker Stephen Gostkowski's lone field-goal attempt. Hard to imagine Mesko losing the job at this point. His final stats: 4 punts, 195 yards, 48.8 avg., 43.0 net and one inside the 20.
2. Fullback James Develin's inclusion on the first-unit kickoff return could bode well for his chances to make the roster. Develin lined up in the wedge position opposite defensive end Marcus Benard (he was on 3 special teams units). Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui had been used there in the first two preseason games, which could signal that he's on shaky ground to stick. As a fullback, Develin played nine snaps with the first-unit offense. One downer to his night: Not being able to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-inches carry late in the second quarter.
3. Working on the dime package (six defensive backs) seemed to be a top priority for the Patriots, and we saw safety Adrian Wilson move down to a linebacker-type role in that grouping. He was involved in Reggie Bush's 67-yard catch-and-run, taking a bad angle that helped spring Bush free, and didn't seem to be entirely comfortable reading and reacting to what was unfolding in front of him. The Patriots started Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory at safety, which seems to be viewed as their best coverage-type players at the position. Wilson came on in the second half.
4. Tough night for the offensive line, as the Lions -- powered by Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley at tackle -- won the battle at the line of scrimmage. The Patriots had 18 carries for 32 yards at the half and had been turned one-dimensional on offense, which is never the way they want to play. Then add in two penalties (Logan Mankins false start, Sebastian Vollmer holding) and two sacks of Tom Brady and it just wasn't their night.
5. Coaches often like to see how a player responds to adversity and while it's easy to look at receiver Kenbrell Thompkins' stat line (8 catches for 116 yards) and conclude he was a top performer, that overlooks one aspect of his night. Thompkins dropped what would have been first-down reception that ended the team's second drive. His ability to move on to the next play was evident as he proceeded to make some big plays for the team the rest of the way.
6. Rookie safety Duron Harmon served as the personal protector on the punt team. As the coaching staff considers which 46 players to dress on game day, special teams can be a big factor for a reserve safety like Harmon. He was also part of the top kickoff coverage unit and on the punt return unit.