Report card: New England Patriots


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Here are the grades for the New England Patriots after their 34-9 blowout win over the Detroit Lions.

Quarterback: The Patriots' game plan was to throw the ball and throw it a lot. Tom Brady didn't see James Ihedigbo on his lone interception and he missed a few passes, but going 38-for-53 against the NFL's fifth-best pass defense is not an easy task. Brady diced apart the Lions for 349 yards by hitting the defensive gaps and finding five receivers for five or more receptions each. Brady does it again. Grade: A-

Running back: Despite a lack of commitment on the ground against the Lions' top-ranked run defense, the Patriots had a pretty solid run game. LeGarrette Blount pitched in with 78 yards and two touchdowns in his return. Shane Vereen didn't find running room, but he did chip in eight catches for 48 yards. Normally, this would be an average performance, but against a top run defense, the grade gets inflated. Grade: B+

Wide receiver: It's a two-man wide receiver show in New England. The Brandon LaFell experience keeps getting better as he looked deadly on play-action passes, especially with comeback routes. Julian Edelman should win the toughest man alive award after taking a beating throughout the game and playing on an injured thigh. He still contributed 11 catches for 89 yards. Grade: A

Tight end: If it's possible for Rob Gronkowski to have a quiet day while still putting five catches for 78 yards on the stat sheet, then he did it Sunday. Gronkowski's best moments came when he was left uncovered on two consecutive plays over the middle of the field at the end of the first half to set up a field goal. Tim Wright continued to make his contributions in the red zone with two touchdown grabs on the day. Grade: A+

Offensive line: On 53 pass attempts, Brady was not sacked and was only hit four times. The Lions have one of the most feared defensive lines in the NFL, led by Ndamukong Suh. Suh landed one big hit on Brady and stuffed Vereen for a five-yard loss, but if Suh is limited to that, it has to be a win. The offensive line was outstanding and helped Blount contribute in the ground game. Grade: A

Defensive line/linebacker: He may have only recorded one sack, but Akeem Ayers was excellent at applying pressure off the edge with his speed rush. He collapsed the pocket and kept consistent pressure coming at Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Rob Ninkovich also had his moments in a similar role. The Patriots' run defense also had a solid performance with Alan Branch shining by taking up space and pushing the Lions offensive line backward. Any time the defensive front forces a quarterback such as Stafford to complete fewer than 40 percent of his passes it is an amazing feat. Grade: A

Defensive backs: The Lions' WR duo of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate is right up there with the best in the NFL, but they were no match for Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Revis was at his best. Four pass breakups says it all. He is so fluid and makes every play look easy with his recognition, positioning and athleticism. Browner had two strong pass breakups of his own in an impressive outing. This cornerback combination is really hitting its stride at the right time of the season. Patrick Chung also made his presence felt in stopping the run and in the red zone. Grade: A+

Special teams: Danny Aiken had a poor snap, but Ryan Allen's booming punt that went about 78 yards in the air was exceptional. Matthew Slater continued to look like a Pro Bowler with his coverage as a gunner. Danny Amendola's 81-yard kick return was an electric play that set the tempo for the blowout. Edelman nearly had his own huge punt return for a touchdown, but it was called back for a block in the back on Chung. Grade: A

Coaching: We didn't expect Revis to stick with Tate for the majority of the game, but the decision to put Revis on Tate and Browner on Megatron was a brilliant game plan. Both of those players shined as the Lions' offense struggled to get anything going. Bill Belichick outsmarted Jim Caldwell for the entirety of the game. And I love those play-action passes to Brandon LaFell. Grade: A+