DETROIT – Quick-hit thoughts after the second quarter, with the Lions leading 17-10:
Mental toughness being tested. The Patriots insisted that they wouldn’t take the Lions lightly leading up to the game, and perhaps they did. But they’ve probably figured it out by now – they’re in a physical slugfest with a team that believes it can hang with them. The Patriots get the ball to start the second half and their mental toughness to battle through a day in which they aren’t playing their best is being put to the test.
Tom Brady taking a beating. The Lions’ defensive front had dictated the action through the first three drives as Tom Brady had taken more hits in the first half of this game than he’s taken in the last stretch of games combined. Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch have disrupted the Patriots' offense with their pressure and power. The Patriots settled things down on their fourth drive.
Lions offense taking it to the Patriots physically. The Patriots aren’t winning the battle of the line of scrimmage on defense either, with the Lions playing more a more physical game – at the line and down the field. The Patriots’ tackling has been spotty, while third-down problems continue to hurt the on defense, which is contributing to a high snap count and could wear defenders down, especially up front.
Offense settles things down with great "answer" drive. After the Lions went up 14-3, the Patriots responded with an impressive 10-play, 83-yard drive that culminated with BenJarvus Green-Ellis' power 15-yard touchdown run up the middle in which he steamrolled cornerback Alphonso Smith at the end of the run. That was an example of the Patriots' mental toughness being tested, and the offense stepping up big. Momentum had shifted to the Lions' side prior to the drive.
Corners stop flipping on Johnson. One adjustment that coaches made in the second quarter was to keep cornerbacks on one side, instead of matching up specifically against Calvin Johnson. That should simplify assignments.
End of quarter situational football not up to Patriots' standards. The Patriots pride themselves on situational football, but they didn't meet their own standard at the end of the half, as the Lions had a seven-play, 41-yard drive that ended with Dave Rayner's 44-yard field goal. The field goal came right after a 20-yard catch by Nate Burleson. The Patriots often win those situations, but the Lions had their number on that one. There were two seconds on the clock when the Lions kicked the field goal, so it turned out the two seconds that referee Ron Winter had added to the clock earlier in the drive were very important.
Kickoff return not gaining any ground. Through the first four weeks of the season, the Patriots had one of the NFL’s most lethal kickoff return games. But the unit was dominated in the second quarter, forcing the offense to drive a long field. Penalties (chop block) and dropped passes (Brandon Tate) were examples of the Patriots making things harder on themselves.