DETROIT — A ferocious Lions front four made life difficult for New England’s stars in Detroit’s 40-9 preseason win Thursday night.
Veterans Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, free-agent pickup Jason Jones, rookie Ezekiel Ansah and others held the Patriots’ normally prolific offense to three first-half points and made life difficult for quarterback Tom Brady and running back Stevan Ridley.
The Patriots’ first-team offense, which looked to be in midseason form in its first two exhibition games, was in preseason form Thursday night at Ford Field.
Four of New England’s first five possessions ended with turnovers, with tight end Zach Sudfeld and running backs Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen losing fumbles, and Brady throwing an interception. The other possession was a three-and-out that ended with Zoltan Mesko’s punt.
“That’s what we know we can do,” Jones said. “We try to get the ball out in practice every day.”
Here are five things we learned while watching the Lions roar and the Patriots struggle:
1. THESE NEW GUYS ARE PRETTY GOOD: The Lions received significant contributions from three players who are new to the team.
Jones sacked Brady twice and recovered a fumble, while fellow free-agent signee Reggie Bush caught five passes for a team-high 103 yards.
And Ansah, the team’s first-round pick, recovered Vereen’s second-quarter fumble.
“I think the sky is the limit for us,” Jones said.
2. A HOMECOMING SPOILED: Brady got the chance to visit his alma mater, the University of Michigan, in nearby Ann Arbor during the trip, but he wasn’t able to capitalize on the good vibes.
Brady played four series in the first two preseason games combined, completing 18 of his 20 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns in two victories. But in a half of work in Detroit, he was 16 of 24 for 185 yards and the second-quarter interception by Detroit cornerback Chris Houston.
“I haven’t been able to get back to campus in the fall, and it was beautiful,” Brady said. “I just wish we could have played a better game to cap off the day.”
3. YELLOW FLAG PARADE: The Lions have had problems with discipline on and off the field under coach Jim Schwartz, and that showed up again in the first half against New England. Detroit committed a pair of personal fouls on New England turnovers, one of which turned what would have been first-and-goal at the Patriots 4 into a drive that ended with no points.
Fairley was called for two penalties in the first four minutes of the game, while Willie Young was whistled for taunting Brady with the Patriots backed up to their 10-yard line.
The Lions were the sixth-most penalized team in the NFL last season after finishing second and fourth in the previous two seasons.
“Any time you get a 15-yard penalty, it sets you back,” linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. “We’re working on it.”
4. TEBOW TIME? NOPE: Much-discussed third-string quarterback Tim Tebow appeared to be on the Patriots’ roster bubble coming into the game. The former Heisman Trophy winner has struggled passing this preseason and is fighting to stay in the NFL. But he wasn’t able to show his stuff against the Lions, because coach Bill Belichick elected to play Brady for all of the first half and backup Ryan Mallett for all of the second. So, despite the crowd’s repeated chants of “We want Tebow,” No. 5 stood on the sideline.
Asked why he only played two quarterbacks, Belichick said: “Because I only played two quarterbacks.”
5. GOLDEN BOOT AWARD: The Lions’ kicking game helped the team get a leg up on the Pats.
Rookie punter Sam Martin had a 57-yard boot late in the first half that landed at the 5 before making an abrupt left turn and dribbling out of bounds inside the 1.
Martin averaged 56 yards on his four punts with a long of 61.
Coach Jim Schwartz praised the one that dropped into the coffin corner.
“I guess you’d say that’s a three-point punt, because we got three points out of that field position,” he said.
David Akers kicked a 49-yard field goal on Detroit’s next possession. He had three others, including one from 47.
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