The answer: fumble, punt, fumble, interception, fumble.
The question, of course: how did the Patriots’ first five drives end Thursday night in Detroit? This from a team tied for the second fewest giveaways in the league in 2012.
The Pats couldn’t get out of their own way in the first half and turnovers weren’t the only issue.
The Lions’ defensive line ran roughshod over the Patriots’ offensive front, stonewalling the rush game and applying constant pressure on Brady when he dropped back to pass.
Brady did not return for the second half, finishing the night 16-for-24 for 185 yards, with an interception, two sacks and a preseason low 72.4 quarterback rating.
The first drive started off well for New England, as Brady went 4-4 and the Pats marched 70 yards in eight plays before tight end Zack Sudfeld coughed up a long completion over the middle on the Lions’ five yard line.
If the Pats’ O started well before stumbling near the goal line, the defense did the opposite. New England gave up some wide open passes over the middle and let Reggie Bush get free for a 66 yard screen pass before stiffening up in the red zone and holding the Lions to a field goal.
After his fumble, Sudfeld did not receive another target. He ended up in good company however, as Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden didn’t make it back on the field in the first half after they put the ball on the ball ground.
The Patriots put together their best drive of the game early in the second quarter. Starting at their own 20, the Pats strung together 10 plays for 67 yards. Brady couldn’t connect with tight end Michael Hoomanawanui on 3rd and 7 from the Lions 13 however, so Stephen Gostkowski put New England on the board with what proved to be their only three points of the game until a garbage time touchdown by James Develin in the fourth.
Defensively, the Patriots did a good job containing Reggie Bush in the running game but the Lions responded by getting Bush into space on short screens and swing passes where the former USC star torched the Patriots for 103 yards on just five catches.
With the offense constantly turning the ball over in their own territory, the Patriots’ defense did an excellent job minimizing the damage in the first half; four turnovers on the Pats’ side of the field and just one touchdown.
In the second half, Ryan Mallett took all of the snaps at quarterback and continued to look unimpressive, finishing 11 of 22 for 96 yards and a touchdown and failing to make some easy, wide open touch passes.
The second and third string defense also struggled, with some startlingly poor tackling and a number of lapses on play-fakes, most notably when rookie Jamie Collins bit on the third-quarter touchdown pass from Kellen Moore to Joe Fauria. Collins appeared to crash toward the line of scrimmage after Moore faked a handoff up the middle, leaving Fauria wide open for a 22-yard touchdown.
On the bright side for New England, wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was impressive yet again, with eight catches for 116 yards. Fellow rookie receiver Aaron Dobson added four catches for 50 yards but at times appeared to have some difficulty creating separation.
Perhaps most importantly, there appeared to be no major injuries to any projected starters, though backup defensive tackle Cory Grissom was helped off the field with an apparent leg injury.
The Patriots will likely rest most of those projected starters in the team’s final preseason game, 7:30 pm next Thursday in Foxboro against the New York Giants.