Pick Six:  Observations from Game Three

To this observer, Sunday Night’s 26-10 blowout loss in Detroit was easily among the top five worst performances ever from a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots’ team. How bad was the mismatch? Detroit converted 14 first downs before New England converted their first. Reminiscent of last week’s loss, the defense found it impossible to stop the opponent’s offense. Unlike the Jaguars’ game however, the Patriots’ offense never got on track against Coach Matt Patricia’s Lions.

Six Observations from Game Three

1. The offensive plan to rely heavily on Sony Michel’s running the ball failed the New England coaches. Three times in the 2nd quarter the Patriots ran Michel on third-and-one and they were stopped twice. On the third occurrence – with a minute left in the first half – safeties Glover Quin and Tavon Wilson seemed to get to the hole faster than Michel, cutting him down for a two yard loss deep in Lions’ territory. Early in the 3rd Michel got behind left tackle Trent Brown stretching to the outside for a nice 12-yard run, but after averaging 1.4 yards in the first half one could ask “why were the coaches even staying with Michel?”

2. The Patriots’ defense could not stop the Lions as the first seven drives ended in five scores, one interception, and one was only stopped when the clock ran out at half time. Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson averaged 6.3 yards on his 16 carries, including a couple of runs in which rookie left guard Frank Ragnow completely dominated defensive tackle Malcom Brown at the line of scrimmage. Late in the 3rd quarter, facing a third-and-one, Detroit converted when LeGarrette Blount ran behind the left side of the offensive line and they completely collapsed New England’s defense. On the following play, Matthew Stafford completed a 33 yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones to push the lead to 20-10.

3. Second guessing coaches after an embarrassing loss is an easy response from the fans, but here we go anyway: With just over a quarter to play, and your offense struggling mightily, why not switch from Sony Michel to pass-catching, running back extraordinaire, James White? After the Lions made it 20-10, and facing a first-and-ten from the Patriots’ 45, Tom Brady failed to connect on two passes to Michele in the flat. The first miss appeared to be a ball that White has come up with in the past and the second was clearly a drop. Now third-and-ten, Brady heaves a prayer to double covered Rob Gronkowski that falls short. Ryan Allen’s fourth down punt essentially ended the competitive portion of the ball game.

4. New England’s offense only converted two of ten third- and fourth-down situations. On seven third- and fourth- down drop backs, Brady completed one beautiful pass to James White on a wheel route for a touchdown, threw five incompletions, and one 4th quarter sack. The offenses’ major problem appeared to be Brady’s inability to find open receivers – perhaps because there often were no open receivers. As often can be said after a loss, Tom Brady looked uncomfortable, indecisive, and flustered for much of the game. Brady overthrew an open Phillip Dorsett to end New England’s second drive of the game. Another drive ended early in the 4th after Brady inexplicably threw a ball to no one deep down field, drawing an intentional grounding penalty. A third drive ended later in the 4th quarter when he threw behind a double covered Phillip Dorsett and safety Darius Slay picked off the off target ball.

5. Detroit’s offense punted for the first time at the 9:26 mark in the 4th quarter. For the second game in a row, New England was unable to pressure the quarterback and they were unable to keep the offense from converting third down opportunities. The Patriots’ defense appeared to have a little life coming out of the locker room when defensive end Deatrich Wise made a tackle for loss on second down and linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley intercepted a low pass to tight end Luke Willson on third down. But on the following defensive series, the Patriots allowed quarterback Matthew Stafford to complete six consecutive passes – two of them on third down – to drive the length of the field and regain Detroit’s’ two-score advantage.

6. It’s hard not to look at the coaches when New England’s defense was penalized for 12 men on the field in the 2nd quarter. Especially when all 12 are line-up in the defensive formation ready for the snap and no one was able to correct the problem. NBC noted that Marvin Jones’ 33 yard touchdown came on a crossing route when corner Stephon Gilmore expected safety Duron Harmon to pick up the receiver but Harmon was chasing ghosts in the wrong direction. Through the first three games New England’s defense deservedly in the bottom third of the league in both points and yards allowed.

Originally published on PatsPulpit.com

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