Sure, they don't count in the standings, but don't tell Bill Belichick that preseason games don't mean anything.
From a podium at Ford Field on Thursday night, the clearly-miffed Patriots coach summed up his team's ugly 40-9 loss to the Lions.
“They really handled us in every phase of the game,” Belichick said. “We really weren’t very competitive in anything. We got thoroughly outplayed and out-coached and they just did everything better than we did. Obviously when you turn the ball over four times in the first quarter, that will knock you out of most any game, and it practically knocked us out of this one."
The Patriots were down 16-3 at halftime after throwing one interception and having lost three fumbles. In the second half, though, things didn't get much better. Defensive non-starters allowed the Lions to score on all four of their second-half drives.
“We couldn’t ever make a stop in the second half defensively to ever really make it competitive, even though we had a couple of decent drives offensively. But when you can’t stop them on defense, then we couldn’t get back in the game. We couldn’t score on offense so it’s a bad combination. Too many negative plays. Just too many bad plays in all phases. We’ve got a lot of work to do. That certainly wasn’t a very competitive performance tonight.”
Belichick referenced his teams four turnovers -- all in the first half -- when delving further into what went wrong for the Patriots in their third preseason game.
"Anytime you turn the ball over four times, your chances of winning in this league are not very good,” he said. “And when you do it in the first quarter, on the road, I’m sure they’re even less. Doesn’t really make any difference what happened in any other game, or any other week . . . What happened tonight is what happened tonight. We turned it over, we put ourselves in a hole, and we got beat.”
The closest Belichick came to allowing that the Patriots did anything positive in the loss was when he noted that his top defensive unit kept the Lions out of the end zone when turnovers gave Detroit a short field. But even that was brief.
"I thought we played competitively on defense in the first half, not in the second half," he said. "We never could stop them in the second half."
Belichick explained that Tom Brady and the offensive starters only played in the first half because Patriots coaches thought the 44 plays they ran in the first half were plenty of reps.
As for why backup quarterback Ryan Mallett got all the second-half snaps and Tim Tebow got none, Belichick was less forthcoming.
"Because," he explained, "we played two quarterbacks."