You could see it when Lions receiver Nate Burleson picked up a nondescript first down in the first quarter and danced like it was a division game in December. It was clear when Detroit corner Chris Houston picked off a Tom Brady pass in the second quarter and threw the ball into the stands in a fit of glee.
It was a preseason game, but the Lions were excited. Too excited at times, sure; they picked up a handful of ill-advised personal foul penalties in their 40-9 win over the Patriots.
Still, it looked like the Lions had more invested in Thursday night's outcome than the Patriots did.
Tom Brady admitted after the game that coach Bill Belichick told the Patriots to be ready for a hungry bunch. The Lions lost a preseason game last week to Cleveland, 24-3, and didn't want to be embarrassed at home.
Despite Belichick's heed, the Patriots still weren't set for what they'd see.
“Yeah, I think he’s the best coach for a reason," Brady said of Belichick. "He’s been coaching for a long time, he sees things coming. He’s almost foreshadowing it, telling us, ‘Look, this is what we’re getting ourselves into. They got beat by Cleveland pretty bad last week. We’re going to come in here and we’re going to get their best,’ and we did.
"We weren’t prepared for it, and it’s a good lesson for us, I hope we learn from it. I mean, these games are tough. It’s hard to win. It’s hard to win when you don’t play well. We’re not going to win if we don’t play well so we’ve got to figure out a way to learn from this and play better than we did tonight.”
Brady was 16-for-24 on the night for 185 yards and an interception. Against a talented Lions defensive line, the Patriots quarterback was under duress for much of the first half and was sacked twice for a total loss of 19 yards.
“They have a good team, they have a great front," Brady said. "I mean they’ve got some guys that can really rush the quarterback and put a lot of pressure on the ball. They’re a good football team and if you don’t play well against a good football team, you get results like we got tonight.”
In defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley and defensive ends Jason Jones and Ezekiel Ansah, the Patriots offensive line faced its toughest test of the preseason. In the first half alone, the Lions forced the Patriots into 10 plays that went for no gain or negative yardage.
“I think they just have some really good players," Brady said. "You’re not going to have time to sit back there and survey the field the whole time. They’ve got guys that can rush the quarterback that are disruptive in the run game, in the pass game, and they’ve got a pretty tough scheme. It’s never been easy against the Lions. I mean, we’ve played them a bunch over the years and they’re always very challenging. They’ll have a very good team this year.”