Lions roar past Patriots, 34-10

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Lions roar past Patriots, 34-10

DETROIT (AP) -- Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions were so impressive they lamented wasting some chances to score more.

Stafford threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns in less than a half, leading the Lions to a 34-10 win over the New England Patriots on Saturday night.

"We're playing pretty much mistake-free football," Stafford said.

Tom Brady, meanwhile, was off his game.

The two-time and reigning MVP connected on just over half of his passes for 145 yards with a TD and an interception.

"It wasn't our best game, obviously," Brady said. "From the first series on, we could never really get into a rhythm. It was just a bad night all around."

The Lions and their sellout crowd at Ford Field were clearly fired up for the nationally televised game against the elite Patriots.

"It was big, every game is big," Stafford said. "New England has some good recent history, but we beat them pretty handily.".

Stafford and Detroit's defensive front were dominant in the third preseason game, one that both teams treated like a real game for much of the first half.

The Lions (3-0) know they can't get too excited about exhibition results because they were undefeated in the 2008 preseason and went on to become the NFL's first 0-16 team.

"It's preseason," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "You have to be careful how you look at it."

What does the perfect preseason record mean to Ndamukong Suh?

"Nothing," he said

New England (2-1) routed Jacksonville and Tampa Bay earlier this month, but was on the other end of a lopsided score in the Motor City.

"We didn't do anything very well," coach Bill Belichick said. "We didn't throw it, didn't catch it, didn't block, didn't tackle, didn't cover, didn't return. It's a long list. Didn't coach."

Stafford was 12 of 14 with one incomplete pass that was dropped by Nate Burleson in the end zone and another that was broken up.

He got sacked for the first time in the preseason and was hit hard on another play by blitzing linebacker Jerod Mayo, but bounced up both times. Those were positive signs for Stafford, who was healthy enough to play just three games last season and 10 as a rookie after being the No. 1 pick overall in the 2009 draft.

"It was good," Stafford said. "It's part of the game of football."

Stafford threaded a pass into the end zone to Burleson for a 9-yard TD to put Detroit ahead 10-0 on its second drive. He made another perfect pass to Tony Scheffler for a 22-yard score that made it 17-3 midway through the second quarter.

Brady was 12 of 22, skipping passes off the turf to open teammates near the sideline and throwing short and low on another attempt over the deep middle to an open Wes Welker on what could've been a TD. He hung up a pass intended for Chad Ochocinco that was intercepted by rookie defensive back Ricardo Silva.

He did perfectly execute a play-action play, faking out the Lions and lofting a pass to Welker for a 44-yard score that pulled the Patriots within a TD. Welker left later in the game with a neck injury.

Unlike last season when the Lions led New England by 11 in the second quarter of a game that counted, they held on for a victory that almost certainly meant more to them than the loss affected their opponents.

"When we came in here last year they gave us a very tough game, and they've gotten better since then," cornerback Devin McCourty said. "This is a preseason game and it was on national TV, so they were fired up. But you can tell they've taken another step forward."

Jason Hanson kicked a 46-yard field goal and Shaun Hill threw a 9-yard TD to Aaron Brown in the final 1:07 of the first half to give Detroit a 27-10 lead.

Third-string QB Drew Stanton threw a TD pass to Derrick Williams to make it 34-10 in the fourth quarter.

Brady played briefly in the second half before being replaced by Brian Hoyer, who was roughed up by backups on the ensuing possession.

Three-time Super Bowl winner Brady wanted to get hit in the preseason game, saying that was part of the process of getting ready for the season. He didn't have to wait long to get his wish.

Suh shoved Brady a couple times after he got rid of the ball, Corey Williams got another shot on him just after he released a pass, and Cliff Avril sacked him twice.

"My job is to continue to rattle him, get after him and be in his face," Suh said.

Brady looked skittish at times, getting rid of the ball quicker than he needed to perhaps because he was simply trying to avoid an injury that would make the exhibition meaningful.

Stafford, meanwhile, usually had plenty of time, perhaps in part because New England defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth didn't play.

Colts LB who helped spark Deflategate suspended for PED use

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Colts LB who helped spark Deflategate suspended for PED use

Deflategate started with an email. An accusation. An assumption. But it couldn't be pushed into Theater of the Absurd territory until the Colts had a Patriots football to play with. 

They got one when linebacker D'Qwell Jackson picked off Tom Brady in the AFC title game in January of 2015. Now, almost two years later, after Brady fought and later accepted a four-game suspension, Jackson has been slapped with a four-game suspension of his own. And this time, one would have to assume, there's evidence.

The NFL announced on Tuesday that Jackson has violated the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and will be suspended for the remainder of the regular season.

The 33-year-old leads the Colts in tackles and has not missed a start for Indy since joining the team before the start of the 2014 season. He is eligible to return for the playoffs should the Colts get that far. With a record of 6-6, they are in a three-way tie for the AFC South lead.

Jackson has denied that he had anything to do with his team's pursuit of punishing the Patriots, telling the Boston Globe last year, "Twenty years from now I’m sure people will still kind of flirt around with it, so I guess it will be cool [to be connected to Deflategate]. Everything else that came out of that was nothing I had anything to do with. That’s above me. It wasn’t anything I had any part in."

Since we've come this far and you're still reading, here's a reminder of how Jackson factored into this whole thing: After his pick, per the Wells Report, he gave the Patriots football to Colts executive David Thornton. Thornton then handed it to assistant equipment manager Brian Seabrooks, who thought the ball was soft, and asked an equipment intern to check the pressure. The PSI was allegedly 11. Seabrooks then gave the ball to Colts equipment man Sean Sullivan, who alerted general manager Ryan Grigson. That led Grigson to make his way to a press-box suite with vice president of operations Mike Kensil and executive vice president of operations Troy Vincent. "We are playing with a small ball," Grigson supposedly said. 

You're probably familiar with what happened after that.

Belichick explains matching in the secondary

Belichick explains matching in the secondary

FOXBORO – Here’s a leftover from last week I’m dredging up because it’s really instructive in giving insight to something we all flap our arms about: how the Pats decide whether to play zone, man-to-man or match receivers with their secondary.

The jumping off-point was asking about Trumaine Johnson -- a long-tall corner for the Rams. As Belichick about Johnson and the difficulties he poses, at 6-foot-2, it brought to mind the team’s acquisition earlier this season of Eric Rowe. The 6-2 corner they got from the Eagles filled a need in that the Patriots other corners are not very tall, headlined by 5-9 Malcolm Butler.

So I asked Belichick if the team strives to have different sized players in the secondary.

“That’s if you move them around,” he explained, meaning size only matters if you intend to put size-on-size. “If you don’t move them around, if you play a guy at one positon and he plays on the right side or the left side, you cover the guy that’s over there, which I’d say is more the situation than not. There are some teams or some situations where you’ve got him, he’s got the next guy, you’ve got somebody else, but I’d say that’s by far the lower percentage of the plays, by far. Generally, you see a corner play – some games are different. We’ll match to this guy and somebody else matches to that guy. Teams will do that. There’s some of that, but by and large, most teams play at one position and whoever is in that spot, that’s who they cover.”

With matching receivers being the exception rather than the rule, the next logical question is why? Why would you let a little guy cover a big guy if you also have a big guy who could cover?

Because offenses make it complicated, Belichick answered.

“The easiest thing in the world is for one player to match another,” he explained. “‘OK, you go cover this guy.’ Alright, great. But what do the other 10 guys do? That’s the problem. It’s easy to matchup one guy. That’s simple. What do the other 10 guys do? What if he’s here? What if he’s there? What if he goes in motion? What if he’s in the backfield? What if it’s this personnel? What if it’s that personnel in the game? Then how does all the rest of it matchup? That’s where it gets tricky.  You can be spending all day, literally, on that. OK yeah, you take this guy but what are you going to do with the other 10?”

Belichick also delved into other options including a coverage concept the Pats used when Darrelle Revis was here. Giving Revis the opponent’s so-called No. 2 receiver and doubling the No. 1.

“You can matchup and put your best guy on their best guy, or you can matchup and put your best guy on let’s call it their second best guy and put your second best guy on their best guy and double him,” Belichick said. “If you’re going to put your best guy on their best guy and double him anyway then you kind of lessen the matchups down the line. It’s like setting a tennis ladder, or whatever. If you put your bad guy at one and you win two through seven, great. If you put your best guy at one and he gets beat by their one and then your two versus their two, you know. That’s what you’re doing. You have a three to four-man ladder there with the receivers and your DB’s [defensive backs], except we don’t have to match them that way. You can match them however you want.”

It’s a fascinating discussion and it comes into play the next two weeks as the Patriots will see a true test with receivers like the Ravens Steve Smith and Denver with Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.

The Patriots will have decisions to make. Chances are they’ll use a little bit of everything. But these are some of the the things they weight when doing so.