To put it kindly, events did not unfold according to plan for the New England Patriots first-team offense in their third preseason game. Unlike in the first two games where the offense displayed a level of ultra-efficiency that was assisted by contributions from a collection of different players, the third preseason game turned into a laugher due to costly mistakes, lack of execution, and horrible fumble recovery luck. Since the offensive starters will probably not stop foot on the field for the last preseason contest, the Patriots will need to console themselves with knowing that for all their struggles on Thursday, at least the results will not officially mar their season.
However, even with the ability to rationalize away the incompetence of the offense in the preseason game, there is little getting away from the fact the struggles of the first-team unit bear some responsibility for the Patriots losing 40-9 to the Detroit Lions; the offensive starters, who played the first half, contributed to a 16-3 halftime deficit by virtue of some disturbingly mistake-filled football.
In the first half, with the starters in, the Patriots had nine offensive possessions, but they were unable to do anything significantly positive with most of the plays they ran. Four of the nine possessions ended in the Patriots turning the ball over; the Patriots lost two fumbles, quarterback Tom Brady threw an interception, and the offense failed to convert a 4th and 1 at the Lions' 36-yard line to end another drive before they could put points on the board. Three of the nine possessions ended with the Patriots punting and only on one drive did the Patriots score; Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter.
All of the turnovers kept the Patriots from putting together successful drives, but the two fumbles were especially damaging as they both came deep in the Patriots' own territory. It was only thanks to the defense holding the Lions to zero net yards on 8 plays after those two fumbles that kept the Lions from putting more than 6 points on the scoreboard following the fumbles. Yet, the defense did allow the Lions to score a touchdown after the interception so they could not make up for all of the offense's errors.
With so many drives ending in failure, almost all of the yards the Patriots gained in the first half were empty ones. Brady did complete 16 of 24 passes for a respectable 185 yards, but he also went just 3 of 5 for 27 yards on third down. Additionally, even those third-down passing numbers are being kind since on two third downs, Brady's completions came up a yard short of the first-down marker. Brady's numbers also look impressive when the two sacks he took for a loss of 19 yards are factored in; then he can only lay claim to gaining 6.4 net yards per pass attempt.
Perhaps the only bright spot in the passing game during the game was wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who caught eight of the 12 passes thrown his way and gained 116 yards. If Thompkins can replicate that kind of performance during regular season games, the Patriots offense will be well served.
The less said about the impotent first-half running attack that only netted the team 32 yards on 18 carries in the first half and resulted in one lost fumble, the better.
There are only a handful of ways in which the starters on offense could have looked worse in what should be their final preseason action. Now the Patriots will have to put the memories of the game behind them and move on to make sure they afford a repeat mediocre performance in the regular season when the games actually count for something.