Coming off of a dominating win against two of the toughest teams in the league, the Patriots feared that facing the then 2-8 Detroit Lions could be a trap. Their concerns were warranted as just a three weeks earlier, they allowed a struggling Cleveland Browns team to defeat them in all facets of the game.
This time the result was not the same. The Patriots offense flexed every strength they had as three different players scored multiple touchdowns in a convincing 45-25 win against the struggling Lions.
Brady Gets Better and Better
The New England Patriots are not a team that is anywhere near perfect. In fact, it's almost guaranteed that every week, the Patriots have another facet of their team that needs improvement. As discussed last week though, quarterback Tom Brady's game play consistently improves.
Wide receiver Deion Branch spoke very highly of the offensive leader stating that, "The leadership role start at practice."
Brady's leadership is eminent on the sidelines during games. Riling up his teammates, showing his frustration when players make mistakes and managing the game when it it's needed the most.
When facing the Lions quick-footed defense, Brady completed 21 of 27 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns and a flawless passer rating of 158.3. The five-time Pro Bowler is on pace to have one of his most exceptional seasons with a completion percentage of 66.3, which is already higher than in the last two seasons.
Tom Brady's increased productivity as the season goes on is hard to overlook. As he has not thrown an interception in the last 199 passes thrown, Brady's throws are more accurate and are being thrown with more velocity. The tighter and stronger spirals have made even the most challenging passes attainable by a variety of the Patriots receivers.
Sharpened Offensive Weapons
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick knew things had to line up for the Patriots to successfully secure the win, "A lot of things have to go right. Certainly our offense did a real good of making big plays, getting the ball in the end zone, taking advantage of a couple turnover opportunities that we had..."
The flexibility of the Patriots offense has drastically improved as the season continues. With Tom Brady leading the way, the rest of the Patriots offense have had growing opportunities to show what they are capable of.
The Patriots are still currently ranked first in points scored in the league and although they're only ranked in the top 20 in total yards, passing and rushing yards per game, their effectiveness has still been able to position them to come out of games victorious.
Against a quick starting Lions defense, led by rookie Ndamukong Suh, the Patriots were still able amass 444 total passing and rushing yards. Not to be overlooked, Brady was sacked by the explosive rookie and was the only one to obtain a sack for the entire Lions defensive unit.
An interesting statistic is that three different Patriots scored two touchdowns a piece. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and both wide receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch also caught two touchdowns. Welker led the team in receptions for the game with eight catches for 90 yards. Branch, although he only caught three ball, the catches totaled for 113 yards and one which was for 79 yards.
Brady was able to hit seven of his eight targeted receivers along with handing off to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead for a total of 20 times.
The added flexibility of the Patriots offensive line in the second half is what allowed for Brady scan the field long enough to make the most productive plays.
Brady elucidated on what it took be successful in the second half. "...Once the speed of the game calmed down a little bit and we could get it under control, we did a great job."
With a Thanksgiving game full of highlights for the Patriots, one aspect that stands out is the continuing flaws in the young defense.
The first half of the Thanksgiving game was not a highlight for the Patriots defense as the Lions were ahead 17-10. The Patriots defense struggled with maintaining a dominance on the field and often find themselves playing catch up with their opponents. The Lions in this case, were ranked 15th in points scored but is ranked sixth in passing yards.
Certain players continue to excel as the season goes on such as linebacker Jerod Mayo recorded another game with 10+ combined tackles. James Sanders and Gary Guyton both had eight combined tackles for the game. Rookie cornerback and first round pick Devin McCourty was definitely the star of of the Patriots defensive front.
Devin McCourty had another stellar game with two interceptions for 73 yards, three tackles on special teams and four combined tackles. McCourty also deflected two passes thrown by Lions' Shaun Hill. Hill struggled and completed only 27 of 46 yards for 285 yards, two interceptions, one touchdown and was also sacked twice.
The Patriots were not forcing a top notch offense but continued to struggle with Hill's continuing ability to find nine different receivers. Calvin Johnson, one of the Lions' top performers, had four catches for 81 yards and caught the only receiving touchdown pass.
The New York Jets are undoubtedly the Patriots' most challenging opponents left on their regular season schedule. As the Patriots are hitting a winning stride after defeating the likes of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts, defeating the Jets.
The most challenging match up is where it was before when the Jets and the Patriots first went head to head earlier in the season. Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense struggled to find a flow against the relentless Jets defense. An interesting factor to consider is whether or not Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has grown as an offensive leader or if he has just been lucky. Sanchez has limitless options on offense with running back Ladainian Tomlinson playing an incredible comeback year. Mark Sanchez will be facing a developed and flexible Patriots defense and if Devin McCourty and company can continue to stop the offensive momentum, then this game will not be a repeat of their earlier meeting.
Based on the Jets defensive strength, the Patriots offense (other than just Tom Brady) have to play at the highest level. Utilizing all offensive techniques such as spreading the defense, gaining short yardage, converting on third down, and protecting Tom Brady are keys to success for the Patriots to rise to a 10-2 record.
The New England Patriots are set to face the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on December 6, 2010. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m.
Kisha Tapangan is a contributing writer for PatriotsInsider.com She also maintains her personal blog Necessary Roughness and can be found on Twitter @KishaT. Be sure to check back for regular updates by Kisha