Report Card Week 13: Patriots - Lions

The Detroit Lions did their best to upset the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough last Sunday. With the game on the line, Detroit made the few critical mistakes that came back to bite them. A fumble and an interception in the final six minutes were enough to give Tom Brady and the Patriots the opportunity to seal the 7-point win.


PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus -- The Lions came in allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 68 percent of their passes. That percentage likely will go up after Tom Brady sliced and diced them for 305 yards. Brady was 27-for-38 on his way to hooking up with nine receivers. Reche Caldwell continues to be the surprise of the 2006 season. The former Charger gets better every week and has become the No. 1 target in New England. Caldwell caught eight passes for 112 yards, and Kevin Faulk added eight receptions. Patriots receivers were wide open all game long, and Brady had the time to find them.

New England Patriots defensive back Artrett Hawkins (25) hits Detroit Lions running back Kevin Jones (34) after Jones picks up a first down during the third quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 3, 2006. The Patriots won 28-21. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- The Patriots lost Laurence Maroney in the first quarter, and their running game was never the same after he went out. Corey Dillon did score three touchdowns but ran for only 25 yards and a 2.8-yard average against a weak Lions defense. The Patriots' longest rush of the day was a 16-yard reverse by Troy Brown, as the team managed just 77 yards on the ground. For all the talk of how great the New England running game was early in the year, it has been inconsistent over the past month. Without Maroney on the field, the Patriots didn't have a playmaker in the backfield and only ran the ball 24 times. If New England had been playing a better team Sunday, that might have been a problem.

PASS DEFENSE: C-plus -- Jon Kitna had a good day numbers-wise, throwing for 314 yards and a touchdown. However, he was sacked fives times and threw three interceptions, including two in the fourth quarter when the Lions needed to move the ball. Asante Samuel had another good game, grabbing an interception and limiting Roy Williams to just three receptions. However, Mike Furrey had a career day, catching nine passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. The Lions moved the ball through the air, but the Patriots made big plays when they had to late in the game.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Kevin Jones returned after missing last week's game with the Dolphins, but he was much more effective as a receiver than he was a runner. Jones had 56 yards on 19 carries, not to mention a costly fumble inside the 5-yard line when the Lions were going in for a touchdown. Ty Warren and the rest of the Patriots defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage all game long. The Lions have had problems along the offensive line this year, and the Patriots really took advantage of it Sunday by bottling up the Detroit ground game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: -- B-plus -- Stephen Gostkowski made two short field goals and Ken Walter averaged 40 yards per punt, which is a positive for him. Walter hasn't allowed a punt to be returned since he joined the team two weeks ago. The Patriots coverage units controlled kick returner Eddie Drummond, not allowing any big runbacks. Meanwhile, Kevin Faulk did a solid job filling in for the injured Maroney on kickoff returns.

COACHING: B-minus -- The Patriots were definitely flat for this game, but they woke up in time to steal a win against a gutsy Lions team. The offense lost its ability to run the ball consistently when Maroney went out, so Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels did the right thing by going to the air against an awful Lions pass defense. The Patriots defense was in a funk for most of the afternoon but turned it on when it had to. Most important, the front seven kept the opponent from gaining a yard when it could have put the game away as it did in the opener against the Bills. Holding Detroit to a field goal kept the door open for the Patriots, and they walked right through it.


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