New England Patriots

  • After starting the season 1-3, the Patriots needed a big time performance heading into Sunday’s game against the Lions. They delivered on that, with a 29-0 win that saw them dominate for all 60 minutes.

    Breaking down the tape and the X’s and O’s of this game will come on Monday once we have time to watch it back, but there are already some eye-popping stats coming out of this one. Here’s what stands out…

  • The shutout

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 09: Jabrill Peppers #3 of the New England Patriots and Jonathan Jones #31 of the New England Patriots react after a fourth down stop during the second half against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 09: Jabrill Peppers #3 of the New England Patriots and Jonathan Jones #31 of the New England Patriots react after a fourth down stop during the second half against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

    It’s not just that the Patriots shutout the Lions – their first shutout of the year and their first shutout at home since early in the 2016 season. It’s the offense they did it to.

    Coming into this game, the Lions had the No. 1 ranked offense in the NFL both in terms of points scored and total yards. Just last week, they put up 45 points and 520 total yards of offense while averaging 7.9 yards per play against the Seattle Seahawks.

    The Patriots defense held up significantly better on Sunday, holding them to 312 yards and 4.9 yards per play. That included 3.7 yards per rush, compared to Detroit’s 5.9 average yards per carry coming in (we’ll get to the other big team defensive statistic in a second).

    As for the shutout? This was just the second team in the past 25 seasons a team has been held scoreless after entering a game as the league’s highest-scoring offense, per ESPN. Mike Reiss added that it’s the first time in NFL history that a team averaging at least 35 points per game through its first four games was shut out in its fifth.

    “[The] top scoring team in the league, top everything in the league, yards, points, red area, you name it. To go out there and keep those guys off the board, whatever it was, five, six, fourth downs, and just a lot of good competitive defensive football,” Bill Belichick said after the game. “It was great. Really proud of that whole unit, the staff, the players, pass rush coverage, our tackling.”

  • Situational defense

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 09: Davon Godchaux #92 of the New England Patriots reacts after a turnover on downs during the first half against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 09: Davon Godchaux #92 of the New England Patriots reacts after a turnover on downs during the first half against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

    Part of the reason the Lions failed to score? They couldn’t extend drives. The Patriots held them to just 4-for-12 on third downs – which is impressive enough – but it’s what happened next that’s potentially historic.

    The Lions went for it six times on fourth down – and failed to convert all six. According to Football Outsiders‘ data that goes back to 1981, it’s the first time in that period a team has gone 0-for-6 on fourth down. Given going for it on fourth is much more prevalent now than it was back then, there’s a real chance that number stretches further, or is even an NFL-first. On those six fourth downs, the Lions’ average distance to go was 3.7 yards, with all but one being within five yards.

    “I think the big part of that was understanding if you watch the third downs, we’re in the huddle, we’re saying, ‘This isn’t the end. They’re going to go for it on fourth down.’ They’ve done that all year. So I think that was a big part of preparation. Everyone was ready to go after getting a third down stop,” Devin McCourty noted after the game. “I’m calling guys back in the huddle. I think sometimes you get in those situations, guys say ‘oh my goodness they’re going like –’ We didn’t have to rush anything. We were locked in, ready to go. We were able to execute and play good defense in those situations.”

    In addition to dominating the down and distance, the Patriots’ defense also held strong in the red zone. They denied the Lions twice inside the 20 – once with a Jack Jones interception in the first quarter, then in the fourth quarter when Detroit ran seven plays inside the 20 due to a roughing the passer penalty but failed to convert on a 4th & 5.

    “Those are huge plays in the game. Especially those fourth down stops in the red area, where they could kick a field goal, and you stop them, and our offense comes on and they drive the field, whether it’s a touchdown or a field goal. That kind of kills momentum and morale,” McCourty added. “So I think the preparation going into the game, and then going out and executing it was a good job by all 11 guys.”

  • Matthew Judon off to a hot start

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 09: Matthew Judon #9 of the New England Patriots sacks Jared Goff #16 of the Detroit Lions during the first half at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 09: Matthew Judon #9 of the New England Patriots sacks Jared Goff #16 of the Detroit Lions during the first half at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

    For the second year in a row, Matthew Judon is starting the season on a tear. Last year, he had at least one sack in four of the first five games. This year, he’s taken it up a notch.

    With his first sack on Sunday, Judon became the first Patriots player to record at least one sack in each of the first five games of the season. He’s now up to 5.5 through five games, which is tied for the third-most in the NFL.

    “I’m just out here to win games honestly,” Judon said after the game. “To set records, that’s nice. To set records, that’s lovely…but I’m always on the team.”

    Going beyond the ‘to start a season’ qualifier, Judon’s five-game sack streak is now tied with Willie McGinest (1996) and Chandler Jones (2015) for the third-longest in Patriots’ history. Next up is Gary Jeter (1989) at six games. Andre Tippett (1984-1985) has the franchise record at eight games.

  • A second and a first for Jack Jones

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 09: Jack Jones #13 of the New England Patriots intercepts a pass intended for T.J. Hockenson #88 of the Detroit Lions while Jahlani Tavai #48 of the New England Patriots during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 09: Jack Jones #13 of the New England Patriots intercepts a pass intended for T.J. Hockenson #88 of the Detroit Lions while Jahlani Tavai #48 of the New England Patriots during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    Speaking of making big plays in consecutive weeks, Jack Jones flashed his ball-hawking ability for the second consecutive game. This time, he flashed his athleticism covering quite a bit of ground after reading a wheel route, and jumped in front of 6-foot-5 T.J. Hockenson before toe-tapping to kill a Lions’ red zone drive.

    That play, combined with his pick-six last week, make Jones the first Patriots rookie with interceptions in back-to-back games since the 2013 season. Both cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Duron Harmon – two Rutgers players – accomplished the feat for the Patriots that year. Next week, he’ll try to become the first Patriots rookie to get a pick in three games in a row since Devin McCourty – another Rutgers draft pick – did so in 2010.

  • A well-rounded day for the offense

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 09: Rhamondre Stevenson #38 of the New England Patriots runs past Jeff Okudah #1 of the Detroit Lions during the first half at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 09: Rhamondre Stevenson #38 of the New England Patriots runs past Jeff Okudah #1 of the Detroit Lions during the first half at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

    As expected against the Lions’ league-worst defense, the Patriots were able to move the ball on the ground and in the air. Statistically, it featured one of the more balanced performances we’ve seen from the team in some time.

    In Sunday’s game, Rhamondre Stevenson had over 100 yards rushing and Jakobi Meyers had over 100 yards receiving (we’ll get into their individual performances in a second). That made it the first time the Patriots have had players cross the century mark both rushing and receiving since Week 2 of the 2016 season. In that game, LeGarrette Blount ran for 123 yards and Martellus Bennett had 114 receiving yards in a 31-24 win over the Dolphins in what was the team’s home opener.

    That game – like this one – also heavily featured a mid-round rookie third-string quarterback for the Patriots. Tom Brady was suspended, and Jimmy Garoppolo hurt his shoulder late in the second quarter, which led to the team turning to Jacoby Brissett – who the Patriots will face next week as the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.

  • The century mark for Rhamondre Stevenson

    Patriots running back #38 Rhamondre Stevenson runs for a big gain after getting a block from #71 Mike Onwenu in the 4th. (Bob Breidenbach/USA TODAY NETWORK)

    Patriots running back #38 Rhamondre Stevenson runs for a big gain after getting a block from #71 Mike Onwenu in the 4th. (Bob Breidenbach/USA TODAY NETWORK)

    The Patriots only dressed two running backs for this game despite what figured to be a run-heavy game plan. So when Damien Harris was ruled out with a hamstring injury in the first half, the weight of the offense fell on the shoulders of Rhamondre Stevenson – and he delivered.

    “Just going in from Monday we knew we had to run the ball well and just be physical,” Stevenson said after the game. “When Damien went down, I just told him I have his back.”

    In a bellcow back performance fitting of throwback week, Stevenson carried the ball 25 times for 161 yards. Not only was that a career high, but it was the most rushing yards in a game by a Patriots running back since Jonas Gray’s infamous 201-yard Sunday night performance against the Indianapolis Colts in 2014.

    It was also the third-most rushing yards for a player in the Bill Belichick era. Gray has the record, followed by a 189 yard performance from LeGarrette Blount against the Bills in 2013.

    “You have to give him a ton of credit. With Damien out, we only carried two backs for the game, and he put it all on his shoulder,” Belichick said of Stevenson after the game. “He is always good. He does a great job with the ball in his hands. He is a strong runner, but he can make people miss. He is a really good football player. Really a good football player. So glad we have him…He is a good all-around back. Love him. Love him.”

  • The century mark for Jakobi Meyers

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 09: Jakobi Meyers #16 of the New England Patriots reacts after a catch during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 09: Jakobi Meyers #16 of the New England Patriots reacts after a catch during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

    Jakobi Meyers went over 100 yards as well, catching a team-high seven passes on eight targets for 111 yards and a touchdown. It’s the third time in his career he’s done so, and the first since 2020.

    Meyers is also the third Patriots wide receiver this season to have 100 receiving yards in a game, joining Nelson Agholor (Week 2) and DeVante Parker (Week 3). It’s the first time since 2017 – when Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, and Danny Amendola did so – that the Patriots have had three separate pass catchers go for over 100 yards through the first five weeks.

  • Bailey Zappe continues a trend

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 09: Bailey Zappe #4 of the New England Patriots calls a play during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 09: Bailey Zappe #4 of the New England Patriots calls a play during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    Bailey Zappe didn’t pop off the stat sheet, but he was calm and controlled while delivering what the Patriots needed to get the win. He finished 17-of-21 throwing the football for 188 yards and one touchdown with one unfortunate interception that bounced off the hands of Nelson Agholor.

    With the win, Zappe continued what is a fascinating trend. He became the fifth quarterback drafted by Belichick outside of the first round to make his first career start for the team. Including his debut, the Patriots are now 5-0 in those games as he joins Tom Brady (2001), Matt Cassel (2008), Jimmy Garoppolo (2016), and Jacoby Brissett (2016). The rest of the NFL is 30-80 since 2000 when a non-first round quarterback makes his first career start.

    Oddly enough, Belichick’s lone first-round QB pick – Mac Jones – lost his first career start in last year’s opener.

  • Nick Folk’s busy day

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 09: Nick Folk #6 of the New England Patriots looks on during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 09: Nick Folk #6 of the New England Patriots looks on during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    Nick Folk has been nearly automatic since coming to New England, and Sunday wasn’t any exception. He hit all five of his field goal attempts, connecting on kicks of 29, 32, 37, 37, and and 44 yards. Plus, he made both extra points.

    With that performance, Folk became the first kicker this season to hit at least five field goals and two PATs in a single game without a miss. He’s just the fifth kicker in the last five years to accomplish the feat outdoors as well.

    It was the second such game for Folk in his career, but the first time he’s done it with the Patriots (he had an identical stat line in 2010 while with the Jets). That makes him just the fourth Patriots kicker to hit those benchmarks, joining Stephen Gostkowski (who did so twice, in 2014 and 2018), Adam Vinatieri (2004), and Gino Cappelletti (1964).

    “Nick is so consistent. You kind of start to take it for granted, and then you realize how difficult it was. Today it was not an easy day to kick,” Belichick said after the game. “I can’t say enough about Nick Folk. He is so professional, so consistent, so dependable. When you stop and think about how hard that job is over the amount of time we’re talking about, it’s really, really impressive.”

  • The throwbacks

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 09: The New England Patriots run onto the field before the game against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 09: The New England Patriots run onto the field before the game against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    When the Patriots first announced they were going to be bringing back the throwback uniforms, it was met with some pushback from a certain section of the fanbase. Some pointed out that the team historically wasn’t as good in the ‘Pat Patriot’ era, and said the jerseys reminded them of a losing team.

    While the team didn’t have the kind of success during Pat’s original run as they did in the following three decades, he’s been almost exclusively good luck in his limited returns as a throwback. Since the red uniforms were re-introduced as throwbacks/alternates in 2002 the Patriots are 8-1 when wearing them after Sunday’s win, including 6-0 at home.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.