Darrelle Revis breaks up a pass intended for Eric Ebron. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
FOXBORO — The Patriots smothered the Lions on Sunday, putting together an efficient 60 minutes of football on the way to a 34-9 over Detroit on a cool, clear fall afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
New England took control relatively early in this one, spotting the Lions an early field goal, but answered with a touchdown to take the lead for good, eventually stretching the lead to 21 by the start of the fourth quarter. Tim Wright had a pair of touchdown receptions and the Patriots secondary shut down the tandem of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate for most of the day on the way to a seventh straight win.
Quarterback Tom Brady finished 38-for-53 for 349 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. LeGarrette Blount had two touchdowns in his first game back in New England. Meanwhile, Brandon LaFell had nine catches for 98 yards. On the other side of the ball, the Lions (7-4) got 18-for-46 for 264 yards with no touchdowns and one interception from Matthew Stafford and four catches for 97 from Tate.
Here’s what we learned about the Patriots on Sunday:
They can score points with the best of them.
The Patriots didn’t get to 40 points on Sunday, snapping a franchise-record-tying three-game streak where they topped that mark. (Only three teams in NFL history have scored 40-plus points in four straight contests: 1960 Chargers, 2000 Rams and 2004 Colts.) But New England still put up enough to overwhelm the Lions in the second half. The 34 points were the most scored on the Lions this season. (Detroit came into the game having allowed an average of 15.6 points per game, the best total in the league.) Brady threw for more than 300 yards for the 63rd time in his career (tying Dan Marino for third all time) and a pair of touchdowns in the win. And the 90 rushing yards was the second-highest total allowed by the Lions all year.
Even without Chandler Jones, they can still get after the quarterback.
Granted, a sizable reason for their success in getting after Stafford was the result of the wildly ineffective Detroit offensive line, but it should be acknowledged that the Patriots were able to generate good heat on the young Lions quarterback. New England got a pair of early sacks on Stafford, with one from Akeem Ayers and another from Rob Ninkovich. For Ninkovich, it was his sixth of the season, and marked the fourth straight year with at least six sacks for the defensive end. Sunday marked the eighth straight game with a sack for New England.
Don’t be late.
After showing up late and being sent home earlier in the week, Jonas Gray was a forgotten man Sunday against the Lions. The Patriots went with Shane Vereen as the starter, Blount as the No. 2 back (he scored a first-half touchdown) and even Brandon Bolden in the second half. Part of that was because Detroit isn’t the sort of team you want to run against, and Gray is a bigger, between the tackles back who offers little in the passing game. But you can bet that Gray won’t oversleep again.
Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner are nasty.
It’s probably unfair to limit it to Revis and Browner, but the Patriots secondary did a very nice job rendering both Tate (four catches, 97 yards) and Calvin Johnson (four catches, 58 yards) ineffective. New England utilized several different defensive looks on the afternoon, with both man and zone. By our count, only one pass was completed on Revis.
The Patriots did well with their mid-season pickups this year.
Blount didn’t see much action early — he did have a second-quarter touchdown run — but helped the Patriots chew up some clock down the stretch. He ran hard and was a major reason why New England was able to be one of the most effective teams on the ground against the Lions this season. Meanwhile, edge rusher Akeem Ayers had his third sack of the season on Sunday, and even though he arrived shortly before the trade deadline from Tennessee, is already fourth on the team in sacks.
They really don’t need Richie Incognito.
Once again, Brady took a few hits, but he was kept clean all afternoon by an offensive line that was able to keep a fearsome Detroit front seven at bay. The Patriots put up the most points of any opponent against the Lions this year. In addition, Brady wasn’t sacked for the second straight game, and hasn’t been sacked since the first half of the Nov. 2 win over the Broncos, a span of 10-plus consecutive quarters.
They don’t want to see Tony Corrente ever again.
Corrente, who is one of the most flag-happy officials in the league, called 11 penalties for 84 yards on the Patriots on Sunday against the Lions. That’s on top of the 15 penalties he called against New England in a September win over the Vikings. The Patriots have struggled with penalties over the course of the 2014 season — they’ve been one of the most penalized teams in the league this season, and they picked up their 100th as a team this year in the first half Sunday. But they could certainly go without seeing Corrente the rest of the way this year.
Danny Amendola can make some plays on special teams.
The receiver, who has endured a lost season on offense, has provided some energy on special teams as a returner. On Sunday, he had his finest moment with an 81-yard kick return in the second quarter. The Patriots took advantage of the return by punching it in two plays later on a three-yard touchdown run from Blount. In all, it was a pretty good day for the special teamers, who got a couple of really sweet coverage plays from Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner. (The low point came when Malcolm Butler had an illegal block in the back that negated a big return by Julian Edelman late in the third quarter.) In all, Amendola had 90 yards in the return game on the afternoon, and even after the pickup of Blount, figures to be the first choice as a kick returner going forward.
Tim Wright is on a remarkable run this year.
The tight end, acquired before the start of the season from Tampa Bay in a deal that shipped veteran Logan Mankins to the Bucs, caught a pair of touchdown passes in the first half — his fifth and sixth of the season. What’s even more remarkable than that is the fact that Wright has demonstrated an impressive connection with the quarterback in his first year in New England — including Sunday’s win over the Lions, Wright has caught 23 of the 26 passes that have been thrown in his direction by the quarterback.
They suffered a few bumps and bruises.
Two injured Patriots ended up walking off before the end of this one: First, cornerback Kyle Arrington left the game in the second half with a head/neck injury. (The team announced it as a head injury, while the team Twitter account said it was a neck injury.) Arrington walked off the field under his own power and did return on special teams, but not defense. In the fourth quarter, offensive lineman Dan Connolly (ankle) was shaken up and had to be helped off.