By Ashley Dunkak
FORD FIELD (CBS DETROIT) – The Detroit Lions took a built-in excuse into Thursday night’s game against the New England Patriots. After all, who could blame an offense that usually enjoyed the presence of Calvin Johnson if it looked a little out of sync in the absence of the superstar wide receiver?
As it turned out, the Lions did not need any excuses. They hung 40 points on the Patriots, buoyed by short fields provided by a defense that forced four turnovers over the course of the game.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “We were down a big playmaker in our offense tonight, and our defense knew that, showed up and played great. It’s about the team, and it was a team win tonight.”
Scoring 40 points is obviously more positive than negative, but the Lions also failed to take advantage of some important chances. New England fumbled twice in the first quarter, and Detroit only scored three points off both turnovers combined. The inability to get touchdowns once in the red zone is something that has plagued the Lions, and it continued to do so early in Thursday night’s game.
“I don’t think our timing’s off,” Stafford said. “We just didn’t hit on some plays. We had some chances. We were close a couple times and just didn’t hit them.”
Reggie Bush, a dual-threat running back, only carried the ball once but caught five passes – including one for 67 yards – for a total of 103 yards. He said that converting on opportunities provided by Detroit’s defense is something the Lions will have to do to win against good teams in the regular season.
“We were one play away here, one block away there, and those are the type of things that we have to correct now,” Bush said. “It’s good that it’s happening now in the preseason because it’s something that we need to work on and get better at and hopefully we can correct it and prepare for the regular season.”
The Lions racked up 455 yards – more than double their total at Cleveland last week. Detroit passed for 331 yards and rushed for 124. Lions coach Jim Schwartz seemed particularly pleased with the ground game. He said it started with how well the running backs played but that the offensive line also deserved credit.
“We were having a hard time getting the ball outside to them sometimes, but you get them inside,” Schwartz said. “Sometimes that gets overlooked, be athletic enough to be able to block on screens to get those guys started, and they were able to do that, and protected the quarterback well.”
Detroit found it gratifying to beat the Patriots, a perennial contender led by three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady.
“It’s a good football team,” Bush said. “We matched up pretty well today … Our ones won the battle today.”