The Patriots returned home to Foxborough on Sunday and ran their winning streak to seven game with a 34-9 blowout of the Detroit Lions. Tom Brady completed 38 of a whopping 53 passes for 349 yards and a couple of touchdowns as the offense turned last week's ground assault on the Colts upside down. And the defense continued to play at a championship level, almost completely shutting down the Lions' high-octane passing game. The Pats are now 9-2 and show no signs of slowing down. Here's a handful of takeaways from Sunday's win.
1. Diversity rules -- Last week against the Colts, the Patriots rushed for over 250 yards. This week against the Lions, the Pats scrapped the run, spread out the league's No. 1 ranked defense with either three receivers or two receivers and two tight ends out of several different formations, and won again just as decisively. In the first half, Brady threw 27 passes and the Pats ran the ball just six times. The ratio at the end of the game wound up at 53 throws against 20 runs (seven of which came late in the fourth quarter with game well in hand), proving once again that the Pats are 100 percent a game plan team that can win in any number of ways. Power, finesse, spread out, in tight, extra linemen, extra skill guys, it doesn't matter. The Patriots are not only the best team in the NFL, they are by far the most diverse.
2. Darrelle Revis is a good player -- Have you heard? After a couple of pick routes that sprung Golden Tate for nice gains in the early stages, Revis took over, allowing just one completion on throws in his direction and breaking up four passes. Tate caught one pass after the first play of the second quarter and Calvin Johnson, also known as Megatron, caught four passes for 58 yards and had absolutely zero impact on the game. Revis mostly stayed with Tate but was there to help shut down Megatron at times too. If you thought Aqib Talib was great (when healthy) the past two years, this Revis guy is even better. Beware Revis Island.
Revis. Why bother...— Matt Chatham (@chatham58) November 23, 2014
3. The rest of the defense is pretty good too -- Oh yeah, them. The Lions' offense is pretty bad (zero TDs in its last two games) but Sunday, it was a joke. Matthew Stafford became the third straight No. 1 overall pick to fall flat on his face against the Pats, posting one of the ugliest stat lines you'll ever see (18-for-46, 264 yards, one INT, 49.5 passer rating). Brandon Browner nearly equaled Revis in coverage, allowing just three completions when thrown at and breaking up two passes.
And in addition to the stellar coverage, which included solid efforts from everyone in the secondary, there was plenty of pressure dialed up all day too. Akeem Ayers in particular, was in Stafford's face a fair amount, as was Rob Ninkovich. and even big Vince Wilfork powered through far enough to move Stafford off his spot on a couple of occasions. All that, plus the Lions managing just 3.6 yards per rushing attempt (the longest of which was a 13-yard end around run by Tate). The Lions may have entered the game with the league's best defense statistically. But theirs didn't belong on the same field as the Pats' did in this game.
4. In-season additions keep on keeping on -- Ayers had a sack and a handful of pressures. Jonathan Casillas played some snaps with the regular defense and made a couple of tackles. Alan Branch contributed to the run stopping and batted down a pass. And the newest of the in-season grabs - LeGarrette Blount - only rolled into Foxborough three days ago, then played somewhere around 15-20 snaps, ripped off a 33-yard run and scored two touchdowns. At the risk of laying a hex on anything going on down at Gillette Stadium, it's fair to say at this point that everything the Pats touch turns to gold. Maybe in February it will change color again, to Lombardi Trophy-silver.
5. Belichick is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers -- The coaching mismatch in this game was as glaring as any of them. Give Lions' coach Jim Caldwell some credit for cleaning up all the disciplinary issues his predecessor Jim Schwartz didn't have time for. And maybe all of that helped the Lions win seven of their first nine games en route to first place in the NFC North. But he was so lost in this game, you wonder how much any of that really mattes if the guy in charge can't handle what's going on in the game.
Detroit couldn't get the right guys on the field for a fourth down try in the second half, burned a timeout, then kicked a field goal despite being down by three touchdowns. They became the latest group to allow Rob Gronkowski all the free releases and unabated runs through the middle of the field as he wanted. And his players made one dim bulb situational mistake after another, capped by Stafford sliding a yard too early and failing to pick up an easy fourth down conversion that the Pats handed to him on a platter in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Belichick oversaw another perfectly suited game plan for the opponent while unleashing a vintage move by keeping last week's hero Jonas Gray on the sideline all day following his being late to practice on Friday. Hell, we could even throw Tim Wright's huge game (five more catches, two more TDs) in there as proof of his mastery (who wants to take the Logan Mankins trade back now? Anyone?). The bottom line is that it's gonna take a lot more than Jim Caldwell to threaten Bill Belichick on game day. And that's as big a reason why the Pats are 9-2, winners of seven games in a row and in complete control of the AFC.