Patriots vs. Lions thumbs up, thumbs down: Bailey Zappe, Matthew Judon lead the way to victory


Fourth-round rookie QB Bailey Zappe was making his first NFL start and the Patriots defense was facing the NFL’s No. 1 offense Sunday at Gillette Stadium, but that was no problem for New England as the home team took care of its business on both sides of the ball on the way to the impressive 29-0 win.

New England led 16-0 at halftime thanks to efficient play from Zappe, three Nick Folk field goals and a Kyle Dugger scoop-and-score return of a Matt Judon strip sack.

Zappe added a touchdown pass to Jakobi Meyers in the third quarter as the Patriots pulled away for the rout to improve to 2-3 on the season.

Before turning the page to next Sunday’s trip to Cleveland to take on the Browns with an opportunity to pull to .500 on the season, here’s a look at the highs and lows from the fun, throwback win over Detroit.

Thumbs up

Bailey Zappe – From his first pass of the day, a 23-yard gain to Hunter Henry, the fourth-round rookie looked comfortable making his first NFL start. By halftime Zappe had completed eight of his 10 passes for 101 yards, one of his blemishes his first career interception that hit Nelson Agholor in the hands. He added the touchdown to Meyer in the third quarter. Zappe was cool, calm and collected leading the home offense – much more so than Goff looked for the visitors – to earn his first career win by completing 17 of 21 passes (81 percent) for 188 yards with an even 100 passer rating.

Matthew Judon – New England’s defense held the NFL’s No.
1 offense scoreless in the first half with Judon at the center of all the action. He notched a second quarter sack of Goff, becoming the first Patriots player with a sack in each of the first five games of the season. Judon then ignited the biggest play of the first half on a fourth-and-9 strip sack that was recovered by Dugger and returned 59 yards for the only touchdown. Judon continued to harras and hit Goff throughout the second half on the way to victory. Judon finished the day and the shutout as a thorn in the Lions’ side with three tackles, the two sacks, the forced fumble and four QB hits.

Jack Jones – A week after his big play and big quotes against Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field, Jones was back to his playmaking ways early on against Jared Goff. The rookie peeled off his coverage to intercept a pass intended for tight end T.J. Hockenson just outside the goal line to prevent a would-be Lions scoring opportunity in the first quarter.

Nick Folk – The veteran kicker was the Patriots scoring offense in the first half, doing what he usually does interms of hitting field goals from inside of 50. Folk hit from 37, 32 and 44 yards by halftime extending his streak to 61 straight from under 50 yards. Folk added another 37 yarder in the third quarter and one from 29 yards in the fourth quarter.

Rhamondre Stevenson – New England’s second-year running back has been splitting the load with Damien Harris and did so early against Detroit until his veteran teammate left with a hamstring injury. Stevenson had a career-long 49-yard run in the first half and a 15-yard reception. Stevenson continues to show playmaking ability and make defenders miss with regularity. He finished the impressive day with 25 carries for 161 yards (6.4 avg.) on the ground.

Jakobi Meyers – After missing two games to a knee injury, Meyers returned to action against the Lions and returned to his role as the go-to receiver for the Patriots passing attack. Much as he was for Mac Jones, Meyers was reliable and productive for Zappe, finishing with seven catches (on eight targets) for 111 yards, including his 24-yard touchdown.

Thumbs down

Nelson Agholor – A couple weeks after his costly fumble in the comeback effort against the Ravens, Agholor was at the center of another costly turnover Sunday at Gillette Stadium. With the Patriots up 6-0 and driving again in the second quarter, Zappe hit Agholor in the hands near midfield only to see the veteran receiver drop the ball and deflect it into the air for an interception for Lions safety DeShon Elliott. Agholor is a role player for the Patriots but needs to start making more plays and fewer critical mistakes.
He also left the game with a hamstring injury.

Run defense – With Lawrence Guy inactive yet again with a shoulder injury the struggling New England run defense was still the more lackluster aspect of the Patriots defense against Detroit. The unit did get a big fourth-down stuff from Ja’Whuan Bentley, but there were also too many missed tackles at times (Devin McCourty, Bentley and others). The Lions hit some chunk plays on the ground – three runners with runs of 11 yards or longer – on the way to 27 carries as a team for 101 yards. It wasn't terrible, but on a day when so much was so good, the run defense still can be better.

Red Zone offense – It’s great that Folk continues to be perfect on short field goals. It’s not great that he continues to get so many short field goal attempts, even with a young backup quarterback. New England went 0-for-4 in the red zone against Detroit and is now just 6-of-15 in the red zone on the season, falling down into the bottom third of the NFL in that critical area.

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