Free Press columnist Carlos Monarrez answers three questions following the Detroit Lions’ 29-0 loss to the New England Patriots:
How bad was this loss to a third-string quarterback?
Yep, I get it. The Lions lost, 29-0, to Bailey Zappe, a third-stringer making his first career start whose name sounds like he’s either a high-powered cleaning spray or a potent herbal tea. But let’s remember: Zappe played well in emergency action last week at Green Bay and he had a whole week to prepare for a home game against the NFL’s worst defense.
And yes, it probably hurts even more that this loss came against former Lions coach and current Patriots offensive mastermind Matt Patricia. Even though it didn’t work out in Detroit, no one ever accused Patricia of being stupid and, indeed, he was smart to help Zappe by leaning heavily on the run, milking the clock and keeping the Lions’ offense off the field. So I wouldn’t classify a road loss against the Patriots as a horrible defeat.
What happened to the Lions’ top-ranked offense?
Two things: Bill and Belichick. The defensive mastermind neutralized the Lions’ potent offense by loading up against the run and rushing and blitzing effectively, especially on third down, where the Lions finished 4-for-12. The Pats entered with the NFL’s 10th-ranked pass defense and the 20th-ranked pass defense, so Belichick assumed correctly that the Lions would try to gash them on the ground. Even though the Lions had success last week without D’Andre Swift, he was sorely missed in an attack that ran mostly through Jamaal Williams and Craig Reynolds, who struggled to find holes. Amon-Ra St. Brown returned to action, but he played limited snaps and wasn’t a factor for the offense.
Are we back to 2021 Jared Goff?
The Lions quarterback had a bad game and his worst of the season. He finished 19 of 35 for 229 yards with an interception and a 62.7 passer rating. His worst play was the costly fumble on fourth-and-9 from New England’s 32, when he scrambled under pressure and lost the ball, which Kyle Dugger recovered and ran back for a 59-yard touchdown and a 13-0 lead late in the second quarter.
There’s no doubt Goff had an off game by missing some throws, but the run game struggled and the Patriots did a good job blanketing tight end T.J. Hockenson, who had a breakout game last week. I wouldn’t say Goff has regressed based on this one game, but it was disappointing that on a day the Lions needed him to step up and be a big difference-maker, he wasn’t.