DETROIT — Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions were so impressive they lamented wasting some chances to score more.
Stafford threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns in less than a half, leading the Lions to a 34-10 win over the New England Patriots on Saturday night.
“We’re playing pretty much mistake-free football,” Stafford said
Tom Brady, meanwhile, was off his game.
The two-time and reigning MVP connected on just over half of his passes for 145 yards with a TD and an interception.
“It wasn’t our best game, obviously,” Brady said. “From the first series on, we could never really get into a rhythm. It was just a bad night all around.”
The Lions and their sellout crowd at Ford Field were clearly fired up for the nationally televised game against the elite Patriots.
“It was big, every game is big,” Stafford said. “New England has some good recent history, but we beat them pretty handily.”.
Stafford and Detroit’s defensive front were dominant in the third preseason game, one that both teams treated like a real game for much of the first half.
The Lions (3-0) know they can’t get too excited about exhibition results because they were undefeated in the 2008 preseason and went on to become the NFL’s first 0-16 team.
“It’s preseason,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “You have to be careful how you look at it.”
What does the perfect preseason record mean to Ndamukong Suh?
“Nothing,” he said
New England (2-1) routed Jacksonville and Tampa Bay earlier this month, but was on the other end of a lopsided score in the Motor City.
“We didn’t do anything very well,” coach Bill Belichick said. “We didn’t throw it, didn’t catch it, didn’t block, didn’t tackle, didn’t cover, didn’t return. It’s a long list. Didn’t coach.”
Stafford was 12 of 14 with one incomplete pass that was dropped by Nate Burleson in the end zone and another that was broken up.
He got sacked for the first time in the preseason and was hit hard on another play by blitzing linebacker Jerod Mayo, but bounced up both times. Those were positive signs for Stafford, who was healthy enough to play just three games last season and 10 as a rookie after being the No. 1 pick overall in the 2009 draft.
“It was good,” Stafford said. “It’s part of the game of football.”
Stafford threaded a pass into the end zone to Burleson for a 9-yard TD to put Detroit ahead 10-0 on its second drive. He made another perfect pass to Tony Scheffler for a 22-yard score that made it 17-3 midway through the second quarter.
Brady was 12 of 22, skipping passes off the turf to open teammates near the sideline and throwing short and low on another attempt over the deep middle to an open Wes Welker on what could’ve been a TD. He hung up a pass intended for Chad Ochocinco that was intercepted by rookie defensive back Ricardo Silva.
He did perfectly execute a play-action play, faking out the Lions and lofting a pass to Welker for a 44-yard score that pulled the Patriots within a TD. Welker left later in the game with a neck injury.
Unlike last season when the Lions led New England by 11 in the second quarter of a game that counted, they held on for a victory that almost certainly meant more to them than the loss affected their opponents.
“When we came in here last year they gave us a very tough game, and they’ve gotten better since then,” cornerback Devin McCourty said. “This is a preseason game and it was on national TV, so they were fired up. But you can tell they’ve taken another step forward.”
Jason Hanson kicked a 46-yard field goal and Shaun Hill threw a 9-yard TD to Aaron Brown in the final 1:07 of the first half to give Detroit a 27-10 lead.
Third-string QB Drew Stanton threw a TD pass to Derrick Williams to make it 34-10 in the fourth quarter.
Brady played briefly in the second half before being replaced by Brian Hoyer, who was roughed up by backups on the ensuing possession.
Three-time Super Bowl winner Brady wanted to get hit in the preseason game, saying that was part of the process of getting ready for the season. He didn’t have to wait long to get his wish.
Suh shoved Brady a couple times after he got rid of the ball, Corey Williams got another shot on him just after he released a pass, and Cliff Avril sacked him twice.
“My job is to continue to rattle him, get after him and be in his face,” Suh said.
Brady looked skittish at times, getting rid of the ball quicker than he needed to perhaps because he was simply trying to avoid an injury that would make the exhibition meaningful.
Stafford, meanwhile, usually had plenty of time, perhaps in part because New England defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth didn’t play.
Notes: Belichick said the team’s flight back to New England was leaving on time “as far as I know,” with Hurricane Irene approaching the area. … Lions rookie WR Titus Young made a catch for 19 yards in his debut after an injured left hamstring kept him out of the previous two preseason games.