FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — With an early morning arrival from Detroit and Tropical Storm Irene causing power outages at Gillette Stadium, Patriots coach Bill Belichick canceled his usual day-after-game conference call.
It probably didn’t matter much. After all, how many ways can you say horrible?
New England followed up two dominant exhibition performances with a drubbing at the hands of quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions, losing 34-10 on Saturday night.
Tom Brady’s accuracy was off, the promising pass rush was puny and the coaching by Belichick — by his own admission — was poor.
“I don’t feel very good about the job that I did, don’t feel very good, really, about anything we did tonight,” Belichick said at his postgame news conference. “We need to do everything better.”
There will be no shortage of topics to address in a short week of practice before Thursday night’s exhibition finale, a home game against the New York Giants — missed assignments, poor execution and a slow start that allowed the Lions to jump into a 17-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
“The overall gut feeling is that everything went bad,” said Devin McCourty, a Pro Bowl cornerback as a rookie last year.
There were some good things, of course. And just as the Patriots didn’t get carried away with their blowouts over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they can’t view the rout by the Lions as a guarantee of future troubles.
“I don’t think necessarily that losing games and playing poorly ever helps,” Brady said after the game. “I think that we have to understand, like every week, when you play well, that there are things you need to do better. When you lose, there’s things you need to do better.
“And you don’t want to ride the wave of emotions of, ‘Oh, ‘we’re great and we suck,’ and ‘we’re great and we suck.’ We’re confident as a team. We’ve just got to go play better and that’s up to each of us, individually.”
Brady completed 12 of 22 passes for 145 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked twice and was under heavy pressure a number of times.
The Patriots had trouble stopping Detroit’s passing game. Stafford used the no-huddle offense from the start and was 12 for 14 for 200 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. A week earlier, it was Brady who hurried to the line, causing confusion among Buccaneers defenders as they hustled — and sometimes failed — to get into position before the snap.
The Patriots converted on 5-of-16 third downs while allowing Detroit to succeed on 7 of 16. They were outrushed 114 yards to 61, committed 10 penalties to seven for Detroit and were outgained by 115 yards.
They also lost two players to injury during the game.
Wide receiver Wes Welker hurt his neck when he tackled Ricardo Silva as the rookie returned an interception against Brady. Starting right guard Dan Connolly left after hurting his ankle. His replacement, Rich Ohrnberger struggled against tackle Ndamukong Suh, the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Belichick provided no updates on the injured players.
“We were trying to get the ball down the field a little bit, so, you know, you’re going to hold it and they have a good pass rush,” Brady said. “We held up out there for a decent amount of time. I’ve got to do a better job of making quicker decisions and getting rid of the football and getting it to the guys who can do something with it.”
In 2004, the Patriots were 1-3 in exhibition games with losses of 31-0 and 31-3. But they won the Super Bowl.
In 2008, the Lions were 4-0 in exhibition games then became the first NFL team to go 0-16 in the regular season.
And starters rarely play entire games in the preseason. Brady left the game in the third quarter and didn’t have a chance to lead a late comeback.
The Patriots have another chance on Thursday night against the Giants then have plenty of time to correct the remaining problems before opening their season at the Miami Dolphins in a Monday night game on Sept. 12.
“There’s (not) any one area that should be highlighted any more than anything else,” Belichick said before flying home into the storm. “I thought we had problems in every phase of the game. We obviously weren’t coached very well and we didn’t play very well.”