Against Lowly Lions, Pats Have Chance to Get Ground Game Going
By Ross Gienieczko
FOXBORO -- Like the rest of the offense, the ground game did not operate at peak performance in the Patriots’ Week 2 loss to Jacksonville.
The Pats managed just 82 rushing yards on 24 attempts and only picked up five first downs on the ground. Sony Michel was their top rusher with 34 yards.
Facing Detroit’s league-worst run defense tomorrow night, the Pats will have a chance to get the rushing attack back up to full speed. The Lions have allowed 359 rushing yards through two games, the most in the NFL. Their yards-against is a dismal 5.6 per carry, second-worst to the Raiders.
With room for improvement on their end and a good opportunity with the porous Lions defense on the other, center David Andrews and the Patriots are counting on better execution and more production at Ford Field.
“There’s been good things, and there’s things that need to be improved,” Andrews said. “I guess on the good side, it hasn’t been mentally an issue. It’s not guys cutting guys loose, not understanding concepts, things like that. It really just comes down to execution. The techniques, the execution and finishing a little bit better. I really think that’s something we can focus on and improve.”
One area the Pats’ run game could benefit from better execution is performance on first down. They were sluggish on those plays against the Jaguars, running 11 times on first down for 32 yards (2.9 yards per carry).
Those typically short gains set up Tom Brady and Co. in long situations on later downs, one of the reasons the offense appeared to be on its heels for much of the afternoon.
“We always try to get 4.0 (yards per carry). That’s kind of our minimum goal. I guess you could say that is a good enough play,” Andrews said. “So that’s definitely something we need to do a better job of. And like I said, it’s really not mental errors with guys. We just have to execute, finish better.”
Andrews noted the Lions have surrendered big chunks of yardage on the ground so far, but still saw some positives in their first year under former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
“They do a lot of good things. They’ve given up a lot of big runs, especially last week,” Andrews said. “They do a good job of running their schemes and making you earn yards. Matty P does a great job and it’s going to be tough for us.”
The final injury report of the week was released yesterday and it looks like the Patriots will be without two of their top defenders tomorrow night.
Trey Flowers and Patrick Chung missed their third consecutive practice while they continue to recover from concussions suffered against Jacksonville. They are listed as doubtful, and with neither player practicing at all this week, it’s almost certain they will both sit out the trip to Detroit.
Tight end Jacob Hollister (chest) was the only player ruled out. Rob Gronkowski (ankle) and Michel (knee) were removed from the report, a sign they are good to go.
Five players were listed as questionable, including Josh Gordon (hamstring), Marcus Cannon (calf) and Eric Rowe (groin).
On the defensive line, Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers and Keionta Davis should see increased roles with Flowers out, while projecting a replacement for Chung is a bit more complicated.
With only two other real safeties on the roster (Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon), the Pats could shift toward more three- or four-cornerback packages, with Jonathan Jones, Rowe and Jason McCourty all likely to see more playing time.
There’s also a chance that Jason McCourty, who took reps at safety in the preseason but hasn’t seen much action there so far in two games, could slide back to help replace Chung.