DETROIT — The Patriots benched their top defensive players Thursday night, a standard decision for the preseason opener.
And they still fielded a starting-caliber unit to overwhelm the Lions' second-string offense.
The first game action of 2019 went about as well as it possibly could have for the Patriots, who jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and coasted to a 31-3 victory. Rookie receivers Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry excelled, although Harry left after he was injured on an acrobatic 25-yard catch. Rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham flashed accuracy and athleticism.
Yes, the offensive explosion was a pleasant surprise. But the defensive domination only further reinforced the idea that the Pats are deep and talented at all three levels.
Jamie Collins predictably toyed with the Lions' second unit. Rushing from the edge, Collins blasted by Lions tackle Tyrell Crosby to drop quarterback Tom Savage on the second series.
Collins, who was a free agent for several months before the Pats scooped him up, has been running with the starters ever since he signed in May.
“Jamie has been great,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on 98.5 The Sports Hub prior to kickoff. “As you know, he’s very athletic. (He’s a ) physical player, a talented player who can do a lot of different things…He’s always done a good job for us and I think he’s going to help us. (I) think he’s had a good camp and we expect him to have a good year.”
On the play following Collins’ sack, Patriots linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley blitzed and hit Savage for a sack on third down.
Several other veterans made impact plays early: Defensive tackle Danny Shelton, a standout in the early part of training camp, pushed the pocket for a sack of Savage on the first series. Cornerback J.C. Jackson ran stride for stride with Lions receiver Andy Jones for an impressive pass-breakup on the third series. And at the 8:18 mark of the second quarter, defensive end John Simon anticipated a David Fales throw, jumped up at the line of scrimmage, and picked it off.