There was plenty of blame to go around, particularly with the offense, as the team was kept grounded by uninspired play.
After winning their first two preseason games, the Patriots looked sloppy and ineffective. Not only did the physical play of Detroit, which included foolish penalties, seem to throw them off their game, but they also were plagued by dropped passes, poor tackling and turnovers.
New England tried a variety of lineups and sub packages that may not be adopted during the upcoming season, but that's no excuse for the team's lack of spirited play. Although the Patriots were collectively flat, there were individuals who stood out, in particular, for their poor showings.
Here are five duds from preseason Week 3 versus the Lions:
Quarterback Tom Brady: He may not have been the biggest offender on the field, but as the field general he was unable to set the tone on offense. He finished 16 of 24 with 185 passing yards and an interception, with the team only mustering a lone field goal in the first half (he was replaced after halftime).
To be fair, Brady was consistently pressured, taking two sacks and a number of hits. At one point, Detroit defensive tackle Nick Fairley was pushed into him during a throw, which opened up a small cut on his non-throwing hand that drew blood.
There were also three offensive fumbles during Brady's reps, as the team seemed incapable of sustaining productive drives. The normally focused veteran was unable to get his teammates on track after they fell into an early hole, which can't continue if the Patriots hope to contend in 2013.
Tight End Zach Sudfeld: The man-child who has become affectionately known as "Studfeld" because of his strong preseason looked more like Seinfeld against the Lions.
The massive tight end lost a fumble inside the Lions' 20-yard line in the first quarter after failing to secure the ball with both hands following a 20-yard reception from Brady. He remained on the bench for a lengthy stretch, before returning late in the fourth quarter and finishing with three catches and 36 yards.
Sudfeld still appears to be a frontrunner to start at tight end while Rob Gronkowski remains out. However, his play against the Lions is a good reminder that he is an undrafted rookie who has wildly outplayed expectations to date and still figures to have plenty of growing ahead.
Offensive Lineman Will Svitek: Signed as a free agent this offseason to compete as a backup, the 310-pounder was manhandled while playing guard against Detroit.
Repeatedly bull-rushed by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and company, he was constantly on his heels and allowed penetration into the backfield during his reps.
Although Svitek is a tackle by trade, the Patriots like their backup linemen to be versatile, so his poor performance may indicate he won't be able to handle such expectations.
Running Back Stevan Ridley: The front pressure of Detroit made the game a miserable experience for the 24-year-old running back, who couldn't get anything going.
New England's starting back mustered just 6 yards on nine carries, including one rush of 5 yards. Time and time again, he was stifled at the line and was unable to bounce anything to the outside or find any seams up the middle.
It was just a preseason game, but Ridley didn't show the burst fans became accustomed to during his breakout season last year.
Running Back Brandon Bolden: According to the Boston Herald's Mark Daniels, Bolden is in a fight with LeGarrette Blount to make the final roster as a backup. Unfortunately, he may have hurt his case with his play against the Lions.
Bolden had a solitary rush attempt for six yards, but coughed up a costly fumble on a pass play in the first quarter that gave the Lions the ball on the Patriots' 12-yard line. While Detroit ultimately missed a field goal, careless plays like that isn't what you want to see from a player fighting for their roster life.
Conclusion: NFL preseason games are all about takeaways (the insightful variety, not fumbles). After flying high from their first two wins, the Patriots were brought back to earth by their underwhelming performance against the Lions. However, it will all be worth it if they can learn from these mistakes and make the appropriate corrections in time for the start of the regular season.
In addition to the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports. He also produces his own blog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.
You can follow Andrew on Twitter @historianandrew.
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