FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s not the Buffalo Bills nor the Kansas City Chiefs.
Shockingly, it’s the Detroit Lions.
Yes, the Lions rank first in points and yards through four games this season with an average of 35.0 points and 436 yards, respectively. No quarterback has thrown more passing touchdowns than Jared Goff (11) while the complement of D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams have compiled the best yards-per-rush average (5.9) and second-most rushing touchdowns.
Goff and company might have surprised football fans with their success at the quarter pole, but it’s not lost on New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
“Offensively, kind of the numbers speak for themselves,” Belichick said Wednesday before practice. “Those guys are very explosive. There’s a lot of big plays. They can run it and throw it. They have good backs. Obviously, a great tight end, (T.J.) Hockenson. They have good core receivers. It’s an explosive group of players. Goff does a good job at spreading the ball around.”
The success has started up front with 2021 first-round offensive tackle Penei Sewell, 2018 first-round center Frank Ragnow and 2016 first-round tackle Taylor Decker. That offensive front has caused defenses to fear the running game, which ranks sixth in rushing yards and 10th in attempts, all while then translating to Goff’s success under center and in play-action.
“They do a number of things well,” Belichick said. “They use an extra offensive lineman probably as much as any team in the league. Their backs are good. They run a lot of gap schemes. They marry up the runs and play-actions well. So, if we stop the run, it’s hard to stop the play-action. They do a good job at marrying those together. They do a good job at hitting across the board the width of the running game. Outside, there are a lot of off-tackles plays. Inside, there are cut-back plays. Things like that.
“They have a good scheme with a good, balanced attack,” Belichick continued. “They set it up so that if you’re stopping one thing, you can’t stop the complimentary play that goes with it, whether it’s a complimentary run or complimentary pass. They execute well.”
It’s fair to note Detroit has played some below average defenses. The Washington Commanders and Seattle Seahawks rank 29th and 31th, respectively, in points allowed this season.
The Lions have been hindered by both their defense, which ranks dead last in points and yards allowed, along with a number of injuries to offensive players. Detroit wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle) missed the team’s Week 4 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, as did fellow wideout DJ Chark (ankle) and Swift (shoulder/ankle). All three players appeared on the Lions’ injury report Wednesday after not practicing.
The Patriots enter Week 5 with some injuries of their own, though. Quarterback Mac Jones reportedly is unlikely to play with second-stringer Brian Hoyer ruled to have a concussion, as announced by the team on Wednesday’s injury report. Nevertheless, the Patriots remain three-point home favorites ahead of Sunday’s clash.