FOXBORO, Mass. — Bailey Zappe will get all the headlines this week, and deservedly so. But the Patriots defense was the top story in Sunday’s 29-0 win over the Lions.
Detroit entered Gillette Stadium with the NFL’s highest-scoring offense and left with zero points. New England forced two turnovers, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and held the Lions to 0-for-6 on fourth-down attempts. It was the Patriots’ first shutout win since Week 11 of last season against the Atlanta Falcons.
Still, Zappe was very good. The rookie fourth-rounder completed 17 of 21 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown to go along with an interception that wasn’t his fault. The Patriots also got excellent offensive performances from running back Rhamondre Stevenson (161 yards) and wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who returned from a two-game absence to post seven catches on eight targets for 111 yards and a touchdown.
On the other side, Jared Goff was, well, Jared Goff, completing 19 of 35 passes for 229 yards and an interception (plus a fumble) while playing like his usual, shaky self in the pocket. Jamaal Williams ran for 56 yards on 15 carries with starting running back D’Andre Swift out due to an injury.
The Patriots improved to 2-3 with the win while the Lions dropped to 1-4 with the loss.
Here are three studs and three duds for New England from its Week 5 victory:
LB Matthew Judon
New England’s best player was a menace again. Judon racked up three tackles and two sacks, one of which forced a fumble that resulted in a scoop-and-score by Kyle Dugger. The star edge-rusher now is the first player in Patriots history to register a sack in each of his first five games — beating Andre Tippett’s old record — and his six sacks are the most ever by a Patriots player through five games. Judon’s been excellent all season.
RB Rhamondre Stevenson
It’ll be interesting to find out how many broken tackles Stevenson had in this game — because it felt like a million. The second-year back was dynamic throughout, though he probably is kicking himself for not finding the end zone on his career-best 49-yard run in the first quarter. Stevenson finished with 161 yards on 25 carries to go along with two receptions for 14 yards. He could be in line for a larger workload if Damien Harris is forced to miss time with the hamstring injury that forced him from the game in the first half.
QB Bailey Zappe
What else can you say? Zappe hasn’t exactly slung it all over the field, but he’s played as well as you possibly could hope for as a third-string rookie quarterback. The freshman signal-caller looked ready for his first NFL start and handled everything the Patriots asked him to do. Yes, Zappe’s winning performance came against the worst defense in football, but you can’t take anything away from him.
Honorable mentions: Jack Jones, Christian Barmore, Jakobi Meyers, Kyle Dugger
WR Kendrick Bourne
Bourne played more than he has all season, but a pair of penalties in the first half might’ve landed him back in the doghouse. The second penalty, an illegal formation, prompted a sideline spat between Bourne and Bill Belichick — a video of which still hasn’t popped up on the internet. Bourne finished the game with one catch for one yard. With performances like this, it’s fair to wonder whether Bourne soon could lose playing time to rookie receiver Tyquan Thornton, who made his NFL debut Sunday and logged two catches.
WR Nelson Agholor
Agholor’s turnovers are beginning to become an issue. Already with two fumbles on the season, Agholor shoulders all the blame for Zappe’s second-quarter interception, which should’ve been a big completion. He, too, could lose playing time to Thornton if he doesn’t start to turn things around. Agholor, who finished with zero catches, also suffered a hamstring injury during the game.
You basically can count on two bad plays per game from this group, which has been among the worst in the NFL this season. And, well, it happened again. The first miscue was the most egregious, with the Patriots allowing Lions receiver Maurice Alexander to scamper 47 yards on a kickoff return (Mack Wilson appeared to be at fault with a blown contain). Later in the first half, a Josh Uche holding penalty negated a decent punt return from Marcus Jones. The Patriots need to get things figured out on special teams, and in a hurry.
Honorable mentions: Mack Wilson, Isaiah Wynn, Ja’Whaun Bentley