The New England Patriots' starters turned in a mostly dominant performance in Friday night’s preseason game against the Detroit Lions, although there was a potentially ominous cloud over the proceedings because receiver Julian Edelman injured his right knee two minutes into the game and was carted to the locker room.
Edelman planted hard on his right foot while running after the catch, and as he lunged forward, he immediately reached for the side and then the back of his knee.
Quarterback Tom Brady’s concern was evident as he entered the medical tent along the Ford Field sideline to check on Edelman, one of his closest friends.
Edelman didn’t return to the game. The Pats fear Edelman tore his ACL, but the team doesn't know for sure, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, who said an MRI is scheduled for Saturday.
As for his value to the Patriots, it is well-documented.
Over the past four seasons, Edelman has averaged 9.8, 9.7, 9.3 and 9.3 targets per game. Last season, his average of 9.8 targets per game ranked fourth in the NFL. Still, the Patriots are loaded on offense and have the weapons to overcome a potential long-term injury situation with the 31-year-old Edelman.
Some thoughts and notes from the game, as the Patriots led 24-7 at the half before the Lions came back after intermission to take the lead against New England's backups before the Patriots pulled out a 30-28 victory on Stephen Gostkowski's 45-yard field goal with 6 seconds to play:
Hogan leads Patriots WR corps: With Edelman out of the game, the Patriots had Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola as their top three receivers. Hogan was one of the game’s stars, with four catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Earlier this week, tight end Dwayne Allen referred to Hogan as “Mr. Perfect," and Hogan continued his strong preseason in this game. Perhaps the only blemish came late in the second quarter, when Brady was intercepted on a long pass in the end zone on a play in which Hogan appeared to stop running his route because he might have thought the play was over.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Patriots looked ...: Mostly dominant and ready for the regular-season opener Sept. 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The expectation is that most of the team’s top players will be kept out of the preseason finale Aug. 31 against the New York Giants, so the next time they’ll take the field is when the games count for real. The starters enter the regular season mostly on a high note, with the lone quibble coming late in the second quarter as both units didn't finish strong: an interception on offense, and allowing a late touchdown on D.
Butler rebounds to lead physical secondary: Cornerback Malcolm Butler was upset with his performance in the team’s preseason loss to the Houston Texans, in which he gave up a long pass play and later a short touchdown, and he rebounded in a big way by punching the football loose on the Lions’ first offensive play from scrimmage (the Patriots recovered and turned it into a quick touchdown). He also deflected a pass that was intercepted by fellow cornerback Eric Rowe. Fellow starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore, whose physical style is hard to miss, also had a pass breakup, as did Rowe. Meanwhile, safety Patrick Chung had a big hit that jarred tight end Cole Wick. Overall, outside of letting up a touchdown late in the second quarter (Butler was in coverage), this was an impressive, physical, ball-hawking effort from the top secondary.
Gillislee gets his feet wet: In the preseason, running backs coach Ivan Fears talked about how the Patriots needed someone to play power football for the team to replace LeGarrette Blount. For the first time this preseason, Mike Gillislee stated his case to be the top option for that role, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run and also converting a third-and-1 in the second quarter. Fullback James Develin’s hard-charging lead blocking was a big part of his success. Gillislee also had a 27-yard run and finished with 38 yards on eight carries.
Players who didn’t suit up: Special-teams captain Matthew Slater; receiver Malcolm Mitchell; running back Rex Burkhead; core special-teamers Brandon King and Nate Ebner; defensive end Keionta Davis; linebackers Elandon Roberts, Dont'a Hightower and Shea McClellin; guard Jamil Douglas; offensive tackles LaAdrian Waddle and Nate Solder; tight end Matt Lengel; defensive ends Deatrich Wise Jr. and Geneo Grissom weren’t in uniform.
Rookie watch: Undrafted free-agent defensive lineman Adam Butler is making a push for a spot on the 53-man roster. He showed up early in the game by playing with good strength and creating disruption on a running play. In the days leading up to the game, coach Bill Belichick said of the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Butler, “He has a good frame. He’s tall. He has the frame to put on weight. Some of the weight that he had wasn’t quality weight. Right now he’s just competing to make the team and see how all of that works out.” ... In addition, undrafted linebacker Harvey Langi had a big hit on special teams early in the game as he continues to get a long look from the coaching staff.