DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions put up a lot of points in beating the New England Patriots on Thursday night.
But most of the talk afterward was about the suddenly stout Lions defense that forced four first-half turnovers en route to a 40-9 victory.
"That's a Hall of Fame quarterback, and we flustered him a little bit," Detroit wide receiver Nate Burleson said about Tom Brady, who threw his first interception of the preseason and led New England to only three points despite playing the entire first half.
The Patriots' first-team offense, which looked to be in midseason form in its first two exhibition games, was in preseason form Thursday at Ford Field.
Tight end Zach Sudfeld and running backs Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen lost fumbles and Brady was picked off in four of New England's first five possessions. The other possession was a three-and-out that ended with Zoltan Mesko's punt.
"The defense set a standard today. We can be one of the better defenses (in the league) if we keep working," said Louis Delmas, the oft-injured safety who returned after missing much of the preseason while recovering from a knee injury. He recovered Sudfeld's fumble on the game's first drive.
Brady played four series in the first two preseason games combined, completing 18 of his 20 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns in two victories. But in a half of work in Detroit, he was 16 of 24 for 185 yards and the second-quarter interception by Detroit cornerback Chris Houston.
"We didn't do anything in the first half other than turn the ball over," Brady said.
Detroit starter Matthew Stafford also played the entire first half and helped lead Detroit's first team to a better showing than it had in its first two exhibition efforts.
The starters played seven series in those games — a win over the Jets and a loss in Cleveland — and managed only a pair of field goals.
They produced three more field goals from David Akers against the Patriots, but also added Stafford's 9-yard touchdown toss to a diving Tony Scheffler in the end zone that gave the Lions a 10-0 lead 2 minutes into the second quarter.
Akers' first field goal, a 23-yarder, was set up by a 67-yard catch and run by Reggie Bush, who was a big factor in the passing game.
Bush, the multi-purpose back brought in to provide a spark for Detroit this season, ran for only a single yard on six carries, but he had five catches for 103 yards.
Stafford finished 12 of 25 for 166 yards, but had to play again without his top target, Calvin Johnson.
The star wide receiver also missed last week's game in Cleveland, largely as a precaution. He has been bothered by a bruised knee.
Johnson, who caught three passes in Detroit's preseason opener Aug. 9 against New York, is expected to be ready to go once the regular season gets starts in two weeks.
"We were down a big playmaker in our offense tonight and our defense knew that, showed up and played great," Stafford said. "It's about the team, man."
Kellen Moore, who backed up Stafford in Shaun Hill's absence, led the Lions on a touchdown drive to open the second half, throwing a 22-yard scoring pass to tight end Joseph Fauria. That score, which gave the Lions a 23-3 lead, was sandwiched by Akers' field goals of 49 and 47 yards.
Hill sat out the game to rest as he did this week in practice.
Moore threw another TD pass, a 15-yarder, to wideout Micheal Spurlock in the fourth quarter.
Another of Detroit's key free-agent signings, defensive end Jason Jones, had a big game for the Lions, sacking Brady twice and recovering a fumble.
Fellow linemen Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and first-round pick Ezekiel Ansah also made their presence felt, stuffing New England's ground game and pressuring Brady throughout the first half.
"Those guys make my job easy," Detroit linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. "They disrupt everything."
Ryan Mallett directed the Patriots for the entire second half with New England's coaches opting not to play third-stringer Tim Tebow. A contingent of fans at the game broke into a "We want Tebow!" chant.
The former Heisman Trophy winner has passed poorly but run well in the preseason and is not considered a lock to make the team.
Asked why he only played two quarterbacks, Patriots coach Bill Belichick responded with: "Because I only played two quarterbacks."
Both teams need to get down to the NFL-mandated 75 players by Tuesday. The Patriots finish the exhibition schedule Aug. 29 against the New York Giants, while the Lions play at Buffalo that evening. The final cut to 53 comes two days later.
NOTES: Detroit special teams ace Montell Owens fell to the turf without being touched during a second-quarter rushing attempt and had to be helped off the field after several minutes. He did not return. ... WR Kenbrell Thompkins led the Patriots in receiving with eight catches for 116 yards. ... Lions rookie punter Sam Martin had a 57-yard boot late in the first half that landed at the 5 before making an abrupt left turn and dribbling out of bounds inside the 1. ... A 9-yard pass from Mallett to RB James Develin accounted for New England's lone TD.
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