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BEN VOLIN I PATRIOTS INSTANT ANALYSIS

The offense was punchless, defense was feckless, and this was a horrid performance

Theo Riddick of the Lions ripped off a big gain before being forced out of bounds by the Patriots’ Elandon Roberts (52) and Stephon Gilmore.
Theo Riddick of the Lions ripped off a big gain before being forced out of bounds by the Patriots’ Elandon Roberts (52) and Stephon Gilmore.JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF

DETROIT — Instant Analysis from the Patriots’ 26-10 loss to the Lions:

■  It’s hard to know where to start with this horrid performance. The offense was punchless, with the offensive line getting blown off the ball, the receivers not creating separation, and Tom Brady looking skittish in the pocket. Brady threw a terrible interception, and the offense only gained 12 first downs, tied for the third fewest in the Brady-Bill Belichick era (three of them came in garbage time). The offense gained 209 yards. Let’s repeat that — 209 total yards.

And the defense was even worse, making Matthew Stafford look like Joe Montana and letting the Lions march up and down the field all night. The Patriots were outmanned on both sides of the ball and had no answers.

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This was one of their most feckless performances in a long time — their worst performance since the 2014 game in Kansas City. Even worse, Belichick and Brady usually respond well following a loss, but this time turned in their second consecutive dud. And now they have a 1-2 record for only the third time in their 19 years (2001, 2012).

■  For the second week in a row, the Patriots found themselves in a big hole and couldn’t climb out. Last week, it was 24-3 to Jacksonville. This time, it was 13-0 to Detroit, and 23-10 in the second half. This isn’t 2016 anymore — they don’t have the firepower to make these big comebacks. And the totality of Belichick’s controversial roster moves came home to roost on Sunday night. This team has few playmakers and poor depth on both sides of the ball.

■  I realize the defense was missing three starters, including two of its best players in Trey Flowers and Patrick Chung. But Sunday night’s game proved that the depth on this defense is still terrible. The Lions held the ball for 39:15 and had four drives that lasted at least 5:41. The Patriots didn’t force a punt until 9:26 remained in the fourth quarter, and the Lions scored points on five of their first seven drives (the Patriots were only saved by halftime and a timely interception by Ja’Whaun Bentley). First they let Blake Bortles chew them up, now Stafford. This is not a championship-caliber defense.

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■  The pass defense was bad enough — where was Duron Harmon on Marvin Jones’s 33-yard touchdown pass? — but the front seven was completely ineffective. The Lions averaged 4.8 yards per carry, with Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount combining for 149 yards. Johnson had 101 yards, becoming the Lions’ first 100-yard rusher since Thanksgiving 2013. Of course it was the Patriots’ defense that ended the streak.

And Deatrich Wise’s sack in the third quarter was their only QB hit of the game. They missed Flowers, but the front seven shouldn’t fall apart when he’s not in the game. They couldn’t lay a finger on Bortles last week, and couldn’t create any pressure on Stafford.

■  I’m starting to wonder if there’s something wrong physically with Dont’a Hightower. For the second straight week he looked slow and a step too late. They’re using him mostly as a linebacker this year, after using him more as a pass rusher last year. It might be time to go back to that.

■  Now let’s get to the offense, which also had one of its worst performances in recent memory. The Patriots maybe should’ve dressed Josh Gordon, because they had no playmaking ability on Sunday night. Rob Gronkowski had a tough time getting involved, catching just four passes for 51 yards. Phillip Dorsett was nonexistent, catching no passes. Chris Hogan, Rex Burkhead, James White, none of them could get any traction in the passing game. They badly need Julian Edelman back, but he might not be enough. After shedding Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, and Brandin Cooks this offseason, the Patriots haven’t done a great job of replacing them so far.

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■  Brady had one nice throw, a laser to White for a 10-yard touchdown, but otherwise looked off. He was late on some throws early over the middle. He didn’t gain a first down until late in the second quarter. In the second half, he resorted to chucking the ball downfield to Gronk in double coverage, or chucking it to no one for an intentional grounding penalty, or chucking it up to Dorsett in double coverage, and Darius Slay coming down with an easy interception. The Patriots had just four first downs in the first half.

This one reminded me of the Bengals game in 2013, a 13-6 Patriots loss where they just didn’t have any firepower on offense, and Brady didn’t have any answers.

Brady’s final numbers: 14 of 26, 133 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and a 65.0 passer rating. This might not be Brady’s best stable of weapons, but he didn’t help matters, either.

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■  Speaking of Lewis, the decision to let him walk and replace him with Sony Michel looked pretty glaring on Sunday night. Michel averaged 3.6 yards per carry, but had a lot of east-west runs and not enough north-south runs. He also had one catch for minus-1 yard, plus two drops. The Patriots thought they’d be getting a more explosive player when they drafted Michel 31st overall.

■  The offensive line was dreadful, too, consistently getting blown off the line of scrimmage by the Lions’ defensive front. Shaq Mason, who signed that big contract extension right before the season, got destroyed on a third and short and got his running back stuffed.


Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin