The Patriots shut down T.J. Hockenson, and shut out the Lions
Bill Belichick did his typical thing to try to take away T.J. Hockenson on Sunday, and the Patriots shutting out the Lions followed in kind.
Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson had literally one of the 10 greatest games had by a tight end in NFL history in Week 4 against the Seattle Seahawks. It was quite a rebound after a slow start to the season, and a re-establishment of himself as a prominent weapon in the Detroit offense.
One of Bill Belichick’s things is taking away an opponent’s best offensive weapon, and letting others beat him if they can. On Sunday against the Lions, with Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle) active but limited and D’Andre Swift (ankle/shoulder) out again, Hockenson was lined up to be the clear priority for the Patriots’ defense to neutralize.
That potential plan came to real-life fruition, as the Lions were shut out 29-0 on Sunday with 312 total offensive yards.
Patriots shut down T.J. Hockenson, and shutting out the Lions too easily followed
Hockenson finished Sunday’s game with just one catch for six yards, on four targets. And it was not a matter of lack of broader involvement, with 32 routes run on 56 snaps according to Pro Football Focus.
But the Patriots chipped, chucked and doubled Hockenson regularly, while throwing a mix of different defenders at him. The effectiveness of their pass rush made Hockenson a blocker more frequently too, and blocking is not his strong suit.
Per Lions Wire, Hockenson talked about the Patriots’ plan against him after the game.
"For me even to get out on a route was tough, because their ends were just not too worried about the rush and they were hammering me and it was just one of those things,” We were ready, but it was definitely different for sure.”"
With St. Brown playing very limited snaps and Josh Reynolds hobbled by his own ankle injury at times and Jared Goff clearly again flustered by a Belichick-run defense, the Lions simply lacked a good counter move to the Patriots taking away Hockenson.
New England certainly didn’t necessarily expect to totally shut down what had been the league’s highest-scoring offense. But making Hockenson’s life hard was a big step toward stifling the Lions, and it went as well as possible in pitching a shutout.