DETROIT -- The Patriots have adhered to a certain credo over the years when it comes to toughness: run the ball; stop the run; cover kicks.
That still holds.
"Certainly," said Matthew Slater. "I think that is a great way to gauge a team's toughness, and we've gotta do all those things better."
The Patriots went into Sunday ranked 25th in the NFL in yards per carry (3.7) and yards per carry allowed (4.7). When the Lions finished off their win on Sunday night, 26-10, the Patriots had established that they were rife with running game flaws -- on both sides of the ball.
Sony Michel, the team's leading rusher in Detroit, ran for 50 yards on 14 carries -- an average of 3.6 yards per attempt. James White picked up 37 yards on four carries, but most of that came late in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach.
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James Develin, one of the perennial embodiments of toughness on the roster, was asked if three games was too soon to try to determine a team's toughness.
"We'll see," he said. "We're only as good as we've put on film these past three weeks. We'll definitely get back to work and improve those things. We know it and we gotta go out there and prove it."
Develin added: "I always think this is a tough team. Absolutely. It's just the way we're built. We haven't exactly shown all we have these past few weeks but we know we have it in us. We just gotta go out there and do it."
Defensively, Bill Belichick's defense saw its yards-per-carry-allowed number rise as it gave up 159 yards on 33 attempts -- an average of 4.8 yards. The defensive line had trouble holding its ground all night, and there were myriad missed tackles that helped the Lions churn out yardage.
Rookie runner Kerryon Johnson finished with 101 yards on 16 carries, giving the Lions their first 100-yard rusher since Thanksgiving of 2013 when Reggie Bush did it. That's a drought of 70 games, the fourth-longest drought in NFL history, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
When Slater was asked what he thought of his team's toughness level, his answer was telling.
"To be determined," he said. "We've hit some adversity here now. It's fine and dandy when things are going well. Everybody can get up and go to work and go about their lives when things are going well. But when adversity hits you find out about the char of someone and how they respond. I think we're going to find out a lot about who we are in the coming days."