DETROIT – The Lions' offense has one more chance to get going during the preseason.
The starters played seven series in Detroit's first two exhibition games — a win over the Jets and a loss in Cleveland — and managed only a pair of field goals. They won't get much playing time in the fourth preseason game, so Thursday's meeting with the New England Patriots is it.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford isn't too concerned because of the offense's play in practice.
"Offense is about execution, and we just haven't done that as well as we needed during the games," he said. "But I'm really pleased with where we are as an offense. We had a great offseason off the field, bringing in new guys, and now we've had a great offseason on the field. We've got a lot of guys who have worked very hard and stepped up their games this year."
Nate Burleson, still working his way back to full strength after last season's broken leg, knows that the Lions need to find a second receiver to take some of the pressure off Calvin Johnson. The offense ground to a halt with Johnson out in Cleveland.
"This game is the biggest indication of how your starters are going to perform, and we haven't done that yet," he said. "We need to get going and build some momentum going into the regular season."
Coach Jim Schwartz recalled that when he was an assistant in Tennessee, the Colts would seemingly go 0-4 every preseason "and have an offense that couldn't gain a yard."
"And then every year, Peyton (Manning) would come out firing, and they'd have the No. 1 offense in the NFL," he said. "The most important thing is to see how the unknowns fit into your system. Last week, we got a chance to work Reggie Bush into our passing game, and that went well."
Still, the Lions can't help but want to compare themselves against the Patriots and Tom Brady, who safety Louis Delmas called "the closest thing we have to God on the football field."
"You watch him, and you know that is the level that every quarterback wants to reach," Stafford said. "You find yourself wanting to match what he does."
Brady has played four series in the first two preseason games combined, hitting 18 of his 20 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Coach Bill Belichick was his usual cagey self this week, not giving any hint as to how much Brady might play or how much importance he places on the third preseason game.
"Nothing is going to simulate what happens on opening day. That's a different feeling than any of these games," Brady said. "But this is an important game, because it is an important step in the process to find out where we are as a team."