This is supposed to be the week where NFL teams open up the playbook, and we start to get a sense of their identity. The additions both the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers made over the offseason vastly improved their offense and defense, respectively, and is what carried both teams to victory on Thursday night.
Detroit Lions defeat New England Patriots, 40-9
Reggie Bush may have been a non-factor in the run game, finishing with just one yard on six carries -- but his ability as a receiver could be the difference maker for the Lions in 2013. Bush finished with 103 yards receiving on five catches. Most importantly, he led the team in receiving on a night that Calvin Johnson was unavailable. If Bush can do enough to take the pressure off Johnson, keeping him from being the Lions' sole offensive receiving threat, it will work wonders for the team as a whole.
The New England Patriots played without Danny Amendola, who missed Thursday's game due to injury. The lack of offensive weapons really showed as the offense scored just one touchdown, that coming late in the 4th quarter. The player to watch here is Kenbrell Thompkins, who could be the Patriots' next gem at receiver. He finished with 116 yards, but that might not be enough for a team that needs multiple pass catchers.
Some of these issues will be sorted out when Amendola and Rob Gronkowski return, but the lack of a running game will concern Bill Belichick. No back was able to make an impact for the Patriots and this could become a problem if the ground game has to become the focus while receivers get healthy.
Carolina Panthers defeat Baltimore Ravens, 34-27
The identity of the Carolina Panthers since Cam Newton arrived in the league has been to lean everything on the young quarterback, and hope that he is enough to carry them though. Thursday showed that 2013 might be the first year where Newton can struggle, but has the support from the rest of the team if needed. Adding two defensive tackles turned the tide of the Panthers defense, allowing Luke Kuechly to become more of a playmaker from the middle linebacker position. He finished Thursday's game with 7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 1 interception -- all a product of having room to move.
Joe Flacco played mistake-prone football, which led to an offensive collapse by the Ravens. Baltimore was able to get yards, but continually destroyed good drives with bad turnovers. This team has lost some of its big-play ability with the trade of Anquan Boldin, and can't afford to give the ball away.
Ray Rice hasn't found his legs yet, but this isn't a huge concern. The Ravens have kept him from getting many catches in the backfield, which is almost as important as his running ability. Chalk this up to preseason protectiveness for now.