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O'HARA: Notable developments from Lions' third preseason game

Next up in the hearts and minds – and game plan – for the Detroit Lions ... the Arizona Cardinals on opening day of the regular season.

That was the question for Matthew Stafford after Friday night's 30-28 loss to the New England Patriots in Game 3 of the preseason.

How soon does he start thinking about the Cardinals?

"We'll see," he said. "I'll let you know."

Stafford smiled as he answered, like he knew the answer – and knew that everybody else did too.

The final preseason game at Buffalo on Thursday night is still on the schedule, but the most notable development from Game 3 is the same almost every year. This is when established starters – especially quarterbacks – flip the switch and look ahead to playing games that count.

Most veterans don't play in Game 4.

Stafford won't forget about what happened in Friday night's loss, especially the first quarter when the offense misfired while the Patriots were building a 24-0 lead.

But it isn't something to dwell on or brood about. It's time to look forward, and that's the message Stafford was sending out in his postgame session with the media.

Did losing to the Patriots in Game 3 rattle his confidence for the regular season?

"No, I don't think so," he said. "They're working on stuff. We're working on stuff. It's preseason Game 3. You game plan for it. You want to go out there and execute the best way you can.

"Preseason is a tricky thing. You obviously want to go out and compete and play as well as you can. We've got to take it for what it is and go forward."

Other notable developments:

Run game: It made legitimate progress. In its heaviest workload of the preseason, Ameer Abdullah had 13 carries for 60 yards, and a 4.6-yard average per carry. Running behind the starting offensive line he was able to read his blocks and get some rhythm. He added three catches for 39 yards.

Dwayne Washington had seven carries for 15 yards, which isn't a great average (2.1 yards), but he blasted through a hole for a one-yard TD. He also had two catches for 25 yards, with one catch and run on a pass from Stafford going for 18 yards.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was persistent in calling running plays – 28 in all for 102 yards, not counting a 16-yard scramble by Jake Rudock.

Pass rush: There wasn't one. The Lions had no sacks and only three quarterback hits on 27 drop backs by Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo combined. Alex Barrett, an undrafted rookie from San Diego State, had one of the hits and continued to play well.

Ziggy Ansah can't return fast enough.

Jarrad Davis, growing pains: The New England Patriots are noted for being game-plan specific, which means they prepare specifically for every opponent on a week to week basis. When they find a weakness, they hammer it.

That might have been the reason rookie middle linebacker Jarrad Davis was victimized on some plays.

"Those are things that you learn," said head coach Jim Caldwell. "That's what preseason is for. I don't think anybody's ever said that he's going to be absolutely perfect. You're going to learn along the way."

Restraint: After catching a 23-yard pass for the Lions' first touchdown, Marvin Jones Jr. did a quick dance, but nothing like the Double Dutch a week ago with two teammates. Jones' TD Friday night cut the Patriots' lead to 24-7.

It wasn't the time to celebrate – even in the preseason.

Return game: The Buffalo game is likely to determine who wins the return job. Nobody has stood out. Jace Billingsley returned one punt for 18 yards against the Patriots. Jamal Agnew had two returns for a 5.0-yard average.

Tom Brady: From what I saw Friday night, why can't he play until he's 50? Gordie Howe did.

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