Lions host Patriots in all-important 3rd preseason game

Calvin Johnson back in lineup against Patriots

Headline Goes Here (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

Calvin Johnson celebrates a first quarter touchdown versus the Buffalo Bills

DETROIT - The Lions will welcome the New England Patriots to Ford Field Thursday night for the third game of the preseason.

Game three is considered the most important of the preseason contests because the starters play extended minutes to get used to the length of a regular-season game, but aren't yet resting up for the 17-week grind.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson announced that he would be returning to the field Thursday after missing last week's game in Cleveland. During week one Johnson recorded three catches for 58 yards.

New England had a recent injury scare of its own, after quarterback Tom Brady limped out of practice with a tweaked knee last week. Just a few days later, the veteran participated in the Patriots' 25-21 win over Tampa Bay Friday, so he should be good to go tonight in Detroit. Brady is a local favorite whenever he visits Ford Field because of playing his college career in Ann Arbor.

The Patriots are 2-0 so far this preseason and are coming off of an AFC Championship Game loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens and figure to be one of the top teams in the NFL again. Head Coach Bill Belichick has led New England to 10 straight double-digit win seasons.

Detroit is coming off of a 24-6 loss in which the offense mustered up only 217 yards. The lone bright spot was quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was 11/16 with 74 yards. Off-season signee Reggie Bush struggled to run the ball, gaining only 15 yards on eight carries, but had success in the receiving game catching five passes for 44 yards.

Fans should get a longer look at the Lions starters tonight against the Patriots when the teams kickoff at 7:30p.m. ET.

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