Julian Edelman, who led the team in receptions and yards receiving last year, limped off the field with an injured right knee early in New England's 30-28 victory over the Detroit Lions on Friday night.
The preseason victory may have been costly.
Edelman was injured as he was tackled by safety Tavon Wilson, a former teammate, after having three receptions for 52 yards in a four-play stretch. He was evaluated in a blue tent behind his team's bench briefly before being taken to the locker room on a cart and getting ruled out for the game.
Edelman was hurt on the opening possession that ended with Tom Brady throwing his first of two touchdown passes to Chris Hogan in a 30-28 victory over the Detroit Lions on Friday night.
"We've got great chemistry together, and he's an incredible player," Brady said. "But someone will have to step up."
Brady was 12 of 15 for 174 yards with two TDs and an interception. He helped New England take a 24-0 lead late in the first quarter and the 40-year-old, five-time Super Bowl champion was in midseason form.
"He's as good as they come," Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said. "He gets the ball out quickly. He makes good decision. He's an unusual guy. There hasn't been anybody who has stopped him since he has been in this league."
After Detroit receiver Golden Tate lost a fumble on his team's first snap and the Lions were called for five penalties in the first quarter, they rallied to make the score close.
Matthew Stafford threw a 23-yard TD pass to Marvin Jones late in the first half and an 18-yard pass to Dwayne Washington for another score early in the third against New England's backups. He finished 15 of 22 for 190 yards, two TDs and an interception that he threw into traffic over the middle.
"That's on me," Stafford said. "I can't make that decision."
Jake Rudock, Detroit's backup quarterback, connected with Jared Abbrederis for an 11-yard score late in the third and led another drive that ended with Washington's 1-yard run to put the Lions up 28-24 midway through the fourth.
Jimmy Garoppolo set up Stephen Gostkowski's 25-yard field goal to pull New England within a point with 3:41 left. After the Patriots defense forced Detroit to punt, their backup QB put Gostkowski in a position to make a go-ahead, 45-yard kick with 2 seconds to go.
"We did some good things, but there's still a long way to go," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "We have to grind out these last two weeks."
The Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 7, opening night of the NFL season.
The Patriots went into regular season, or playoff mode, by using their no-huddle offense at times with Brady and Garoppolo.
"It's always tough to run that on the road, so we want to get some snaps in," Belichick said.
Lions running back Ameer Abdullah had 60 yards rushing on 13 carries and three receptions for 39 yards. In three preseason games, he has run for 78 yards on 18 attempts and caught five passes for 58 yards to provide the team with some hope after he was limited to two games last year because of a foot injury.
"You can see he's got his quickness and elusiveness back," Caldwell said. "We're pleased with where he is."
Patriots: If Edelman has to miss any games during the regular season, New England may lean on players such as Hogan and Danny Amendola to fill his role as a slippery receiver in the slot. Edelman led the Patriots with 98 receptions and 1,106 yards receiving last season and was a key player during their championship run.
Lions: TE Cole Wick, getting a chance to play a lot with Eric Ebron out with a hamstring injury, left the game with a chest injury and LB Tahir Whitehead went out with a knee injury. RB Theo Riddick, coming off wrist surgery, made his preseason debut. He didn't gain a yard on one carry.
"It was good to get him in there and moving around a bit," Caldwell said.