The Patriots pulled off a close win when they beat the Buccaneers 19-14 on the road on Thursday Night Football. It wasn’t pretty, but they showed that they made adjustments they didn’t make in previous games, leading them to a victory.
After a shocking loss against the Panthers at home in Week 4, the Pats looked to bounce back on a short week against the Bucs. Before the game, it was revealed that CB Eric Rowe and DL Alan Branch would be inactive, taking away a couple of key players on that already thin Patriots defense. The Bucs had a couple of players in their secondary listed on the inactive report also, thinning up that part of their defense. But the biggest inactive player listed was Rob Gronkowski, who was out with a thigh injury. Knowing his history of prolonged and pretty serious injuries, the Pats weren’t going to take the chance in start him on a short week. So Brady had the luxury of playing against a depleted Bucs secondary, but was missing his biggest target. However, he’s dealt with this sort of situation pretty well in the past, and it continued for the most part on Thursday night.
The Pats’ first half was a bit sloppy on the offensive side of the ball. It started with Tom Brady‘s first interception of the season that missed a wide open Chris Hogan on their first drive of the game. Then later on, he had Brandin Cooks for a first down, but the ball was dropped resulting in a 3 and out for the offense. Later they started a drive on their own 2-yard line, but Brady being Brady charged 89 yards down the field, with the drive ending with a field goal. We then got a sniff of that frustrating Pats defense as their rush defense just couldn’t make a play on Doug Martin or any of the featured backs. With the help of a couple of penalties on the Pats, the Bucs were able to score a TD on a rush from Martin.
After that, both sides of the ball seem to settle in. Brady threw a TD to Hogan the next drive and the defense was doing enough to keep Jameis Winston from burning them. Probably the biggest issue, overall and in this half, was that the Pats could not finish a big drive. Instead of possibly getting 21 points, they had to settle for 13, which probably had a hand in how the rest of the game was conducted. It would just all of a sudden shut down once they reached the red zone. The loss of Gronk could’ve possibly contributed to that as he was the guy that helped move the chains. The Bucs couldn’t really move the ball after Martin’s TD and they thought they had something going in the final seconds of the half, but ended with Nick Folk missing a 56-yard field goal. Brady ended the half with almost 200 yards through the air, 1 TD and 1 interception. Not a typical half for him in comparison to what he’s usually had this season, but was enough to help them go into the locker room with a lead.
I think one thing that made this game so close, and probably prevented the Pats from extending their drives in the second half, was the play of their offensive line. In terms of this season it’s been pretty bad, allowing already more sacks than they allowed in all of last year. The O-line didn’t have much success this game either, allowing 3 sacks and a crucial fumble. After forcing Winston to make bad throws for most of the game, the Pats D seemed to tire out in the 4th quarter. The run defense had a hard time mustering up anything on their end and guys like DeSean Jackson for the Bucs, were finally breaking through with big plays. The Pats offense just kept stalling and stalling, giving the Bucs a chance to come back in this game. Although Jameis Winston threw for 300+ yards and a TD, he seems quite erratic and bailed out the Pats D at times. As I mentioned earlier, he was forced to throw on the run and he had trouble consistently throwing it accurately, which hurt the team in the long run. But the biggest factor in the Pats win was Nick Folk. He missed a 49-yard field goal in the beginning of the 4th quarter and missed 31-yard cheap shot. All of them were way off, which put a damper on his confidence and the team’s rhythm.
I like the effort the Pats D showed in this game. The tackling for the most part was better and they didn’t allow Winston to pick them apart. I didn’t like the fact that they gave the Bucs a chance to comeback with less than a minute left and no timeouts to come back with two very idiotic roughing the passer penalties. I don’t know what Belichick would’ve done if they ended up losing it on a last second touchdown. I also liked that Brady seemed to have simplified the offense for the most part, making it easier for guys to make plays and move the football across the field. The Pats now travel to face the Jets on the road, who have won 3 straight since getting killed by Raiders in Week 2 and that have looked better than most have expected.