Patriots Outlast Bucs In Miserable Thursday Night Game
It was certainly anything but pretty, but the New England Patriots were able to do enough to slip past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-14 Thursday night.
No Folk Hero- Tampa Bay kicker Nick Folk had about as bad a night as possible, missing three field goals in the 5-point loss. In Folk's defense, one of the three missed kicks was a 56-yarder. He did miss a 49-yarder and a 31-yarder, however. Nailing those two make-able kicks would have netted his team the win.
Tommy's Taking Punches- All night long, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took an absolute beating from the Bucs defensive line. Brady was battered and bruised from the very start, as he was sacked three times and hit another six. With the hits adding up and Brady left with little time to get things done, he threw his first pick of the season and lost a fumble on a strip sack in the second half.
Blame It On The Line- With Brady getting ragdolled again and again by the otherwise lethargic Tampa Bay pass rush, a lot of the blame for the offense's struggles fall solely on the offensive line. The Bucs entered the game with just one total sack through the team's first three games. On Thursday, however, they abused the New England line and got after Brady. Both on the edge and along the interior of the line, the Pats were taken to the woodshed by Tampa Bay.
Still Putting Up Numbers- Even though Brady was under duress all night long, he still managed to put together a solid game with limited weapons. Playing without tight end and top target Rob Gronkowski, who was held out of the game with a thigh injury, Brady was able to complete 30 of 40 pass attempts for 303 yards. In doing so, he also tied Brett Favre and Peyton Manning atop the list of most regular season wins in league history with 186. He'll have a chance to become the league's all-time wins leader next week against New York.
Don't Spread The Wealth- Though he completed 30 passes, Brady connected with just five receivers on the game. With the exception of two completions to Dion Lewis, which were both dump offs that came late in the game, Brady set his sights on just four targets, Chris Hogan, James White Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks, for most of the night.
Flags All Over The Field- There were flags all over the field all night long, as the refs called a lot of penalties through the four quarters of action. In total, the two teams combined for 21 penalties for 178 yards. The Pats led the way with 12 penalties for 108 yards, which was one of the larger reasons why they were never able to pull away in a game that was begging for them to do so all night long.
Stepping Up On Short Notice- Though they played the game on short notice, just four days after their last game, the Patriot defense seemed to step up and rise to the occasion Thursday. While they still ended up giving up over 400 total yards of offense on the night, those numbers were a bit inflated by a prevent defense style the team employed down the stretch. For the most part the defense looked strong all night and seemed to get solid play from the secondary. Most notably, safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung played big roles in the passing game.
Perfect Night- While the Bucs watched their kicker blow the game, New England was able to see their kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, put together a perfect evening in Tampa Bay. On the night, Gostkowski nailed all five of his kicks, including four field goal attempts. He hit a long of 48 yards and, in many ways, was the difference in the win. While the team had multiple drives stall in the red zone, Gostkowski was able to at least put points on the board for the Pats and not leave the field empty handed.
The Pats still have plenty of work to do, as they look to defend their Super Bowl title. The team has plenty of room for growth on both sides of the ball, but they'll have a few extra days to recover and get some things straightened out before their next game. All in all, a win is always a good thing and the Pats are back over .500.