Patriots vs. Buccaneers: Fan Notes from Preseason Week 3

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 24: Tight end Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots loses his helmet after a touchdown catch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in a pre-season game August 24, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. The Bucs won 30 - 28. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

First off, I should apologize for the lateness of this post. The third week of the preseason is long gone by this point and, much like the Jets offense, I didn't really show up in time. The bottom line is this weekend completely got away from me as I attended more local fairs than I care to admit and succeeded in adding Spam to Oreos, Twinkies, bacon, Snickers, jelly donuts, and ice cream on my list of things that taste even more delicious when deep fried.

But I digress. Friday night saw the Patriots play the Buccaneers, and while it wasn't an overly exciting or pretty game, it wasn't all bad either. Yes, the offense wasn't great, but is anyone here really worried about Tom Brady scoring points? And yes, the offensive line continued to struggle, but do people really think that this is magically the year when Dante Scarnecchia finally has five guys he can't transform into a cohesive unit? In the words of club bouncers everywhere when they see me approaching, you can just go head and take your business elsewhere.

While it wasn't perfect, it was certainly one of those games that Bill Belichick loves to call "coachable" and gave the front office some great talking points going into this final week of the preseason. Plus, other than that one awful drive in the first quarter, the defense looked pretty solid.

More observations after the jump.

  • It's a little embarrassing how excited I was at the start of this one. I mean it's Friday night, one of the last gorgeous weekends of summer, and I'm inside hunched in front of my computer salivating at a streaming online video like a teenage boy whose parents are out for the night and forgot to put the parental lock on the internet. Oh well. No use trying to fix it now.
  • Good Lord Chandler Jones has long arms. A funny anaolgy escapes me at the moment, but I have all season to think of one. I'll get there, I promise.
  • Jermaine Cunningham has been getting a lot of looks as the 3rd down pass rusher. I'm not sure whether they are looking for him to eat up blockers or crash in off the edge, but the coaching staff clearly has faith in him.
  • Doug Martin's nickname at Boise State was apparently "The Muscle Hamster." I'm not sure whether I'd take that as a compliment or an insult if I were him.
  • Boy that opening Tampa Bay drive looked familiar. I can't quite recall where I saw it before...a team just marching right down the field and scoring on the Patriots defense...but I know I've seen it somewhere.
  • Putting Devin McCourty back there instead of Jeff Demps for New England's first kick return is vintage Bill Belichick; he knew what everyone is looking to see and he didn't give it to them. He did the exact same thing with Corey Dillon's first game against Indianapolis back in 2004 and he's doing it again here.
  • Was anybody else absolutely terrified right before Tom Brady's first drive? Just panicked to death that he was going to get hurt or something?
  • I'd use the ol' "it's preseason for the announcers, too" in regards to Randy Cross and Don Criqui‘s commentating Friday night - but that kind of blubbering buffoonery is pretty par for the course for those two. Didn't know who had the ball, where the first down markers were, what anyone's name was, or which way they were supposed to be facing when the camera was on them. Absolutely love those guys.
  • For example: Who the hell is Nate Eeber? And who the hell is Justin Edelman?
  • While I personally don't know who Nate Eeber is, I do know that Nate Ebner saw first team snaps at safety, and he actually had a pretty good game.
  • I should admit, though: one of the reasons I love Criqui and Cross so much is because I invented a drinking game that revolves around them making a mistake. Needless to say, it's a game that I won. Several times.
  • Does anyone else laugh every single time one of the linemen pats Danny Woodhead on the head after a good play? If only his name was Rusty.
  • Once again, Donald Thomas has a great game. He may start before the season is out.
  • If Nate Ebner makes this team, how many Ebner jerseys will the Patriots Pro Shop sell this season? More importantly, how can I use my highly respected status as an Internet Blogger to get one for free?
  • Props to the Buccaneers fans for bringing it Friday night. It's great practice for New England as well, having to playcall in a hostile environment. Supporting their team and getting loud in a meaningless game is always great to see in a fan base.
  • The refs need to come back NOW. Too much is getting missed by these replacement refs all over the league. Again, usually I'd be all for it, but when the real refs do come back everything is going to change. Just a bad precedent to set.
  • Danny Woodhead has a pretty rockin' farmer's tan.
  • Did the Buccaneers' offense make any plays at all that weren't to Doug Martin or Vincent Jackson in the first quarter?
  • Ron Brace lined up right next to Vince Wilfork early and often. He was pretty disruptive and, as he always been, highly effective against the run. Brace has always been difficult to move, and anyone who wants to take the time to do a YouTube search for some of his highlights will see very good lateral movement and an ability to collapse running lanes. He isn't very fast, as evidenced by his slowness chasing Josh Freeman down in the backfield in pursuit, But he consistently forces runners away from him and I think he has a chance to be effective as a 1st and 2nd down lineman.
  • How pissed off was Tommy B after he threw that pick six? Hoo boy. Lucky for him he's still cute when he's mad.
  • You know what worries me most about the offensive line? The fact that I'm still not even remotely worried about the offensive line. And the fact that I'm not worried really worries me. I worry about everything. But I just don't think that they are going to have any problems come September.
  • Good for Ronde Barber still playing after all these years; I feel like I've been hearing his name ever since I started watching football in 1986.
  • More good blocking from Eric Kettani. I think that if the Patriots do decide to keep a fullback, it will be Kettani over Spencer Larsen.
  • I'm very much looking forward to seeing Chandler Jones's career unfold. Right now he's making plays off instinct and raw athleticism; with some coaching up, he's going to be a monster.
  • How many kickers do the Buccaneers have on their roster? 10?
  • Beautiful throw on that Brady to Gronk TD pass. Gronkowski was pretty well covered, but Brady's accuracy combined with Gronk's massive paws makes that play happen.
  • But was that play good enough for Tommy B? Nope. He just went straight to the bench and kept on stewing.
  • Jeff Demps can absolutely fly. Made a great cut on that 29 yard run and he was gone. Really excited for him to develop further.
  • Jeff Demps is also always smiling. Reminds me of Hines Ward in that respect.
  • Some great scrambling by Mallett on that final TD drive. He's still not very mobile, though.
  • I mentioned last week that I had the most faith in Ihedigbo to make the team, and he was pretty much the only one of the three to see the field on special teams. I don't think Will Allen saw any time at safety, losing reps to Nate Ebner, and we saw Marquice Cole much more than we did Allen. I don't recall seeing Sergio Brown at all.
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