Well, it sure looked better than last week, didn't it?
With a dominating 23-3 victory over the Tampa Buccaneers today, the New England Patriots advanced to 3-0 on the season. It wasn't perfect, but it was a thorough victory over a team that is a lot better than their record indicates.
Things started much like they ended in week two. The Patriots struggled to convert third downs, couldn't sustain drives, and the defense continued to bail them out.
But something clicked midway through the second quarter, and the offense finally got the chains moving. The Patriots mounted a grind-it-out drive that went 66 yards in 11 plays and was capped off by a Tom Brady to Kenbrell Thompkins 16 yard touchdown.
Shortly before the half, the Patriots tacked another six on the board via another Brady to Thompkins touchdown strike.
The offense certainly missed some opportunities in the second half, including a bad looking end zone interception from Tom Brady. But they also continued to move the ball, and they finally established some consistency on the ground (led by LeGarrette Blount and one long run from Brandon Bolden). The pass protection wasn't perfect, and Tom Brady wasn't great, but overall, a bounceback game for the offense. The team's rookie receivers, Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, also both performed well. Dobson in particular was improved over last week, and showed an ability to help move the chains.
Of course, it was the defense than truly shined yet again. As a unit, they have allowed 27 points over three games to start the season. The rush defense was solid. Doug Martin managed 88 yards on 20 carries, but had to work very hard for each yard, and didn't pick up more than 11 yards on any single carry.
The Buccaneers had some success with one-on-one match-up's on the outside early against Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard, but the pass rush had some success and the secondary settled down. Cornerback Aqib Talib had a very strong performance, holding Vincent Jackson to just 34 yards on three catches and also intercepting a pass late in the first half that led to three points.
We still don't know all we will know about this Patriots team. But through three weeks, they've found different ways to win and they currently sit at 3-0. Today's performance against the Buccaneers was far from perfect, but it was the best performance we've seen from New England this year. The Patriots will face their toughest test yet in week four, as they face the Atlanta Falcons.