The New England Patriots led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13-7 at the half. They scored a field goal to take a 16-7 lead early in the third quarter. The Buccaneers scored right before the two-minute warning to pull within 16-14. New England recovered the onside kick and kicked a field goal for a 19-14 lead.
The Buccaneers drove back in the final seconds, but the Patriots broke it up in the end zone and managed to hold on and move to 3-2 on the season.
There isn’t much to write about the second half. The Buccaneers missed a pair of field goals. Tom Brady lost a fumble in another weak showing by the offensive line. The officials were an absolute pain the entire night as they called penalty after penalty after penalty, and they should have called intentional grounding on Jameis Winston in the end zone
Here’s what we learned.
The Patriots defense has its best game
The Patriots didn’t allow a third down conversion to the Buccaneers until 44 minutes into the game. They allowed a crucial conversion to Desean Jackson on third-and-15, but Jackson made an incredible play over Jonathan Jones by the sideline. But after allowing an average of 32 points for the first four weeks of the season, a 14 point game is a huge improvement.
Patrick Chung and Stephon Gilmore had great outings
Chung and Gilmore have struggled more than other members of the secondary, but they had their best games of the season. Malcolm Butler had a strong game, too. But Chung recorded three passes defended and Gilmore generally trailed All Pro receiver Mike Evans around the field, limiting the receiver to 5 catches for 49 yards. We can wait for the film review, but my first impression was that the secondary had an excellent day against a strong group of receivers.
The Patriots offensive line was really bad
The Buccaneers had just one sack all year, but the New England offensive line managed to give up three sacks and a forced fumble. Nate Solder looked bad, with color commentator Tony Romo saying the tackle doesn’t look healthy. Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason were far from perfect in pass protection, too.
Brady was sacked 15 times the entire 2016 regular season (12 games). He has been sacked 16 times in 2017 through just five games.
The bright side is that Mike Gillislee and Dion Lewis combined for 105 yards on 19 carries (5.53 yards per carry). Gillislee is still thisclose to breaking out for a big run.
Tom Brady and the offense brought out the short ball playbook
Brady kept his deep ball in his pocket for most of the game, especially with Rob Gronkowski sidelined, and instead dinked-and-dunked his way down the field. He connected with Danny Amendola on all 8 targets for 77 yards, and Chris Hogan collected another 8 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. Brandin Cooks grabbed 5 catches for 85 yards and James White made 7 catches for 57 yards.
While the Patriots still struggled inside the 10-yard line (they can’t keep settling for field goals!), the absence of Gronkowski can’t be overlooked.
Also, Brady threw a boneheaded interception and wasn’t feeling the Buccaneers pass rush as well as he normally does.
Nick Folk is the player of the game
The Buccaneers kicked missed three field goals. Woof.
This was the the second-most penalized game of the season
The Patriots were penalized 12 times for 108 yards. The Buccaneers were penalized 9 times for 70 yards. Those 21 combined penalties are tied for the second-most in the league this year. The Cardinals and 49ers were penalized 23 times, the Patriots and Chiefs were penalized 21 times in the season opener, as were the Steelers-Vikings, Colts-Browns, and Chiefs-Chargers.
The Patriots have a long break before traveling to face the Jets in New York in week 6.