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Patriots vs. Buccaneers: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 19-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

New England Patriots v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

If there’s one thing the NFL does better than any other sports league on the planet, it’s completely sacrifice quality in favor of profit.

Yet another sloppy, boring, crappy Thursday Night Football game that featured low scoring, inaccurate quarterbacks, injuries, drops, and vastly simplified offensive and defensive gameplans as neither team had any time whatsoever to really install anything meaningful. And while I’m happy the Patriots walked away with the win, I’m honestly not sure how much we can really take away from last night’s 19-14 victory, positive or negative.

Except that I now have my weekend free to focus on the baseball playoffs, NHL hockey, and the NBA. October is the best month for sports and it’s not even close.

  • The biggest highlight of this game for me? That I no longer have to watch a Thursday Night Football game for the rest of the year. If I wake up from my Thanksgiving turkey coma and the Giants/Redskins game happens to be on, I’ll still be too stuffed to roll over and change the channel, so I may sort of look at that. But other than that, thank Tebow I don’t have to subject myself to this garbage anymore.
  • That said, if you’re going to pick a game to wear the ugliest white-on-white uniform combo I’ve seen since the Pittsburgh Steelers throwbacks, may as well do it in this game. Man is the NFL Color Rush absurd. Two teams in color rush uniforms on Thursday Night Football is the absolute epitome of the league putting profit over product.
  • Of course, this is 2017, which means that there’s a very large faction of America who was probably offended by New England’s choice of an all-white uniform and have since taken to social media to express their outrage over this savage injustice.
  • CBS paid tribute to one of the all-time great musicians, Tom Petty, by playing his songs on the crossovers. A great gesture, and something I would usually be all in on... but to see them use one of my favorite songs of all time, Free Fallin’, to describe the state of the Patriots defense cut me and cut deep.
  • Not only that, but Petty and Hugh Heffner passed away within a week of each other. Brutal. If you, like me, were a middle schooler in the early 90s, it was tough to find a better Friday night activity than blasting Tom Petty while trying everything you could possibly think of to get the scrambled Playboy Channel to come in clear enough so that you could see the action. RIP, fellas.
  • There might be a direct correlation between this less-than-stellar start and all of these coin toss losses. New England was on a coin toss hot streak for the ages over the years, and it ended well for them. Matthew Slater is finally back, and maybe his coin toss protocol is still a little rusty. Hopefully he’l get back into the swing of things soon, they’ll start winning the toss, and deferring the way the good lord intended.
  • I wonder if we’ll ever find out who this “Rita” is that Tommy B likes to yell pre-snap. He’s been calling out Rita’s name for years. Would it kill him to yell out my name just once?
  • New England came out exactly as we expected - a lot of short passes, finding the mismatches, and exploiting the injuries to Tampa Bay...until Brady overthrew a wide open Chris Hogan for his first pick of the season. I blame the white uniforms. Or maybe he saw a tall guy crossing and forgot that Gronk was out today.
  • Overall, Tommy B played well - 30 of 40 for 303 yards, a TD, and that pick. The real concern, though, is that he has now been sacked more times this year than all of 2016 combined, and we’re just one game into October. You could see that it’s starting to affect him, too; he heard footsteps a few times and threw before he needed to on more than one occasion. I can’t really say I blame him; he must feel like Jim after realizing that he really, really shouldn’t have challenged Dwight to a snowball fight.
  • Great example: On the Nate Solder penalty that negated a huge James White catch and run, Brady spent a moment curled up a ball like me watching Jaws for the first time. He’s hurt, he’s tentative, his defense stinks, his offensive line isn’t getting the job done, and he’s without his favorite weapons. If he was still curled up in that exact spot this morning, I wouldn’t blame him one bit.
  • And yes - this defense still stinks. Was yesterday a step in the right direction? I’d like to think so. But again, it’s really hard to take too much away from anything you see on Thursday night. New England played mostly a soft zone, kept safeties deep, and maintatined a very basic gameplan, as I’m sure Belichick knows that three days isn’t enough to time to fix anything, so may as well go vanilla as possible to try and stave the hemmorhaging. On the other side of the ball, the Buccaneers did absolutely nothing creative at all. No shifting, very little motion, I didn’t hear a lot of audibles, and there were actually guys open all night -Winston was just inaccurate. Early in the third he had DJax open for what should have been a 68 yard TD, but he overthrew him. Doug Martin was open on the underneath routes all night, but had a case of the drops. So yes, let’s be positive about only giving up 14 points, but let’s also keep in mind that TNF is just the worst and the only good that comes out of it is the extra rest on the back end.
  • Speaking of Doug Martin - thank you, Dirk Keotter, for only running him 13 times. Martin averaged almost six yards per carry and the Patriots couldn’t bring him down, but they decided to place the ball elsewhere.
  • On the New England side - Did Gillislee get injured mid-game or something? He was averaging about five yards per carry, and then all of a sudden we didn’t really see him again. When a running back is running well, logic dictates that you, you know, keep leaning on him and don’t force your QB to make one pass attempt for every year he has been alive.
  • Also not incredibly sure why Josh McDaniels love to run Gillislee on the stretch so much. I can’t help but feel like he’s more of an A-gap runner, and forcing him to go east/west before making his cut detracts from his abilities.
  • While I’m on the running game: there’s something very odd about New England Patriots big backs being able to break big runs to the outside while simultaneously being unable to pick up two yards on 3rd and short. It has been happening for several years now and it doesn’t make any sense.
  • Although this year, it might be the offensive line, which like the defense has been inexplicably terrible. The EXACT same starting five from last year, coached by the greatest offensive line guru of all time, and Tommy B seems to have better chance of not getting boiling water on his beautiful, beautiful face by holding a spaghetti strainer over his head than he does staying upright for an entire game.
  • My only real thought at the moment is that Nate Solder, who continues to suck, is such a weak link that the entire line has become ineffective. Now that I know how a phalanx works, I can’t help but wonder if it’s all on him.
  • On the plus side, when Solder isn’t getting smoked by edge rushers, he’s committing huge penalties to kill drives. So at least there’s that.
  • I was irrationally happy to see a Buccaneers punt on their first possession.
  • Patriots receivers were wide open all night. The bad news is that Brady was either missing them or they decided not to catch them.
  • I think Chris Hogan is playing hurt. Every time he catches the ball, gets tackled, and gets up, he looks like a kid getting a shot and trying to act tough about it. Troubling.
  • I don’t know what the record for most commercials in a single quarter is, but last night’s first quarter has to be a contender for that distinction. Thursday Night Football!
  • On the plus side, many of those commercial breaks came because the Buccaneers punted more in the first quarter than the entirety of September.
  • If Dion Lewis jukes you out of your cleats, fair enough - it happens to the best of us. But if Dion Lewis truck sticks you on his way to a big gain, it might be time to retire.
  • One thing Tampa did very well defensively was shrink the pocket and make it difficult for Brady to step up into it. A few small pockets, and Brady started hearing footsteps and had trouble sensing pressure.
  • There were also times where the Bucs just outmuscled the Patriots defense, and the yards they gained weren’t via huge breakdowns, but superior athleticism. Tampa’s first TD drive of the game is a prime example of that.
  • Progress! There wasn’t a player wide open for Tampa Bay until the 2nd quarter this time!
  • And once Cameron Brate, as open as open can be, caught the ball for a big gain, the Patriots defense suddenly remembered to forget how to play football and let the Bucs march right down the field and score.
  • Back in the early days of Madden Football, there were certain plays that worked every single time, regardless of what the defense did. “Money plays,” they were called. NFL offenses are doing up the middle runs against the Patriots and they are working every single time.
  • This is now the second game I have Tony Romo call, and he’s still great. Infectiously enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and incredibly adept at breaking down the game and predicting how each play is going to go. Every time I hear Romo make a great call, an insightful self-deprecating joke, or and effective filler comment, this is what I hope Phil Simms is doing.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 0 for 4 on 3rd down in the first half? 4 of 13 on the game What?
  • There was a laugh out loud funny moment in last night’s game where center David Andrews got his helmet ripped off and just stood there, facing the wrong direction, trying to figure out what was going on. At least it would have been funny, were it not such a dead-on impersonation of the New England defense thus far in 2017.
  • How the first half ended for the Patriots D is the 2017 season personified thus far. A complete lack of discipline, no communication, and doing everything they can to negate what the offense is doing to help this team win games.
  • Which brings me to the MVP of the night for me: Nick Finkle Folk. Folk missed all three of his attempts, including a 31 yard chip shot, and will 100% be in the process of unsuccessfully looking for a new job before the weekend is out. Tampa Bay could very easily have won this game if he was even kind of on...but luckily for us, he wasn’t.
  • The best part? His last name makes for a veritable treasure trove of highly witty, incredibly original, brilliant headlines this morning. Just take a look at some of these gems:
  • What the Folk was that?
  • Get the Folk off my team!
  • Folk outta here!
  • Sorry...I’d write more, but I’m crying so hard from all this laughing I need to stop so ti can get on with the article.
  • All that said...had Gostkowski missed that last field goal and the Patriots were only up by two with the ball in Winston’s hands with any time on the clock whatsoever, there’s no doubt in my mind that they make it down to the 20 and he kicks the game winner.
  • However, Ghost did not miss, and remains - you know what? I’m just going to leave it at that. I don’t want to put any bad juju out into the ether.
  • I’m going to blame the absurd amount of silly, unnecessary penalties on the fact that it was TNF. A whopping 12 from New England, four of which resulted in first downs, and a good number of them were just stupid mental errors (Brandon Bolden jumping offsides on a punt being the most egregious). So I don’t want to get too deeply into it, but there are just two points I’ll make:
  • I love how there was a full-on battle royale on the field, but no flags thrown. Deatrich Wise got shoved into Winston as the half ended, 15 yard penalty.
  • How is the Amendola one handed grab a push off and the ensuing Hogan grab not?
  • I feel like Tom Brady got flagged for a safety in the Super Bowl in 2011 when he did the exact same thing Winston did, throwing the ball away in the end zone to avoid the sack. There was a receiver in the area, but the ball wasn’t even remotely catchable. My guess is that there’s a rule on the books that says the eligible receiver radius extends infinitely upward...but if so, that’s very stupid. I think it’s time to start following the NBA.
  • Something really, really needs to be done about Illegal Contact/Illegal Hands to the Face. Both the Patriots and the Bucs had that penalty extend a drive for the other team, and it’s officially the penalty I can’t whine about enough. If you want accidentally brushing against the facemask of a bobbing, juking receiver as you try to cover him in a league that continuously makes efforts to phase defense out altogether, then so be it. But just make it a penalty and get rid of the automatic first down. It’s insane.
  • These “A Footbal Life” shows used to be awesome, because they were special. There were a select few players, the true legends of the sport, that the NFL Network chose to further immortalize and paint the picture of their stories more fully. Now, it seems like every schmo who ever put together a decent season gets one.
  • It’s very rare that you see Tommy B misdiagnose a blitz. Great call by TB on the play that should have gotten them right back in the game had Nick Finkle not shanked another one.
  • I’d also like to compliment Doug Martin on how well he broke tackles last night...but New England can’t really tackle anybody this year.
  • Who else knew for certain that the defense would give up a big play when Tampa was pinned back in their own end zone and the stats about how the Pats hadn’t surrendered a big play that night?
  • Live look at the 2017 Patriots defense.

Overall though, it’s a win. You survive and advance. Defense played well enough to win, the offense made plays when they needed to, and the Patriots start October off on the right foot. Now it’s time to enjoy a mini-bye week and spend the next 10 days wondering if the Patriots will be able to turn the corner against the New York Jets or if Josh McCown will be able to play his way into a massive contract extension by putting up 400 yards next week. time will tell.