Yesterday, the New England Patriots were able to improve their record to 3-2 thanks to a 19-14 road victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was far from a perfect performance but the team did enough in all three phases of the game to survive and move into its mini-bye with momentum on its side.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the winners and losers of yesterday's matchup:
Winner: CB Stephon Gilmore
Only four days after a disastrous performance against the Carolina Panthers, cornerback Stephon Gilmore bounced back with arguably his best performance of the season. When New England was in man coverage, the 27-year old was asked to shadow Tampa Bay's number one wide receiver, Mike Evans, and fared well given the tough assignment – an encouraging step into the right direction.
Winner: FS Devin McCourty
Despite Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston being able to throw for more than 300 yards, the Patriots' secondary delivered arguably its best performance of the season. A big reason for that was the play of Devin McCourty. The defensive captain was used all over the place, finishing with a team-high 11 tackles. No matter if it was against the run or the pass, McCourty stood out.
Loser: The pass blockers
Officially, Tom Brady was sacked twice and hit six times. However, the offensive line allowed numerous additional pressures – according to Pro Football Focus on 40% of Brady's dropbacks. The unit oftentimes failed to give its quarterback sufficient time in the pocket against a defense that had only registered one sack entering the game. A fourth-quarter incompletion intended for Chris Hogan is a perfect example for the line's struggles: If Brady had had enough time to properly step into the throw, it would likely have been a touchdown.
Winner: RB Dion Lewis
Despite playing only 18 of 74 offensive snaps, Dion Lewis proved why he belongs on the Patriots' roster: He displayed his trademark quickness, burst and agility when given the chance. Lewis finished the game with a team-high 53-rushing yards on seven carries – among them the team's longest run of the season (31 yards). He also added 10 receiving yards on two catches.
Winner: K Stephen Gostkowski
New England only scored one touchdown. The remaining points all came off the foot of Stephen Gostkowski. The 33-year old, who is rebounding nicely from an uneven 2016 campaign, made all four of his field goal attempts – from 27, 23, 45 and 48 yards out – while also being able to score on his lone extra point. In short: 13 of the Patriots' 19 points came courtesy of the team's kicker.
Loser: TE Dwayne Allen
Despite Rob Gronkowski sitting the game out due to a thigh injury and him playing 50 of 74 snaps, Dwayne Allen was unable to make an impact. The first-year Patriot was not targeted in the passing game and had his ups and downs as a blocker. Allen was given plenty of opportunities yesterday but once again did not show that he comes anywhere close to replacing Gronkowski in case of injury.
Winner: WR Danny Amendola
On a day in which the Patriots passing offense had some issues, Danny Amendola's performance was one of the positives. The 31-year old finished tied for the team-lead with eight catches – three of which helping convert third down attempts – while gaining 77 yards through the air. Amendola also added 51 yards on three punt returns. All in all, another very good performance by the veteran.
Loser: DE Deatrich Wise Jr.
While he did have one of New England's two sacks on the day, Deatrich Wise Jr. delivered an overall uneven performance. The rookie was on the field for only 29 of 72 defensive snaps and was responsible for two penalties that both gave Tampa Bay a fresh set of downs. His roughing the passer call late in the second half stands out.
Loser: RB Brandon Bolden
Once again serving as one of the core special team players, Brandon Bolden did not stand out statistically. However, the reason why he is listed as a “loser” are his penalties. The veteran was flagged twice during the game: once for an illegal block above the waist that cost the team 10 yards in field position, once for a neutral zone infraction on a punt – the latter resulted in a first down for the Buccaneers. Bolden now has four penalties in the kicking game.
Winner: WR Chris Hogan
Chris Hogan continues to be the Patriots' most consistent wide receiver on a week-to-week basis. Against the Buccaneers, he tied Danny Amendola for the team lead in catches with eight and scored New England's lone touchdown on a 5-yard curl route. While three of the passes fired in his general direction did not end up as catches, Hogan, who gained 74 aerial yards, has had another very good outing.
Winner: RB Mike Gillislee
Just like Hogan, Mike Gillislee also is a model of consistency. While he failed to score a touchdown for the third straight game, he was again heavily featured as the bellcow running back and showed plenty of burst and good vision en route to a 4.3 yards per carry average: The 26-year old ran the ball 12 times for 52 yards.
Loser: LB Cassius Marsh
Cassius Marsh's day looked similar to tight end Dwayne Allen's: Just like his fellow first-year Patriot, Marsh saw plenty of snaps but was uneven when on the field. While he did register a tackle apiece on defense and special teams, the 25-year old was also again inconsistent when it comes to setting the edge and had another unnecessary penalty called against him when he roughed Jameis Winston late in the first half to help Tampa Bay get into field goal range.