The New England Patriots came up with a significant 23-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, not only because of the importance in moving to 3-0 record, but because of the validation it comes from overcoming a tough Buccaneers defense. Earlier last week, coach Bill Belichick emphasized highly of coach’s Greg Schiano defensive scheme and praised their leading quarterback Josh Freeman in his improved overall presence in the field. But the Patriots are focused and determined to overcome the challenges one game at a time.
Given that the Patriots played against a strong defense, it was crucial to all phases of the game to limit any amount of mistakes, to take opportunity of turnover and situational football, and productivity in the red zone. In light of coach Belichick’s praise for the Bucs defense last week, the focal point that got me interested in writing a piece was on how perfect the offensive line would have to be this past Sunday. Well, the OL did a tremendous job in opening up the lanes for the running game and protecting Tom Brady in the pocket for the passing game – even though they allowed 3 sacks.
But as coach Belichick said in his postgame press conference as the win being a byproduct of contributions from all three phases on offense, defense and special teams, I believe that one the main factors we learned from this game and a learning curve we can take moving forward is the breakthrough the offense experienced as he said “in staying out of long-yardage”.
“Staying out of long-yardage. We got in some long-yardage situations early: second-and-18, third-and-15 and couldn’t overcome them. You’re not going to overcome those very often. When we were able to keep it in third-and-twos, threes, fours, ones, we were able to convert more of those. I think that was the big thing: avoiding the negative plays and staying out of long-yardage, like it usually is”.
Easier said than done, but the Patriots did it. From that point forward, the momentum shifted to their direction. The pressure was a bit less, communication improved, routes were in synchronization with the play and the rookies looked more in their own element. Interesting point is that Tom Brady wasn’t so sharp as he usually is. Even with the time he had to make passes, he missed a wide open Krenbell Thompkins and Julian Edelman deep down in the field in the second quarter, in addition to throwing an interception in the third quarter in the end zone when attempting to connect with Zach Sudfeld.
Staying out of long-yardage it does make sense since the rookies are in the “baby-step” phase of the game, and so are the veterans in their own “baby-step” phase as to connect with their new and less experienced team mates. I like to see the Patriots steadily moving forward – and that’s nothing easy to do when a team has key players injured.