Sep 22, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) calls a play at the line against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the fourth quarter of a game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Buccaneers 23-3. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
After re-watching the Patriots 23-3 domination of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, assumptions that I made immediately after the game have been confirmed, and a few things caught my attention that I missed when watching live on Sunday.
This is something that could easily be detected when watching on Sunday. The secondary got off to a shaky start, but they later settled in, and they produced a route from there. One thing that popped out to me, was how the Pats defensive line handled Tampa’s offense. There was no weak point along the defensive front for New England, as all four guys made an overall positive impact on the game. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich were once again excellent off of the edge, not only in making a good pass rush, but they both set the edge very well throughout the game, which limited running back Doug Martin from taking off and making a big play (longest run was 11 yards). Vince Wilfork is still not up to his usual standards, but he is always a hard guy to move in the middle, and he opened up space for the linebackers to come in and make plays. Tommy Kelly is establishing himself as the go-to guy to penetrate in the middle of the defense. His ability to do this is helping out the guys on the edges and come playoff time, this will be a big asset for New England.
I am not a huge fan of linebacker Brandon Spikes, mainly because he is simply awful in pass defense. He is too slow to keep up with running backs and tight ends, and becomes an instant liability when he is in coverage. But his run defense is off the charts. His ability to get up to the line, anticipate the snap and make the play in the backfield, is unrivaled in the league. He displayed this on several occasions in Sunday’s win, and this skill alone, makes me want to re-think his contract situation with New England.
Tampa’s Defensive Zone:
Coming into the game I knew that the Bucs ran a lot of zone defense as team here in 2013, and throughout the game I notice that there was quite a bit of zone coverages coming from their side.
After going through the game a second time, I think that Tampa ran zone 99% of the time. I had no clue when watching it live, that they ran that much zone coverage. This is especially surprising given the fact that they have the best cover corner in the league in Darrelle Revis. In my opinion, this zone was what enabled the Patriots rookie receivers to finally get on track and produce in this offense. Instead of having to deal with pressing corners, they were allowed to roam free off of the line of scrimmage, and get to their spot. This game was huge for their development and the future production of this offense (and it’s all thanks to Tampa’s zone).
Offensive Line Great Again:
One positive through three games for the Patriot offense, has been the offensive line and their stellar play. They showed this once again in Sunday’s over the Bucs, and did so without their terrific right tackle Sebastian Vollmer for the majority of the contest. Technically Pats o-line gave up three sacks, but after going through the tape I am only going to give two to them. On the Patriots first offensive series, they faced a 3rd and two around the 4o yard line. Brady was looking at Julian Edelman who ran a quick four yard hook route. For some reason Brady didn’t throw it (Edelman looked open to me), so he had to come back to the other side of the field to look for other options. The offensive line blocked perfectly for that four yard route to Edelman, but Brady pulled out of it, and as a result suffered a sack. When you are playing a defense that is as athletically gifted as Tampa’s is, you are bound to give up a sack or two, thus the two other sacks given up. Aside from that, Brady had all day to throw, including his second touchdown to Kenbrell Thompkins. Thompkins ran a long developing in cut, which required a lot of time for Brady sit in the pocket, but the five guys up front gave it to him. The Buccaneers came into this game boasting one of the best front seven’s in all of football, and the Patriots offensive line responded in a big way, showing that they can go at it with the elite of the NFL.