Three thoughts from the Patriots’ 19–14 win against the Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football...
1. After an ugly interception on New England’s first drive, Tom Brady consistently torched the Tampa Bay defense. Brady threw high of an open Chris Hogan and was picked off by Bucs safety Justin Evans less than two minutes into the game, which snapped his streak of 264 consecutive pass attempts without a pick—the second-longest streak of his career. Brady finished with 303 yards to go along with a touchdown and an interception, but most impressively he completed 75% of his 40 throws. He completed all 10 of his throws in the second quarter, resulting in 100 yards and a touchdown, and he took advantage of Bucs linebackers attempting to hold their own against the Patriots running backs. His wideouts also had no problem running free. Danny Amendola hauled in all eight of his targets for 77 yards, continuing to look like the wideout that Brady trusts most so far this season. Chris Hogan simply has a knack for getting open all the time, adding 74 yards and a touchdown on eight grabs. Brady has thrown for more than 300 yards in six of his past seven games, and he’s now tied with Peyton Manning and Brett Favre for the most regular-season wins as a quarterback in NFL history (186).
2. It’s rare to see a Bill Belichick-coached team play this sloppily. New England accumulated 108 penalty yards on 12 accepted penalty flags, and the team committed back-to-back roughing the passer penalties when the game otherwise would have gone to halftime. Brandon Bolden was called for encroachment on a Tampa punt on fourth-and-two, another opportunity the Buccaneers failed to take advantage of. Besides racking up penalties, the Patriots’ offensive line appears to be another major issue for this team. Coming into Thursday night, the Bucs had garnered just one sack in three games, but the team brought down Brady three times—with one sack coming from Gerald McCoy, who despite a number of QB hits so far this season was still sack-less coming into this game. In fact, Brady has already been sacked more through five games this year (16) than he was in his 12 games last season (15).
3. The Bucs’ kicking saga marches on. After missing three field-goal attempts against the Giants last weekend, Bucs K Nick Folk’s kicks somehow managed to look even worse on Thursday. He missed attempts from 56, 49 and 31 yards, with the latter two both coming in the second half (making either would have made it a one-score game). The close score only shined a bigger spotlight on Folk’s three missed field goals; QB Jameis Winston was far from sharp for Tampa Bay, but he led the Bucs down the field twice late—once for a touchdown to cut the deficit to two with 2:09 left and to the Patriots’ 19-yard line before throwing an incompletion down five to end the contest. To rub more salt in the wound for Tampa Bay, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski made all four of his field-goal attempts, including two from at least 45 yards out. Folk did make both of his extra points, but it’d be surprising to see him attempt another kick with the Bucs this season. Tampa Bay has now converted 28 of their 42 field-goal attempts (66%) since the beginning of the 2016 season, the lowest percentage in the league. GM Jason Licht has to figure out a solution immediately for an issue that has been sinking the team.