The New England Patriots’ defense finally came to play in a 19-14 road win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football
The Buccaneers outgained the Patriots in total yards (409-402), earned more first downs (26-23), committed fewer turnovers (0-2) and were flagged for fewer penalties (9-12). But on the road, in a short week, New England pulled off a 19-14 victory thanks in large part to kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who went 4-for-4 on field goal attempts while his counterpart, Nick Folk, missed all three of his. And, finally, the Patriots had a competent defense—even if the game wasn’t settled until a Jameis Winston incompletion in the end zone as time expired.
"As an offense, we could have helped them out more," running back James White said afterwards, "but [our defense] played lights-out."
The Pats entered with the league’s worst defense but controlled a low-scoring game for most of the night. Four days after New England’s D gave up big plays in a last-minute loss to the Panthers, it kept the Tampa Bay offense to 200 total yards through the first three quarters. The Patriots’ offense stumbled at the end, failing to get a first down over the final 11 minutes. But Bill Belichick’s defense managed to keep the Bucs out of the end zone on their last drive, sealing the win. "I'm really proud of our football team tonight, coming off a tough game on Sunday—on the road, Thursday night, I thought they responded with a great effort," Belichick said. "Defensively we responded to a good offensive unit."
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1. Cam Newton apologized Thursday evening for his controversial remark to a female reporter. "I understand that my word choice was extremely degrading and disrespectful to women," he said. "What I did was extremely unacceptable."
2. When E.J. Manuel steps under center for the Raiders on Sunday, he'll be surrounded by familiar faces. Center Rodney Hudson went to Florida State with Manuel, and offensive coordinator Todd Downing was the Bills' QB coach when Manuel was in Buffalo. But is that familiarity enough to help the backup keep the Raiders' ship afloat while Derek Carr recovers from a back injury?
3. A couple follow-ups on the Myles Garrett and Mitchell Trubisky debuts to come this weekend. Browns coach Hue Jackson says Garrett will be "on a pitch count.” Meanwhile, edge defender Leonard Floyd has a nickname proposal for Trubisky: The Pretty Boy Assassin.
4. David Gardner traveled with Anquan Boldin to Washington in order to explain why the longtime wideout left the NFL. "Do I still love the game? Yes," Boldin told a crowd. "Do I still have a passion to play? Of course I do. But I feel like for me there is something more important than football at this point in my life."
5. The Chargers cut kicker Younghoe Koo in favor of former Charger Nick Novak. Novak will join the team for a Sunday matchup against the Giants that features two QBs whose legacies have been tied together ever since they were traded for each other during the 2004 draft. "The latest comparison between the passers is pretty damn depressing," Robert Mays writes.
6. The Broncos’ run defense is the best in the league, and free agent pickup Domata Peko is a big reason why.
7. Zac Keefer has "The best Peyton Manning stories you've never heard."
8. Linebacker Erin Henderson is suing the Jets for effectively ending his NFL career when they put him on the non-football injury list last Oct. 22. He's claiming that bipolar disorder was the reason the team wanted to cut ties with him. Meanwhile, he's back home, serving as an assistant for his old high school team, hoping for another chance.
9. Entering Thursday Night Football, the Jets and Patriots were tied at 2-2, the perfect excuse for Manish Mehta to rib New England for letting go of Kony Ealy, who thus far has been producing for New York.
10. Sam Bradford practiced on Thursday, but it still seems likely that Case Keenum will start for the Vikings on Monday night.
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Peyton Manning had a secret hideout in a wine cellar at an Indianapolis steakhouse where he would unwind after games.