Patriots turn away Buccaneers
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Could it be - the first score would be the only score as New England challenged Tampa Bay in Foxboro?
Not quite...even though it seemed very possible at the start. Both teams have found points hard to come by early in 2013. But thanks to a stingy effort from the defense, the Patriots found just enough offense to take care of business and beat the Buccaneers 23-3 Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium...and move to 3-0 on the season.
True to pre-game form, neither offense managed much at the start, although Tampa tried to take the momentum early. A 50-yard drive stalled and resulted in a Rian Lindell missed field goal from 38 yards...and the first three NE drives resulted in punts. In between, Josh Freeman engineered at 13-play, 76 yard drive that ended with Lindell connecting on a 30-yard kick for a 3-0 lead, and 1:47 left in the first quarter.
With the Patriots defense jumping into the fray and forcing TB to turn the ball over on downs - thanks to a 4th down stop - the offense finally found some rhythm. Tom Brady kept a drive alive with a 4th down connection of his own to rookie WR Aaron Dobson, and four plays later found another rookie receiver, Kenbrell Thompkins, splitting the seam up the middle of the Bucs' defense for a 16-yard touchdown - the first of his NFL careerG. 11 plays, 66 yards and a 7-3 NE lead with 7:41 to play before the half.
Again, the defense came up with a 4th down stop, stuffing Doug Martin's run attempt at the Patriots' 38 and giving the offense another big chance to cash in. With a second-and-goal from the five, Brady found Thompkins open in the back of the endzone for another score...giving New England a 14-3 cushion and just :47 seconds left in the period. With Freeman trying to move his team into position for a last-second score, instead, the Bucs committed a last-second mistake. Aqib Talib, a former TB DB, picked off Freeman by stepping in front of Vincent Jackson at the Tampa 47 with :11 seconds left on the clock. After two quick plays, Stephen Gostkowski made the Buccaneers pay - booting a 54-yard FG for a 17-3 margin at the half.
On their opening drive of the 3rd quarter, a career-best 46-yard Brandon Bolden run set NE up with a first-and-goal at the TB six. Two plays later, however, S Mark Barron picked Brady off in the end zone to stop the threat. The Buccaneers' offense, however, couldn't do much with the gift as the NE defense forced a three-and-out. Gostkowski hit a 46-yard FG for a 20-3 lead, after TE Michael Hoomanawanui gained 16 yards on a 3rd and 19 screen play from Brady to set up the score with 3:38 left in the third.
While there were signs of life from the offense, perhaps the day belonged to the defense overall. Stopping the Tampa offense for a third time on downs (and four times total on the day), Brady took over on his 34 and moved Gostkowski into position for his 3rd FG of the day...this time from 33 yards for a 23-3 advantage, and 8:19 remaining. From there, the defense continued it's superlative play on the day, and the offense kept the clock moving...having found enough of its' stride to show some improvement from the first two weeks of the season.
But the "D" played well enough...where only one score was really needed.
Post Game Notes
The Patriots are 3-0 for the eighth time in team history, for the first time since 2007. New England is now 3-0 for the fourth time under Head Coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots also started 3-0 in 1964, 1974, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2004 and 2007...Sunday's game is the third consecutive home game the Patriots defense has allowed 10 points or less and the first time since 1997 that the Patriots defense has allowed three points or less in a September game...the 34 total points allowed by the Patriots are the fewest for the team through three games since 1979, when New England started the season by allowing 33 points in the first three games (losing 16-13 to Pittsburgh in overtime, beating the New York Jets 56-3, and then winning 20-14 at Cincinnati). It's also the second fewest points in team history (after '79) allowed by a Pats' defense through three weeks...NE gained 156 rushing yards, their second time to surpass 150 in three games, and it came against the NFL's best rush defense (82.5 per game) in 2012...Tom Brady extended his streak to 51 straight games with at least one touchdown in the second quarter with his 16-yard touchdown pass to WR Kenbrell Thompkins...Brandon Bolden made his 2013 debut with exactly 100 total yards from scrimmage (51 rush, 49 receiving)...Gostkowski's 53-yard field goal at the end of the first half tied his career best...