This past Thursday Tom Brady and the Patriots battled against Jameis Winston’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a short-week matchup.
Going into the game from last week, the Patriots had issues in the secondary against the Carolina Panthers, which left many fans worried and questioning how the team could succeed this season.
The Patriots did prevail this week in a 19-14 victory, which once again was decided by the final play for the third time in as many weeks.
Against Tampa Bay, the defense did much better but simplified their scheme as to not confuse the secondary. Let me say that again, they didn’t want to confuse the secondary. Yes, the professionals who play football at the most elite level couldn’t grasp the defensive scheme. That was the apparent issue to start the season.
I must admit, the secondary looked far greater out on Thursday in a basic man-to-man scheme as opposed to the new-look zone defense they ran against Carolina. Stephon Gillmore looked solid against top wideout Mike Evans, shadowing him all evening and only allowing 5 catches for 49 yards.
Malcolm Butler struggled a bit with Desean Jackson, allowing 5 catches for 106 yards but this is to be expected by Jackson. All he needs is one successful deep route to look good on the stat sheet and that’s exactly what happened.
It’s good to see the secondary clicking better, but we have to understand why Belicheck and Patricia wanted to switch the defensive scheme in the first place. As I’ve mentioned before this year, the Patriots front seven is simply not what it was last year. Putting the secondary in zone coverage, and having them do it well, means that the Patriots don’t see as many mismatches in the front seven.
Reverting to man-to-man, while it may be the best thing for guys like Stephon Gillmore (who is very good at man-to-man but nothing else) and Malcolm Butler, is bad for mismatches. Having guys like Kyle Van Noy against the opposing running back or tight end wasn’t detrimental this week because the Bucs don’t have a great pass-catching running back or an elite tight end (even though Cam Brate had 68 yards and a TD). Wait and see what happens when it comes time to play Atlanta or another team with good pass-catching backs as options or an elite tight-end.
There is also the case that the Bucs didn’t play great on Thursday. With only a couple days to prepare, it’s possible a young team like the Bucs weren’t able to execute as well. And as we heard via the television broadcast, Jameis Winston may have had nerves due to squaring off against his hero – Tom Brady.
Switching over to offense, the offensive line truly looked awful on Thursday. This really shined through, I believe, because Julian Edelman isn’t on the field. When the defensive pressure is on, it’s too easy for Brady to dump it to Edelman for a short gain before Brady gets hit. Guys like Amendola and Hogan are vertical threats, and their success in our system is typically with longer developed plays.
Left tackle Nate Solder, who is supposed to be the leader of the line, genuinely looks like the worst player out there. He was injured in pre-season, it is very possible he is still hurt.
Lastly, it should be noted that Tampa Bay is statistically one of the worst defenses this year thus far. With that their two best linebackers, LaVonte David and Kwon Alexander, along with safety TJ Ward, were out of the game. If they were in Brady would’ve been hit way more.
Brady can’t get hit that much! Even if he eats power foods every day, he is 40 years old and his body should not take that much damage. If this continues, there is trouble on the horizon.
Finally, it should be noted that the Buccaneers kicker missed THREE field goals! If he was able to play at the NFL level, this game would have a different outcome.
A win is a win I guess, but this game showed more problems than it did solutions.
New England is in desperate need of a solid victory next week against the New York Jets, as the following game is against Atlanta and if they play the way we’ve seen it will not be a fun game.