Patriots vs. Bucs: Live Preseason Week 3 Report Card for New England
The New England Patriots dropped their third preseason contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 28-30. Patriots' starters were on the field through three quarters, but were largely outplayed by the home team.
New England wraps up their preseason schedule in New York on August 29 at 7:00 p.m. as they'll take on the Giants in a Super Bowl rematch.
Let's take a gander at the Patriots' postgame results, analysis and grades.
Tom Brady — C+
OVERALL GAME GRADE — C+
Brady took what he could get over the course of three quarters, but it seemed all he could get was pressure in his face. He had limited time to work through his progressions and the offense had to get creative to combat the constant pressure.
Some context would be healthy here though. Count yourselves lucky because a bad day out of Brady is a great day for many other quarterbacks in this league.
Q4 — N/A
After going 13-for-20 with a pick and a score, Brady's night came to a close. We didn't learn anything new from this contest as it's well known Brady doesn't operate well under constant pressure.
Not having a safety blanket like Wes Welker hurts as well.
But at the end of the day all is well if you can exit the preseason injury-free. It seemed like that was in doubt for awhile as Brady did take far too many hits, but he shouldn't have much more than a couple bruises.
He was playing with a lot missing pieces tonight and it showed.
Q3 — B-
New quarter and same old story. Brady can't make his reads and the Bucs' defense knows it. One method of combating pressure is getting the ball deep down the field, but on their lone long-ball of the night Hernandez misread his route.
Brady was visibly upset with the outcome, but it's more likely a sign of his overall frustration.
Late in the third the Patriots closed the gap as Brady found Gronkowski over the middle for a score. It's been a challenge thus far getting the receivers involved, but maybe this is a sign of things to come.
Q2 — C+
The protection around Brady has improved, but not enough. Luckily for him the running game really showed up early in the second quarter. With Ridley running hard, Tampa's defense finally started to respect the ground game, allowing some things to open up in the passing lanes.
The Brady-Lloyd connection is still a work in progress, but you can tell it's not far from a finished product. The two have just missed connecting on a few plays now.
After an entire half of play Brady has just 80 yards on nine completions.
Q1 — C-
Not a great start to say the least. Brady threw only one pass during the first series and the offense eventually went three and out. He was strip sacked and fumbled on the next series, but credit goes to Spencer Larsen for the recovery.
It didn't help much though as Brady then threw a tipped pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The throw was a bit ill-advised as Gronkowski was very covered.
Brady settled down late in the quarter and it's still very early, but the protection in front of him has been suspect at best thus far.
Offense — B-
OVERALL GAME GRADE — B-
The running game was a pleasant surprise with the team collecting 168 total yards on 31 carries (5.4 average). Ridley further locked himself into the starting role and Demps came as advertised.
Aside from Stallworth's work in the fourth quarter the receivers really had trouble getting involved though. The offensive line wasn't terrible and they do deserve credit for the success in the run game.
Keeping Brady on his feet has to be paramount, this team isn't built to ground and pound every week.
Q4 — B+
With Ryan Mallett and many other reserves at the helm of both the offense and Tampa's defense, the Patriots found some success in the fourth. Jeff Demps made up for his false start earlier, getting involved in the running game with success.
It seems that the team has interest in Demps' versatility as he also played runningback for the Florida Gators. Fresh out of Olympic competition, the 4x100 meter sprinter seemed a bit winded at times in the huddle.
Donte Stallworth appeared to be Mallett's favorite target, but dropped an easy one that won't look good upon review. Rookie Jeremy Ebert hauled in a touchdown and it was refreshing to see No. 80 back in the end zone for the Patriots.
Mallett and the reserves held together well, putting together two scoring drives and narrowing a once large lead.
Q3 — B
It appears as if Ridley has some hundred yard games in his future. Can't do much better than he has tonight. He's run with purpose and doesn't go down after the first hit, gotta love a pile mover with speed.
The Boston TE Party made itself known late in the third with Hernandez setting up a Gronkowski score. Nice to see some life out of the receiving corps.
Q2 — B-
Might as well label Ridley and the offense as synonymous entities as he's been the Patriots lone hope. Vereen may be seen as the speedster of the group, but Ridley's 29-yard run proves he's got some wheels of his own.
I'd like to see Hernandez work a bit more on ball control, it's his third year and fumblitis should be cured by now.
After initially going one-for-four on first downs, Brady found Deion Branch over the middle for a long conversion. Branch may not be what he once was, but he still knows exactly where to be and when to be there.
Q1 — C
Despite dressing, Sebastian Vollmer does not start. Marcus Cannon gets the nod at right tackle with Donald Thomas at right guard. Mankins makes his return just six months after going under the knife for a partially torn ACL.
The offense has gone three and out, punted twice and committed a turnover. The run game has looked good and bad at times and Shane Vereen was seen limping off the field late in the first quarter. Stevan Ridley has been the better back thus far with a couple impressive runs.
Brady has only completed four passes, but Brandon Lloyd and Hernandez have looked impressive with the ball in their hands.
Defense — C+
OVERALL GAME GRADE — C+
New England's defense played better than the box score would indicate, but their overall grade was hurt by the play of the backups in the fourth. That's to be expected though and despite the score this game should provide reason for optimism moving forward.
With the offense struggling to gain field position the defense often had its back against the wall. Still, the front seven was able to adjust and create some second-half pressure and the secondary made some plays on the ball as well.
Q4 — D
The scrubs came out on defense and they played like it. With backups in coverage Dan Orlovsky was able to drive down the field for a touchdown after a couple long runs. The Bucs recommitted to the running game and with the Patriots starters out they had little trouble moving the ball.
Q3 — B+
The defensive pressure really improved on the outside with Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones experiencing immediate success after halftime. With Freeman shook up a bit more his throws became increasingly erratic and that's exactly how what you want to see.
While making strides with the pass rush the defense did take a step back in run defense. Rather than attacking the middle Tampa has had some success running to the outside.
Q2 — B
The score doesn't accurately reflect the defensive performance to this point, but there's certainly room for improvement from this unit.
Arrington nearly had another pick after Freeman rolled out to his left and felt pressure. I thought the linebackers, who had dropped into coverage did a great job reacting to the roll out and forcing the pass. The result was a near turnover and hopefully a sign of improved team defense moving forward.
New England hasn't gotten much pressure from the outside to this point. The secondary could use that help from the defensive front seven.
Disregard the turnover and the Patriots have only given up two long field goals since allowing the Bucs' to run one in for seven.
Q1 — B-
It took 45 seconds for the Bucs to get to the Patriots 28 yard-line. The run defense has showed up early, with Mayo and Spikes making their names known.
Bucs' QB Josh Freeman started the first drive off three-for-three for 49 yards and it appears the defensive backs are in for a challenging night.
Thought New England came out in an odd alignment prior to Tampa Bay's touchdown run. With no second line of defense backing up the tackles and ends it was pretty easy for Doug Martin to blast in.
Overall though, the run defense has been superb with the Patriots' linebackers stuffing nearly everything in the middle.
Special Teams — B+
OVERALL GAME GRADE — B+
The special teams unit got a big boost with the debut of Demps. He posted a game-high punt return average (16.0) and looked dangerously close to breaking a long one on multiple occasions.
The specialists didn't get much work, and the coverage teams struggled a bit on kickoffs, but that should be fixable.
Q4 — B
Stephen Gostowski wasn't afforded any field goal attempts, but looked sound on kickoffs. The onside kick attempt could have been better, but the same could be said for most of them.
Punter Zoltan Mesko looked solid as well in his limited work, but placement could be worked on.
Demps stands out as the most impressive returner of the night, but McCourty and Arrington also produced respectable averages. Overall the unit had five returns for 116 yards (23.2 average).
Q3 — C
The Buccaneers refuse to punt, insisting instead on kicking 50+ yard field goals. That has limited return opportunities, but the Patriots continue to hand out reps at the position during kickoffs.
Olympic silver medalist Jeff Demps made his debut, but his speed was kept in check. He's really going to have to show something to make the team as a specialist in such a short amount of time. False starts won't help at all.
Q2 — C
Hernandez entered the punt returner carousel late in the second. He didn't get very far, but fielded the ball cleanly and maintained possession. Can't ask for much more considering he's a tight end.
The Patriots have been giving up some big returns and it's setting Tampa up with unnecessarily shortened fields. Tackling could a be a lot more consistent.
Q1 — C
Too many attempted arm tackles on the first kickoff, with Devin McCourty finally latching on for the tackle.
Shane Vereen and Devin McCourty lined up as the first team kick returners, and McCourty bobbled the ball, only reaching the 15 yard line.
Coverage wise, Matthew Slater was impressive. He made yet another appearance on the stat sheet, racking up a tackle on the Bucs' first punt return.
Unlike McCourty, fellow cornerback Kyle Arrington looked pretty shifty during his return. Seems like a revolving door at that position tonight though.
Coaching — B
OVERALL GAME GRADE — B
During the postgame press conference Belichick ragged on the offensive effort put forth by his squad. Despite the success of the running game the head coach was less than content with the showing.
It'll go down in the books as a loss, but the slate gets wiped clean in less than two weeks. They also don't hand out trophies for winning the preseason. This glorified practice is good for the team win or lose and Belichick knows that.
Let's just hope they can learn from it and improve next time out.
Q4 — B+
The transition from starters to backups went pretty well. The reserve units were disciplined and avoided major mistakes, a sign of solid coaching from top to bottom.
The Patriots were able to work in an onside kick and add to the list of situations they've covered. Belichick and his staff may not be content with the final score, but experience wise his team added some notches tonight.
Q3 — B+
Clearly the Patriots weren't happy with a 17-point deficit at half and Belichick opted to keep his starters in after halftime. It's a sign that the team is looking to identify and implement adjustments just like they would do in a regular season contest. Strategic planning and coaching from Belichick.
Q2 — B+
I very much liked the decision to go for it on fourth down regardless of the outcome. It's good situational football and something this team will want to have in its back pocket.
Belichick can't be pleased with the amount of pressure Brady is seeing and undoubtedly feeling. Then again he's the one who made the call to play both Brady and the group in front of him.
Q1 — B-
Belichick appeared to have some words with the officials prior to the start of the game, looking a tad bit frustrated. It'll be interesting to see just how much the replacement refs effect the games this year, we know where Belichick stands.
Have to question the call to put McCourty back there as a return man. It’s the preseason and by far the best time to experiment, but McCourty stands little chance contributing in that role in the regular season.