After three days of facing one another on the practice fields in Foxborough, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots squared off at Gillette Stadium Friday evening, with the Pats holding on for a 25-21 victory over Tampa Bay.
For the Bucs, the game served as an opportunity to correct some of the issues that came to light as a result of being routed 44-16 by the Baltimore Ravens last week.
With that in mind, below are takeaways and analysis from Friday's game.
New Year, Old Issues
With all the attention (rightfully ) paid towards the high acquisitions of safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Darrelle Revis made during the offseason, it's easy to forget the Bucs struggled mightily at pressuring opposing quarterbacks in 2012, tallying just 27 sacks all season.
And while Goldson and Revis should help fix a lot of what ailed them against the pass last season, how much improvement can fans realistically expect if the line continues to struggle at getting after the quarterback?
Is it fair to put the onus squarely on the shoulders of the defensive backs?
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady completed 11 of 12 pass attempts against the Tampa Bay defense, finishing with 107 yards and one touchdown before being replaced by Ryan Mallett.
And much like last season when the Bucs failed to generate much of a pass rush, more of the same came from the defense, even when they brought extra defenders on blitzes.
Look, the upgrades that were made were necessary, but if the line continues to fail at finding its way to the quarterback it will all be for naught.
Much in the same way the defensive line struggled at generating a pass rush, the offensive line struggled at protecting their quarterbacks from the Patriots' pass rush, allowing three first quarter sacks of starting quarterback Josh Freeman.
All told, the offense managed just eight total yards of offense and one first down in the entire first quarter.
Yes, it's the preseason, and yes, they were sans starting guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph, but for a unit that is widely considered the strong suit of the entire team, they sure didn't live up to the billing on Friday evening of the circumstances.
Nice to Meet You, Mr. James
Although starting running back Doug Martin was unlikely to see significant playing time anyhow, when he left the game abruptly after taking a knee to the side of his helmet during the first quarter, it opened the door for the running back competition to get into full swing.
Among that group is rookie Mike James, a sixth-round pick from the University of Miami, who is known for his bruising, between-the-tackles style of running.
From the onset, James flashed his versatility and toughness, accounting for 81 of Tampa Bay's 158 rushing yards while adding three receptions for 23 yards out of the backfield. James proved difficult to bring down, picking up multiple first downs and, based on early analysis, would serve as a nice change of pace to Martin.
Pitching In Where He Can
Mike Glennon, a third-round pick brought on to inspire Josh Freeman, continued to show the usual highs and lows of a rookie quarterback, throwing for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 12 passing (54 .5 percent ), although he also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by rookie cornerback Logan Ryan.
For those keeping score at home, that is the second interception Glennon has thrown in as many starts, but again, given his inexperience he certainly didn't fare all that horribly. He connected on a 41-yard strike to receiver Tiquan Underwood just before the half, setting up a field goal by Derek Dimke.
His two touchdown passes were as perfectly thrown as anyone could've asked for, one to receiver Kevin Ogletree on a post route, the other to receiver David Douglas on his back shoulder away from the defender.
All in all, a pretty good game for Glennon.
Just Kickin' It
Kicker Derek Dimke continues to make a case for being the one the Bucs ultimately rely on to kick for them once the season begins, as he connected on both of his field attempts Friday evening, bringing his preseason total to five made in five attempts.
Dimke, a product of Rockford, Illinois, has made the most of his opportunity during camp after the Bucs lost Connor Barth to an Achilles injury last month. Lawrence Tynes, who was signed to replace Barth, has been nursing a toe injury and thus far has not contributed during either of the first two games.
Sure, Tynes has the experience and pedigree that many teams covet for their kickers, but Dimke sure is making it hard on head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik, isn't he?
J.J. can be reached via email at BRJJRodriguez@gmail.com