By: Bob George/BosSports.net
September 22, 2013

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FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots need to thank Mister Schedule Maker for giving them three offensively challenged teams with which to hack through their own offensive growing pains.

You had Buffalo on the road, then home games against the Jets and now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. None of these teams will remind you of the 1950 Los Angeles Rams, so the Patriots had wiggle room to work with as long as the defense did their thing and put the clamps on an easy offense to put the clamps on. And for the third week in a row, the opposing offense was unable to get much of anything going against the Patriot defense while Tom Brady and his young bucks continue to figure out how to play the game of football, NFL style, correctly.

Brady knows, of course. But the other guys who are taking the place of Patriot legends (any list of Patriot legends excludes those with legal issues) have driven Brady to the point of losing his composure, which was revealed graphically on last Thursday night's national telecast.

Finally, on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, Brady can rest somewhat easy as his young'uns finally had some decent games, made some good to great plays, and the Patriots had an easy time with the offensively inept Bucs, 23-3. Familiarity helped a bit, as these two teams scrimmaged back in August before playing the second preseason game for each team. But the Patriots totally dominated the Bucs, to the point where the 20-point margin doesn't really tell the story.

Tampa Bay is a mess offensively. Josh Freeman is shooting his way out of town with "trade me" requests and substandard play. His top wideouts, Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, were both injured and way below the level of what they could be (Williams was torching the Patriot secondary before he got hurt on the second play of the second quarter). This helped the Patriots to overcome continuing yips on offense which rendered them scoreless throughout the first quarter, a quarter which made Patriot Nation think to themselves, "Here we go again!"

But Brady and the Patriots finally broke through in the second quarter and scored on five of their next six offensive possessions to take firm control of the game. Only an end zone pick thrown by Brady after the first offensive possession of the third quarter marred what turned out to be Brady and his offensive mates literally getting back to their old selves. Both Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins got out of Brady's doghouse with some nice catches and better route running overall.

Dobson got things going on the third play of the second quarter. Facing third and four at their own 40, Dobson ran a quick slant in left route and caught a perfect toss from Brady, bobbled it momentarily, and took it 15 yards to the Bucs' 45 with Darrelle Revis in futile pursuit. On fourth and two at the Tampa Bay 37, Brady and Bill Belichick gambled and Brady was able to find Dobson open in the right flat for six yards. Four plays later, from the Tampa Bay 16, Thompkins lined up right, ran a nice crossing route into the end zone, and Brady hit him right in stride to make it 7-3 Patriots. Again, this was with Revis in futile pursuit.

Greg Schiano would go for it four times on fourth down and fail each time. The first such time saw Brandon Spikes stuff Doug Martin on the Patriot 38 on fourth and one. Brady took over and drove the Patriots 62 yards in ten plays. Thompkins again hauled in the bacon with another right side crossing route, this time from five yards out and this time with Johnthan Banks in coverage.

Freeman then threw his worst pass of the day, a terrible floater in the right flat with 11 seconds left in the half which former Buccaneer Aqib Talib picked off with ease. Three plays later, Stephen Gostkowski boomed a 53-yard field goal (he was three for three on FGs) to make it 17-3 Patriots at the half.

Brady had a decent day, completing 25 of 36 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns. But he had one interception which lowered his rating to 92.9. On the first drive of the second half, Brady used a 46-yard run by Brandon Bolden and a 20-yard catch by Thompkins to bring the Patriots to the Tampa Bay 6. On third and goal, Brady tried to force a throw to Zach Sudfeld in the end zone in double coverage. Instead, he nailed Mark Barron perfectly for the interception, and Brady stormed off the field with no one to yell at but himself.

It turned out to be much ado about nothing. Freeman and the Bucs went three and out, and Brady proceeded to parlay two throws to Michael Hoomanawanui into a 46-yard field goal by Gostkowski. Another failed try on fourth down by Tampa Bay led to another field goal drive for the Patriots to complete the scoring. By game's end, the Patriots were being gentlemanly with the Bucs, going for it deep in Tampa Bay territory instead of kicking still another field goal.

Dobson and Julian Edelman both caught seven passes. Thompkins caught only three passes, but two of them were for scores. These three receivers plus Bolden all amassed over 40 yards receiving each with Dobson the leader with 52 yards. Best of all, there was really only one blatantly wrong route run, by Dobson in the second quarter. Thompkins did have one glaring drop on a third quarter crossing route where he had a step on his defender but merely turned upfield before he had the ball.

Former Buccaneer LeGarrette Blount had a nice day with 65 yards rushing on 14 carries. Bolden had 51 yards, but it was on three carries and skewed by the 46-yard gallop he had in the third quarter.

The Patriot defense got lucky in that it had a substandard offense to deal with, and Freeman did manage 236 yards passing on 19-of-41 passing (a 54.5 rating). Perhaps the key for the Patriots was to contain Martin to only 88 yards rushing and a 4.4 yard average after he bludgeoned New Orleans last week for 146 yards rushing. With Martin basically a non-factor, the Patriots were able to totally focus on Freeman and making him wish even more that the Bucs trade him as soon as possible.

Brady can finally relax somewhat, as this was a Tampa Bay defense that is pretty good and that the Bucs were 0-2 coming into this game with two losses by a combined three points. Brady was able to solve the Tampa defense, which sacked him three times, and help his young receivers gain some measure of confidence. It is only one game, and Tampa's offense helped out in that there wasn't much to worry about, but Brady and the Patriots will take it.

The last two times the Patriots began 3-0, they went to the Super Bowl both times. The Patriots will take that, too.


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