By: Christine Roy
Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay was a tale of two closely matched quarterbacks. Closely matched based off of the stats page that is.
Buccaneers’ quarterback Josh Freeman ranks last in the league in completion percentage, having completed just 45.3% of his passes. But Tom Brady isn’t too far behind, ranking 31st in the league and completing just 52.7% of his passes so far this season. Both quarterbacks have been sacked four times and both have a quarterback rating under 75. Brady wins the battle of yards with 473 yards thrown, putting him 22nd in the league while Freeman ranks 30th with 335 total yards. Who would have thought statistically a future hall of famer could be linked so closely to a fifth year starter in Tampa Bay?
Luckily for the Patriots, the comparison can stop right there. Tom Brady proved he was the better quarterback and things on the offensive side of the ball took a positive turn Sunday afternoon. There was balance and sustained drives, something we haven’t seen yet this season. The Pats ran the ball 33 times averaging 4.7 yards per carry and put the ball in the air 36 times for a total of 202 yards. With the defense holding the Buccaneers to just 3 points, it was nice to see the offense do their part as well.
Tom Brady and his receivers are finally getting on the same page.
(USA TODAY Images)
For the first time it wasn’t the Tom Brady, Julian Edelman show as rookie receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins got their legs under them and, more importantly, their hands on the ball. Dobson led all receivers with 7 catches for 52 yards and Thompkins scored both of the Patriots touchdowns and finished with 3 catches for 41 yards. Running back Brandon Bolden was welcomed back into the Patriots fold after missing the first two games with an injury and he finished the day with 5 receptions for 49 yards, averaging 9.8 yards per carry.
Brady made use of six receivers against the Bucs and was sharing the wealth. It isn’t always easy going back to a guy who dropped a pass or ran a wrong route, but Brady is making it work. He likely knows his options are limited but time is proving to be this team’s most valuable asset as these young receivers continue to grow.
On the ground the Pats were equally as successful. LeGarrette Blount made his presence known, leading the rushing core with 14 carries for 65 yards. Stevan Ridley and Bolden were the other players pushing the pile and finished the day with 35 and 51 yards respectively. It speaks volumes to the strength of the offensive line when the run game is as successful as it was on Sunday. There were sizable holes that made wide running lanes. Once again, the ability of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia never ceases to amaze. He can turn nothing into something and it is because of his coaching that the Patriots run game stands a chance.
As the offense turned the corner it was nice to see the defense hold their steady tune. There were some moments of a secondary collapse but they came up big when they needed to. Aquib Talib had a big interception nearing the end of the first half and Brandon Spikes was all over the field with seven tackles, five of which were on his own. Four members of the defensive line contributed to the three sacks on Freeman and six players hit him at least once. It was a well rounded effort that shut the door on any hope of keeping Brady and Freeman close in the stats.
The day started with two quarterbacks at the bottom of the pile, working to hit their stride. In the end Brady proved why he’s one of the greatest to ever play the game and how quickly he can redirect a team. Only 10 days of practice separated the team’s Thursday night victory over the Jets and Sunday’s more dominant performance over Tampa Bay. After some lackluster performances Brady is finally hitting his targets and building trust with his new teammates. They may not be out of the hole quite yet but they’re getting there and with Rob Gronkowski set to return next week, the only way this team can go is up.