By: Derek Havens
The New England Patriots defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-3 Sunday. While the team did get the victory, they still have a lot of work to do moving forward. Here is my report card for week three. —
Offense Grade: B –
The Patriots offense is improving, but they still have a long way to go.
(USA TODAY Images)
The offense showed improvement in week three, but I would still say the passing game is poor to this point. Tom Brady had one of the worst games in recent memory, missing wide open receivers and struggling with his accuracy. Perhaps this speaks to his level of trust with his new targets? Nevertheless, his performance was terrible. The offensive line in passing situations was also very shaky.
The running game was good Sunday, with 156 total yards on the ground. Stevan Ridley isn’t showing the playmaking ability and the vision he had in 2012, which is disappointing. Brandon Bolden on the other hand looked more explosive and took on the “Shane Vereen role” more effectively than I imagined he could. Look for them to split time moving forward.
The best news from Sunday was development with the young pass catchers, who both had solid outings. I feel as though the offense left points on the field, which could actually be a good thing. Why? Because they need to score a lot in Atlanta and I have a little more confidence they will be able to put up points than I did a week ago.
Defense Grade: A –
The Patriots defense looks solid through three weeks, but the argument can be made they have yet to be truly tested. Let’s be honest, they caught some breaks early on in the game Sunday. The Buccaneers dropped a few balls in the end zone, along with missing a chip shot field goal. Let’s give credit where credit is due though, the Pats held Tampa Bay to only three points. I don’t care what team you’re facing; in the NFL, holding an opponent to a singe field goal is an accomplishment.
Aqib Talib, Alfonso Dennard and Kyle Arrington have all been very good throughout the year. Add Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory to that mix as well. While the unit gets beat at times — honestly, which defense doesn’t in today’s NFL? — the continuity seems be having a strong effect for the players. The unit’s “base defense” seems to be able to handle more from opponents than past seasons.
While the pass rush has been good, it could be better. The team needs to bring more consistent pressure moving forward. Vince Wilfork has been terrible this season and the biggest issue is he is being guarded one-on-one. He is being challenged like never before in his career. The front seven did contain Bucs tailback Doug Martin to only 88 yards on the ground, which was huge.
The defense has been getting off the field on third downs — Tampa Bay was only 5-14 Sunday — and have yet to allow an opponent to score in the fourth quarter this season.
Special Teams Grade: B
Stephen Gostkowski was my player of the game Sunday. He made all three field goals, including a 53-yard attempt, to end the second quarter. He also did not allow the Buccaneers to return a kick, booming each potential opportunity to the back of the endzone.
Julian Edelman continues to show why he is one of the best punt return specialists in the league, but New England looks very lackluster returning kicks. LeGarrette Blount is not cutting it. This has been an issue for years now, but no one seems to be able to be a consistent threat. When Leon Washington is healthy, I expect him to be given an opportunity.
Rookie punter Ryan Allen has been both good and bad throughout the year. He averaged 42.7 yards per attempt in Sunday’s contest, but I would like to seem him be more consistent. Of course, this hasn’t really been brought into focus because there haven’t been any major mistakes.
Overall Grade: B +
Overall, the Patriots had a good game Sunday. Not great, but good. There are certainly a lot of hiccups offensively the team needs to correct, but at the same time, they are very raw and not healthy. I expect the unit to improve each week throughout the season.
There is a lot to like about this year’s defense. They have a strong front seven, good quality cornerbacks and a safety tandem that has played well. Not only are they getting off the field more consistently, they are only allowing about 11.3 points per game through the first three weeks.
In the meantime, the Patriots are 3-0 along with two wins in the division. It hasn’t always been pretty, but with the roster changes and injury woes it’s hard to be too critical. Be sure to check back later in the week for my “Two Way Street”, as I take a look at the upcoming game against the Atlanta Falcons.
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