By: Russ Goldman
Tom Brady and the starting offense saw their first game action of the 2011 Exhibition Season, and completely dominated during Thursday night’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to improve the Patriots to 2-0 this preseason. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
My last article article I listed my “Five Reasons To Watch The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Buccaneers”. The next day I like to go back and look at those reasons and find out what we learned about watching the game.
Before I do that, I want mention that this was another positive step forward for the Patriots. The final score of the game was a 31-14 win, but the score does not indicate how much better they performed than their opposition.
The Patriots were up 28-0 at the half, and honestly it could have been worse for Tampa Bay. New England’s first team players manhandled the Bucs starters the entire first half, and it was on both sides of the ball.
On offense, we got to see the starters play, and that included Tom Brady. Brady led the offense to three touchdowns on their first three drives, which were all in the first quarter. Brady moved them effortlessly down the field, and ended the day with 2 touchdowns, finishing 11-for-19 for 118 yards.
The Patriots offense last night was completely balanced as the running backs really shined as well. Danny Woodhead ran for 63 yards, and Benjarvus Green-Ellis chipped in with 51 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Bucs defense in the first half had no answers for the Patriots offense.
On defense, we got to see many players that will be starting this season. This unit was tremendous in the first half, and their aggressive style of play had huge dividends. The Patriots did play a 4-3 last night, but this defense was getting up the field, and putting pressure on Bucs starting quarterback Josh Freeman.
On the first 6 drives that the Bucs had the ball, they were forced to punt. The first two drives, they were three and out. The Bucs could not run, and they certainly could not pass. There seemed to be a Patriots defender in the face of the running backs, and the quarterback at all times in the first half.
The Patriots defense completely dominated their opponent. The scary thing is that this defense was without Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Brandon Spikes, and Jermaine Cunnigham, and this unit could actually get even better when those players return.
It might just be a pre-season game, but there are many positives to take out of it. Hopefully we will see continued improvement in their next game against the Lions.
While watching the game I was really focused on the players and positions I had mentioned in my prior post. As I do always I go back and compare what ultimately happened in these areas after the game is over.
Below is my analysis of my “Five Reasons To Watch the Patriots Pre- Season Game Against the Buccaneers”.
1.Will there be chemistry right away between Chad Ochocinco and Tom Brady? There is no question that the partnership between these players is a work in progress. Ochocinco dropped a couple of passes, but he did have 2 receptions, and caught a touchdown pass from Brady. Last night, the timing wasn’t quite there yet, but in time you could see this partnership really develop.
2.Will Andre Carter and Mark Anderson be able to get after the quarterback? The answer to that question last night was a huge “yes”. Anderson did flash at times in the game, and did have 3 tackles.
However, it was the play of Carter that stood out for me. He did not have any sacks or tackles, but he was constantly harassing the opposing quarterback. Bucs offensive tackle, Donald Penn stuggled tremendously, and was beat often by Carter. Carter has a strong motor, and he was seen constantly in the Bucs backfield. He might be the steal of free agency.
3. How will Brandon Meriweather play at safety? It was hard at times to focus on Meriweather, because the pass rush was so dominating, it probably made his job much easier last night. He did have 3 tackles, but again I did not see much of him. However, he is a player that will still need to be monitored in the upcoming pre-season games.
4. How will Jerod Mayo play in this new look Patriots defense? I thought Mayo was tremendous in this new 4-3 defense at outside linebacker. He was constantly around the ball as he was shooting the gap.
He had 5 tackles, and 2 sacks in the game. However, those statistics don’t really indicate just how dominant he was last night. If the Bucs game was any indication of how Mayo will play this season, he could be a huge playmaker for the Patriots defense this year.
5. Will Ryan Mallett continue to progress in his development as a quarterback? Unfortunately, Mallett took a step backwards in this game. He struggled at times, and threw a floating pass that was intercepted, and taken back for a touchdown.
Mallett was 9-of-14 for 71 yards, and had a passer rating of 47.0. He just wasn’t sharp, and that is to be expected from a young quarterback. Hopefully he will learn from this experience, and in the next pre-season game show progress.
In concluding, this was a very positive second pre-season game for the Patriots. If we continue to see progress in their third pre-season game, it could be a great sign that the Patriots could be very close to being ready for their opener against Miami. The Patriots will next be in action on Saturday August 27th against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.