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Patriots-Buccaneers 4 Ups, 4 Downs: Ridley Stong, O-Line Not

By Matthew Geagan, CBSBoston
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Patriots running back Stevan Ridley. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Patriots running back Stevan Ridley. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

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New England Patriots

BOSTON (CBS) –  The New England Patriots fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-28 in their third preseason game, and there really wasn’t all that much to like out of the contest.

The Patriots offensive stars played the majority of the game, but never found a good rhythm. Here are CBSBoston’s “Four Ups and Four Downs” from the Pats’ third preseason game.

Ups

1. Stevan Ridley

The second-year running back was the best offensive player for the Patriots, leading the way with 87 yards on 16 carries and another 17 off three receptions as the premiere back. 43 of Ridley’s yards came on the Patriots’ first scoring drive, a drive he took charge of. He showed off his speed and some pop up the middle as he helped them march to the end zone.

If this was Ridley’s chance to show the starting job was his, he did just about everything to earn it.

Stats: Patriots-Buccaneers Recap

2. Tom Brady Is Still Alive

Brady was pressured all game and hit hard on numerous occasions. The Bucs finished with two sacks on Brady and another four QB hits, but he managed to play into the third quarter and end his evening with a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski.

“It’s a physical sport and your body calluses up over the course of the preseason, and that’s why you train all offseason,” Brady said after the game. “You get hit and you have to wake up and get back at it the next day.”

It’s not the dress rehearsal the Patriots wanted for their All-Pro playcaller, and there’s no doubt he’ll be feeling those hits this weekend. But the good news is he’s still standing.

3. Demps Gets His Feet Wet

Rookie running back Jeff Demps saw his first NFL action, and played fairly well for a player that hadn’t touched a football in over eight months prior to this week.

He finished with 41 yards on three carries, including a great 29-yard burst that showed off his electric speed. He also returned two kickoffs, averaging 22 yards, and a punt for 16 yards.

Demps still has a long ways to go, but it was good to see him do something with the time he had on the field after practicing with the team for the first time on Wednesday.

4. Jones Impressive Again

After being held in check for the first half, Chandler Jones was unleashed in the third quarter — at least for a couple plays.

Jones nearly got to Josh Freeman to start the second half, and then completed the task and then some on the following play. Not only did he get to Freeman, he hit him after being held. The rookie finished the night with two tackles and a sack.

Downs

1. Offensive Line Of Horrors

As stated earlier, we are just glad Tom Brady is alive. Once again the offensive line struggled, letting Brady get hit far too often.

The return of Logan Mankins didn’t do much, as Marcus Cannon continued to struggle at the guard position. Nate Solder looked better covering Brady’s blindside, but if #12 has to go through 16 games like Friday night, he might need to be held up come the playoffs.

Despite all of that, he still says he has confidence in his line.

“I sure do; I have confidence in everybody,” Brady said after the game. “It’s just a matter of us getting out there and playing together. There are too many times we were one step forward, two steps back. When you’re not in a rhythm offensively it’s hard to produce a lot points. We just weren’t in rhythm in the first half.”

There is hope with the return of Sebastian Vollmer (who practiced this week but didn’t play Friday) and the possibility remains that Brian Waters comes back.

But the Patriots should check in with Waters again early Saturday morning (if they hadn’t already Friday night). A red carpet leading to the offices at Gillette might be a nice touch too.

Scott Zolak Not Worried About O-Line: 

2. No Offensive Flow From Starters

Brady took the field with Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Lloyd and basically all of his weapons minus Wes Welker at his disposal. And still, the Patriots offense had no rhythm.

While they played much better in the second half, the first half was atrocious for Brady and company. He was able to hit Hernandez five times for 52 yards, and his touchdown to Gronkowski in the third quarter should mean they’re ready to continue the dominant connection they had last year, but the Patriots offense lacked the consistency and flow you want to see in what could have been their final tune-up for the regular season.

Read: Belichick Not Happy Following Loss To Bucs

But Brady and the offense also struggled in the third preseason game last season against the Detroit Lions, and looked fine in Week 1 when Brady threw for 517 yards against Miami.

Bill Belichick gave Brady a few snaps in the fourth and final preseason game last year against the Giants; it will be interesting to see if he does the same this year.

3. Nothing Special About Special Teams

The Patriots special teams struggled keeping the Bucs from big returns, beginning with Michael Smith’s 39-yard return on the opening kick.

On their own returning end, Demps, Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington were each used on kickoff returns, and none of them really showed much, averaging just over 23-yards per return.

On four punt returns, Demps, Julian Edleman and Aaron Hernandez averaged just 10-yards per return.

4. Some Injury Concerns

Shane Vereen and Spencer Larsen both limped off the field in the first half and did not return, leaving the Patriots backfield fairly thin. This allowed Ridley to play more, and could be why Demps was able to get some snaps with the offense.

Corner Kyle Arrington also left the field in the first half with what appeared to be a back injury, and was replaced by second-year defensive back Ras-I Dowling.

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