BOSTON (CBS) – Friday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was tough to watch if you are a fan of the Patriots. We still though have some gold stars and black thumb prints to hand out.
Stevan Ridley gets a gold star. If there was any question who the number one running back on this team was, it was answered last night. He caught the ball out of the backfield, scored on a short yardage play and also broke through the line and had a 29-yard run. He did it all and did it without fumbling. No need to play him in the final preseason game. The second year player out of LSU is ready.
Jeff Demps gets a gold star. I think everybody waited for the young man to take the field and when he did, he did not disappoint. An all-purpose back, he reminded me of Dave Meggett, but faster. Three carries for 41 yards was his final stat line and he also did himself well on kick returns. He could be a game-changer and his speed makes all the difference.
Nate Ebner and Marquice Cole both get gold stars. Ebner has been showing up on the stat sheets and making the most of his time out there on the field. Six tackles to lead the team last night was very good. Cole had a couple of pass break-ups and he also played on the special teams to make a case for a roster spot.
Julian Edelman gets a black thumb print. Everybody thought he would make a couple of big plays, while replacing Wes Welker. Well he didn’t. Edelman did a great job of blocking in the running game but progressing as a pass catcher is something that did not show up on the stat sheet.
The offensive line gets a black thumb print. Watching Tom Brady take tough hit after tough hit was hard to endure. If he gets hurt, the Pats season will be squashed. They have to find a way to protect him because last night they did not. He was only sacked twice but was pressured numerous times. During the game and even afterwards, you could see the frustration on Brady’s face. They have 2 weeks to get it right.
BELICHICK NOT HAPPY
After the game, Bill Belichick took the podium and was not happy. The Pats first team offense and defense both played poorly. Belichick could not hide how upset he was.
“I think it was pretty obvious tonight that we got a lot of work to do,” Belichick said in his opening remarks. “We have a long way to go. We really didn’t perform to the level that we need to, in any area. When you can’t score offensively, and give up a lot of points on defense, and don’t make any plays in the kicking game, then you don’t really have a good chance to win and that’s pretty much the way it was tonight.”
Obviously, a big concern after the game, was the amount of hits Brady took. The Buccaneers got after him and took apart his offensive line. Coach thought all around, nothing was good.
“We didn’t do anything offensively except lose yardage and turn the ball over, so yeah, it was tough to watch any of what we did offensively,” he said. “There wasn’t anything. We throw them the ball. Can’t make any yards in the running game. Third-and-long all day. Yeah, it was real hard to watch.”
For the second time this preseason though, Brady took a hit in the backfield and coughed up the ball. The ball was at the Pats 15, he went back to pass but instead was leveled. Michael Bennet beat Marcus Cannon and got to Brady.
“It was just holding on to the ball too long,” Brady said of the play. “Brandon [Lloyd] was starting to work away from the coverage and they just got me as I was throwing the ball. Have to try to eliminate those and try to eliminate turnovers, they certainly kill us. Those just aren’t very good plays.”
Instead of pointing the blame or trying to figure out why the offense is struggling, Brady looked at the big picture.
“I think the point is that we have to do things a lot better. It’s every position. It’s every player. We all have to do a better job at our job,” he said. “If we all individually do that, collectively we’ll be better at it. Hopefully we can put together a good week and go down to the Giants and play a good game [Wednesday] and get us prepared for our opener.
And if you are wondering if Brady was complaining about the hits he was taking, well, he didn’t. He called it another day at the office.
“It’s a physical sport and your body calluses up over the course of the preseason, and that’s why you train all offseason,” he said. “You get hit and you have to wake up and get back at it the next day.”
DEMPS PLAY WELL
One of the most anticipated items in last night’s game was the play of Jeff Demps. Everyone wanted to see what the free agent Olympic silver medalist sprinter could bring to the table. Well his play got some positive thoughts from Brady.
“He got quite a bit of opportunity tonight. Coach put him in position to make some plays out there, both in the return game and at running back,” Brady said. “It’s pretty amazing to go from what you trained for the last 6-8 months in his life, and then come in here and put pads on and do the same thing. It’s really a credit to his hard work and his mental toughness.”
As for the 5-foot-7, 183-pound all-purpose back, he said he was anxious to start but enjoyed being out there. Three carries for 41 yards which included a 29-yard burst through the line, that showed his world class speed.
“It felt good, not having cut like that for a while,” said Demps. “I still have a long way to go. I’m just learning from the other guys and whatever they say, and they tell me, I’m holding on to it.”