FOXBORO (CBS) — Football was back, albeit in its preseason form, at Gillette Stadium on Friday night. The fans were no doubt happy to see the Patriots on the field once again, and they ended up winning 25-21 over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to improve their fake season record to 2-0.
That’s good, in the sense that it’s not bad, but a little bit of both was on display in the game. So without wasting any more time, let’s get into four ups and four downs from the Pats-Bucs game.
At 36 years old, he looks as sharp as ever. He completed 11 of his 12 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, and he also needled a pass through tight coverage to Zach Sudfeld for a two-point conversion. You can read more about him here, but it’s clear that little knee injury on Wednesday wasn’t anything that’s going to slow him down.
A quarterback isn’t much without a receiver, and Danny Amendola was excellent in his time on the field with Brady. He caught six passes in just two series, including a 13-yard pickup on a third-and-11 and a 26-yard touchdown pass a few plays later.
He talked after the game about the importance of getting work in, and he said the option route he ran on the third-down conversion is something they’ve worked on quite a bit. Obviously, it’s just the preseason, so it’s too early to proclaim the offense to be in safe hands with Amendola out there. But for what it is, and for where they are in the season, the signs are at least encouraging for Amendola.
It may seem odd to put the punter in here, but Mesko is involved in one of the most obvious position battles, in the sense that it’s hard not to notice the punter. And though the Patriots might be making Zoltan sweat, the veteran is proving his worth.
Thanks in part to Tim Tebow (more on him later), the punters had plenty of opportunities. Ryan Allen got the first opportunity, but he just does not have the hang time as Mesko. Allen also failed in his attempt to pin the Bucs deep, with his punt bouncing into the end zone for a touchback, while Mesko was able to pin the Bucs on their own 9-yard line.
If there’s one positional battle that looks to be settled from the outside, it’s at punter. Mesko has shown his value.
Brandon Spikes, Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins
Is it cheating to include three players as just one up? Maybe, but all of these guys deserve credit for their performances.
Spikes sacked quarterback Josh Freeman on the first defensive play of the game after a long Tampa kick return set the Bucs up in pretty good field position. The series that ended up being a three-and-out.
On the second series, Chandler Jones tenaciously fought with Donald Penn and made it to the quarterback for a sack, and Spikes came up with another sack on third down to force another punt.
Later in the game, Patriots top pick Jamie Collins flashed some of the skills that made the team go for him in the second round this year. He laid a big, clean hit on Kevin Ogletree to knock a ball loose from the receiver, he combined with Marquice Cole on third and fourth down to make a goal-line stand (the fourth down stop was negated due to a Tavon Wilson hold away from the play), and in perhaps his most impressive feat of strength of the night, Collins filled a hole and drove running back Mike James back a yard before suplexing him to the ground. It was a solid showing for the rook.
The kid was bad, plain and simple. It’s all detailed here, and because it was Tebow, it will be a major talking point this week. While you could argue that time spent arguing about a third-string quarterback is time poorly spent, you can’t argue that Tebow did much on Friday night that benefited the team.
The Buccaneers returned four kicks on the night. One came back 63 yards, and another came back 40 yards. That’s the type of performance that can affect games, which is the last thing the kickoff team ever wants to do.
In fairness, it did look as though the Bucs may have been more willing to take kicks out of the end zone in the preseason rather than in a real game. Still, there’s no excuse to give up nearly 40 yards per kick return.
This might be tough criticism, because his only miss came on a 50-yarder, but the kicker is now 2-for-5 in the preseason.
His job, obviously, is safe, as he has a rather extensive resume with the team. But the miss Friday night is one you’d like to see him make, considering there was absolutely no wind at all inside Gillette Stadium. It’s not something worth worrying about, per se, but it’s at least something to think about as the real games begin to get closer and closer.
While there may be a player or two who could be singled out for a subpar performance (looking at you, Tavon Wilson), the number of penalties the Patriots were called for was a bit more of a glaring issue. In total, the team was penalized 10 times for 63 yards.
On the specific subject of the actual game, it was good for the team to deal with some adversity with regard to penalties. But on the larger level, that’s just too many penalties to take. A 15-yarder on Logan Mankins after a whistle, a false start on center Ryan Wendell, a holding penalty on a field goal attempt by Michael Hoomanawanui, and the worst, a defensive holding penalty on Wilson on a fourth-down goal-line stop come to mind as the ones the Patriots need to eliminate from their game.
It all worked out in the end, but in a real game, they probably wouldn’t be so lucky.
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