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BOSTON (CBS) – Bill Belichick is the master of talking up the competition.
The Patriots head coach was at it again on Monday, praising the 0-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his conference call with the media.
“Talk about a team that’s two plays away from being 2-0, that’s Tampa,” Belichick said the Patriots Week 3 opponent. “They’ve been really close the last two weeks and have come up short but a couple plays that just turn out a little differently, wouldn’t have taken much, we’d be looking at a 2-0 team.”
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Tampa lost their Week 1 meeting with the Jets thanks to a personal foul on linebacker Lavonte David, which moved New York into field goal range with just two seconds remaining. They followed that up this weekend by letting the New Orleans Saints come back to win despite trailing 14-13 with just over a minute left. Kicker Rian Lindell missed a 47-yard field goal that would have put Tampa by by four, and the Saints drove 54-yards to set up a game-winning kick by Garrett Harley as time expired.
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“We would have expected Tampa’s best no matter what happened in the first two games and that’s what we’ll expect this week,” said Belichick. “I think that that’s a team that I would expect to get their absolute best performance every week.”
The two teams are familiar with each other after holding joint practices this preseason ahead of their August 16 game in Tampa. Belichick took time to praise Tampa running back Doug Martin, who burned the Saints for 154 yards on Sunday, and receiver Vincent Jackson, who has 231 receiving yards through the first two weeks.
But Belichick doesn’t think there will be much carryover from the practices and preseason game, other than general familiarity with the players they saw last month.
“They’re a tough, physical team,” he said. “Scheme-wise, it’s all game planning now, it’s not just going out there and working on the things that both teams are working on (like in the preseason). I’m sure it will be geared very specifically both ways toward the opponent. Definitely we’ll have to learn a lot from their game against the Jets and New Orleans, have a good week of practice here and be ready to play our best.”
“I really feel like we’re playing a 2-0 team,” he said. “That’s the way we have to prepare.”
As for his own team, Belichick said the extra rest they got from playing on Thursday night will help wiht the bumps and bruises sustained over the first two weeks, and
“I think that it kind of, as a staff, gives us a little bit of extra time to figure out where we are,” said Belichick. “What things we need to work on, need a little bit more work on, some situations that maybe haven’t come up in the first couple games that we need to refresh and the ones that have.”
Belichick wouldn’t say if tight end Rob Gronkowski would suit up for the first time this season on Sunday, lumping him into the “day-to-day” category.
Tune in to Patriots-Buccaneers at 1p.m. on Sunday on 98.5 The Sports Hub — the flagship station of the New England Patriots. Pregame coverage begins at 10 a.m., with full postgame coverage following the game. WBZ-TV also has you covered, with Patriots GameDay at 11:30 a.m., and Patriots 5th Quarter on myTV38.