By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It was ugly. It was sloppy. It got pretty tense at the end.
But the Patriots found a way to hang on for a 19-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a much-needed win to improve to 3-2 on the season. There is a lot to fix and clean up on both sides of the ball, and if Nick Folk could put the ball through the uprights we’d be singing a much different tune in New England. But the Pats now have nine days to figure it out and get ready for the New York Jets, and don’t think they’ll be satisfied with the way they played despite walking away with the win.
At least we can all agree that Thursday Night Football stinks out loud, from the game on the field to the horrible “color rush” jerseys. Thankfully, the Patriots are done with the spectacle for another year.
Here are the Ups and Downs from New England’s nail-bitter of a win on Thursday night:
Defense Shows Improvement
The Bucs finished with 409 yards on offense, but the Patriots defense played much better, which goes to show how low the bar has been set for the unit. But had the Patriots lost this game it would have been on their lackluster offense, and the defense should actually get some credit for the victory.
The D came up with red zone stops, they didn’t give up many big plays, and there were only a few of those “communication issues” that plagued them over the first four weeks. They also kept the Buccaneers from converting a third down until their eighth try, and held them to 4-for-13 overall on third down.
The secondary had solid game as Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore both played well. Gilmore shadowed Mike Evans, holding him to five catches for 49 yards on eight targets, and said after the game that he felt much more comfortable sticking with one man throughout. Patrick Chung also came up with two big pass deflections on third down to keep Tampa from moving the chains.
It was far from perfect, and they should be sending a fruit basket to both Jameis Winston and Nick Folk, but Thursday night was a few baby steps in the right direction for the New England defense.
Big Night From Amendola
Danny Amendola had a gigantic evening with eight receptions for 77 yards, including three third down catches to keep drives alive.
Hogan Snags Another Touchdown
The receiver now has five scores on the season, a new career high. Not bad, considering it’s only Week 5.
Hogan continues to be a reliable target for Brady, hauling in eight receptions for 74 yards and New England’s only touchdown against Tampa.
Gostkowski was a perfect 4-for-4 on Thursday night and is 12-for-12 on the season. He booted a 48 yarder with 1:10 left to put the Patriots up by five, forcing the Bucs to need a touchdown in the end.
Dumb & Dumber (& Dumberer) Penalties
The flags were flying for both teams, as 21 penalties were accepted during Thursday night’s monstrosity of a football game. Twelve of those were on the Patriots, giving the Buccaneers 108 free yards.
The worst of the bunch were a pair of roughing the passer penalties on Deatrich Wise Jr. and Cassius Marsh at the end of the first half, which let Tampa get into field goal range. Lucky for New England, there was that Folk Effect on Thursday night.
Wise was also flagged for a bad hands to the face penalty that kept a drive alive for Tampa in the second quarter. What would have been a Winston incomplete pass on third-and-20 turned into a fresh set of downs for the Bucs, and Doug Martin scored a touchdown a few plays later.
The Bucs had one sack in three games entering the night. Then they went out and sacked Brady three times, hitting him a total of six times, and were constantly in his face. Brady fumbled as he took his third sack of the evening, and appeared to be a little dinged up as the hits piled up. He chalked it up to “just football” and said he’d be ready for the Jets.
No one is going to enjoy the extended time off more than No. 12, who has now been sacked 16 times in five games. He was sacked 15 times in 12 games last season.
A Goose Egg From Tight Ends
With Rob Gronkowski out with a thigh injury, the Patriots received no production from their tight ends. Brady threw just one pass to Jacob Hollister (which didn’t connect) and never looked Dwayne Allen’s way in the passing game. Allen blew a handful of blocking assignments that led to more pressure on the quarterback and still looks lost out there.
The Patriots had put points on the scoreboard on each of their opening drives this season heading into Thursday night’s game. Things started off well as Brady went 4-for-4 and had the Patriots at midfield, but then tossed an awful pass behind Hogan and into the hands of safety Justin Evans. It was a bad interception for Brady — his first of the season.