By Danny Cox

After registering a 2-2 record through the first four weeks of the season, this was hardly the same New England Patriots team that won a Super Bowl last year. The offense appeared to be clicking just fine, but the defense left so much to be desired and was a huge reason that they had fallen out of favor with oddsmakers to be the top choice to win a championship this year.

On this week’s edition of Thursday Night Football, the Pats somehow found a defense and defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 19-14.

Offense: B-

Tom Brady arrived and Tom Brady conquered yet again, but there were some issues here and there. Brady finished the night with 303 yards passing and one touchdown while Brandin Cooks (five receptions for 85 yards) was his primary target. There were some hiccups, though, and it came in the form of the offensive line allowing three sacks of their leader.

The running game didn’t show much either as Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee combined for 105 yards on 19 carries, but Lewis gained 31 of those on one carry alone.

Something just seemed off on Thursday night as the Pats came up short time and time again on unfinished drives. A lot of points were left on the field and that is something that does not need to become a trend.

Defense: B

Perhaps it was the 2-2 record. Maybe it was the fact that they had fallen out as the favorites to win this year’s Super Bowl. It could have been head coach Bill Belichick lighting a much bigger fire under them that brought about a renewed spirit, some higher energy, and coverage skills that didn’t seem to exist in the secondary.

It may also be the fact that Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston just looked really bad as he completed only 26-of-46 pass attempts. It certainly wasn’t a great showing as Tampa Bay still had more than 400 yards of total offense, but this was a much better game from the defense than what they’ve shown all season.

Special Teams: A

As the Patriots offense struggled a little bit, the other aspects of the team picked it up. Dion Lewis had one kick return for 23 yards while Danny Amendola returned three punts for 51 yards. One of those returns was an exciting 40-yard return that breathed a bit of life into the return game.

Stephen Gostkowski once again used his leg to keep racking up the points as he hit his lone extra point attempt and all four field goal tries which included a 48-yarder.

Coaching: B

Something happened to the New England Patriots tonight and it led them to a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but not one that was over the top. There was an added spark on the defense that simply wasn’t there before, but something clicked in them and they finally knew what they needed to do. Unfortunately, it was the offense’s night to be off and that is why they scraped by the Bucs by just five points.

This was the kind of game that the Patriots defense needed, and perhaps the offense struggling made it even better for them. Instead of being bailed out by Tom Brady and company, the defense had to be the safety net which appeared to make them want to try even harder. If only every aspect of the team can come together and work to its fullest potential in each game, then it might be difficult to think the Pats would lose another game this season.


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