The New England Patriots traveled to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers Friday night.
This being the third preseason game for the Patriots, the starters played into the third quarter.
The results however were less than encouraging for offense.
The Buccaneers' defense represented a good challenge for the Patriots' offense.
Patriots’ offensive line struggled early and often, as Tom Brady was never able to get into a rhythm in the first half.
Tom Brady finished 13-of-20 for 127 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
New England's defense played better than the score indicates. Starting linebacker corps of Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Dont'a Hightower stuffed the run with ease, consistently forcing the Tampa Bay offense into 3rd and long situations.
For the most part the Patriots' secondary responded well. Chandler Jones recorded a sack, early in the third quarter. Jones continues to impress and is locked in as the starting right defense end.
As bad as the first-team offense played for the majority of three quarters, the second-team offense led by Ryan Mallett played marched down the field for a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Ebert.
Newcomer Jeff Demps put his world-class speed on display as he had three carries for 41 yards on the drive.
Three players or areas that left a positive initial reaction:
1.) Stevan Ridley/Jeff Demps – Ridley received his second start of the preseason, and made the most of his opportunities. He Finished the game with 16 carries for 87 yards and one touchdown. Ran with power and was decisive in his cuts.
Ridley is a safe bet to enter the season as the No. 1 back, and will receive the majority of the carries. Demps made his Patriots debut, and while it did not get off to the start he wanted to as he was flagged for a false start on his first play, he ultimately showed why the Patriots were so interested in him.
He generated a nice run of 29-yards showing his Olympic speed, and finished the game with 101 all-purpose yards (41 yards rushing, 44 yards from kick return, and a punt return of 16 yards).
2.) Ryan Mallett – Entered the game in the fourth quarter, leading two drives for touchdowns. Mallett seems to have moved ahead of last year’s backup quarterback, Brian Hoyer, in the fight for the No. 2 role. In one quarter of action Mallett finished 7-of-13 for 66 yards and two touchdowns.
3.) Nate Ebner – Entered the game on the team’s first defensive series, lining up at linebacker in the dime package. On the team’s third series, he entered the game at safety for Tavon Wilson.
Ebner earned valuable experience with first-team defense, as he seems to have earned the coaches trust. Ebner has had a very solid training camp and seems to be building on that with every practice. He appears to be in line for a prominent role on the defense going forward. Ebner finished the game with five solo tackles.
Three players or areas that left the fans feeling nervous:
1.) Offensive line – While the team welcomed Logan Mankins back from his ACL surgery, the offensive line did not give Brady much protection. Brady was harassed all night being sacked twice, and hit four times.
It is still the preseason and too much stock should not be put into the troubles, but with every day that goes by it becomes less likely that Brian Waters is coming back.
This may be the starting line heading into the regular season opener, and they have a long way to go. As, Brady goes so does the offense the offensive line needs to protect him.
2.) Julian Edelman – Receiver was handed the starting nod in place of Wes Welker who did not play. Edelman had a chance to show the organization that he was capable of taking over for Welker should he leave after this season.
After this game fans will be hoping Welker is a Patriot for life, as Edelman was shut out in the catch column and was only targeted once. Edelman is a safe bet to make the team with his versatility and special teams contributions but needs to step up his progression as a wide receiver.
3.) Injuries – Patriots suffered a trio of injuries to players who are expected to contribute a lot this season.
Running back Shane Vereen left the game after only two carries with what appeared to be a lower leg injury. Fullback Spencer Larsen also limped off the field for with a lower leg injury.
Cornerback Kyle Arrington left the game halfway through the second quarter with his back being attended to by the trainers.
Patriots avoided a scare when starting safety Steve Gregory limped off the field, but appears he could have gone back in if it was the regular season.