Tom Brady, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker took care of business on Thursday, as the Patriots defeated the Buccaneers, 31-14.
By Matt Noonan
It’s only the second game of the preseason, but still, there are plenty of things to take away from this particular game, despite the Patriots second victory.
Here are a few overall thoughts on the game, as well as things that will need to be addressed or corrected going forward.
*The first offensive statistic that sticks out right away was New England’s opening drive, which was a total of five plays for 64 yards. Tom Brady connected with tight end Aaron Hernandez to give the Patriots momentum, as well as the lead. The offense continued their success on their second and third drives of the game, as well as watched BenJarvus Green-Ellis convert six points on a one-yard run and Chad Ochocinco record his first touchdown reception in a New England uniform. Although, despite their first quarter success, the offense struggled during the second, third and fourth quarter, but did managed to display positive signs, especially when Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallet were under center. Although, I’m sure Mr. Brady wasn’t exactly the happiest person, as he watched both back up quarterbacks struggle to maintain momentum, which he had established. Both Mallet and Hoyer didn’t appear as productive in this game, as they were against the Jacksonville Jaguars, as the quarterbacks combined for 10 completions and one interception.
*As usual, head coach Bill Belichick mentioned during his postgame press conference that there are always things to improve upon, yet, after observing his first string offense, especially in the first quarter, it almost felt as if we were watching highlights of the ’07 squad. Although, don’t ask the head coach about that squad, especially since they didn’t finish the season undefeated.
Once again, Patriots fans watched rookie running back Stevan Ridley take over the ground game.
*Running back Stevan Ridley proved that once again, he deserves a spot on this particular roster. The halfback finished the game with 84 yards on 14 carries, but didn’t manage to record his fourth touchdown of the preseason. However, Ridley has also proven that he’s reliable, gritty and tough football player, especially since he was sidelined earlier this past week with an injury. Yet, it’s likely we’ll be seeing number twenty-two on the sidelines this year.
*The Patriots defense smothered the Buccaneers starting quarterback, Josh Freeman, who finished the game with five completions for 33 yards. Yet, despite keeping Freeman on his toes, the defense also recorded three sacks and one interception. Linebacker Tracy White led New England with five tackles, while Jerod Mayo finished the game with two sacks, three tackles and two assists.
*The Patriots defense constantly provided pressure from all different angles, as well as allowed their front seven to force their way through the Buccaneers offensive line. Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter appeared incredibly uncomfortable in and outside the pocket, as well as out of sync with their second and third string offense, which had to make Belichick somewhat happy, right? Expect this trend to continue the next two weeks, as well as into the regular season too. Belichick indeed has retooled his defensive unit, although, one has to wonder, will they use more blitz packages this season or resort to playing a variety of zone coverage’s? Who knows, but after two completely different exhibition games, it’s quite easy to think that the Patriots will be an aggressive defense this season.
All in all, it was yet again another successful team effort by the Patriots offense, defense and special teams. Of course, fans should expect some changes to occur, but in the meantime, it was yet another solid outing, as well as a positive sign of things to come.