Tampa Bay fell to 0-3 when they lost to the New England Patriots 23-3 on Sunday in Foxborough. The offense drove the ball well, but was unable to finish some early chances that deflated the team. Tampa Bay lost the ball on downs four times in Patriots territory, and had a missed field goal. The Bucs had the opportunity to be in this game, but were unable to execute down the field. Here are the game grades in Tampa Bay’s third straight loss.Quarterback
24-for-41 with two touchdowns, 300 yards and one interception. That is not a bad stat line, and would have been Josh Freeman’s if his receivers didn’t have (at least) five drops, two of which would have resulted in a touchdown. Two more would have converted big third downs but instead resulted in a fourth down. They weren’t poor passes either.
It didn’t help Freeman that his only two truly talented receivers were injured during the game. Mike Williams hobbled through the entire game, clearly not 100 percent, while Vincent Jackson sat out the second half. That left Freeman with Kevin Ogletree, Eric Page, and Nate Byham as his main receivers aside from the injured Williams. It showed in the fourth quarter too; Freeman had all day to throw the ball on several plays but ended up having to throw the ball away because no one could get open, resulting in more of his incompletions.
Freeman had his best game of the season, which isn’t saying too much. He did make a really poor throw intended for Vincent Jackson in the second quarter, but stared him down so hard former Buccaneer Aqib Talib picked it off, leading to a Patriots field goal right before the end of the first half. But that was a particularly strange series to begin with, as it seemed head coach Greg Schiano couldn’t make up his mind on whether to try to score before the half or not.
Freeman also had a few misfires where he either overthrew his receiver or was on a different page than them. But the majority of his incompletions were dropped passes and throwaways. However it is also worth noting that the Patriots were playing prevent defense at the end of the game, improving Freeman’s numbers for the day.
Freeman’s stat line for the game was 19-of-41 with 236 yards and one interception. Freeman was also sacked three times on the day. While Freeman didn’t have much help around him against the Patriots, he made plenty of mistakes on his own and does deserve some of the blame, but definitely not all of it. GRADE= C-RUNNING BACKS
With the return of Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks, Doug Martin was bound for a big day. However, the offensive line really struggled at times to open up any holes for Martin, who’s 88 yards almost all came from his ability to fall forward after being hit, and being able to break tackles and make people miss on his own.
Martin did what he could on his twenty carries, and ended up with a decent 4.4 yards per carry. The stud running back also added two receptions for 20 yards, but did have a critical drop. GRADE= BWIDE RECEIVERS
Mike Williams led the receivers with five catches and 65 yards, despite being banged up most of the game. Williams did not have a drop on the day, but the same can’t be said for Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson, who had two costly drops against the Saints last week, and again against the Patriots. His first drop was on Tampa Bay’s opening drive on a second down pass thrown right to him, but Jackson heard footsteps and couldn’t hold on. His second drop was much worse, when on a third-and-1 second quarter play, Freeman tossed a perfect pass that fell right through Jackson’s hands. The play would have most likely resulted in a touchdown, but instead they turned the ball over on downs.
After Jackson left the game, receivers Kevin Ogletree and Eric Page got more involved in the game. Page actually looked very impressive making a nice adjustment on two Freeman passes, and ended the game with three catches and 55 yards despite not being involved for most of the game. Ogletree only had two receptions for 35 yards, and also had a drop on a nice third down pass from Freeman. If Jackson or Williams are out for an extended period of time, the Bucs will be in serious trouble. Even with both of them healthy, Tampa Bay clearly needs a third receiver option for Freeman to throw to, as Ogletree doesn’t seem to be the answer.GRADE= DTIGHT ENDS
With both Tom Crabtree and Luke Stocker inactive for today’s game, the Bucs had to start Nate Byham in the tight end position. Byham had just one catch for three yards and wasn’t much of a factor all game long, although he did block decently for Doug Martin. It doesn’t look like the Bucs will be successful throwing the ball to a tight end until Tom Crabtree returns, and that is still being very optimistic. Tim Wright failed to haul in a sure touchdown pass in the first half that could have ultimately made a difference in the game.GRADE= DOFFENSIVE LINE
Despite Nicks returning to the lineup, the Bucs’ offensive line struggled to create running room for Doug Martin. Nicks, along with Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph, still aren’t 100 percent after recovering from injuries. Joseph struggled in the run game and also gave up a sack.
Left tackle Donald Penn gave up a sack in his third consecutive game, but held up pretty well the rest of the game. Two of the three sacks given up by the offensive line were actually on plays with very good pass protection, but no one was open in the secondary so the pocket collapsed on Freeman. Once Nicks and Joseph are fully healthy, the offensive line should be one of the best in the NFL again. GRADE= CDEFENSIVE LINE
Although the defensive line managed to get two sacks against Brady, they struggled to get pressure most of the game. Brady had all day to throw, allowing his rookie receivers to shake off the Bucs’ secondary and get open. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn’s sack was due to the good coverage down field, giving Clayborn a lot of time to get to the quarterback.
Rookie nose tackle Akeem Spence had his first career sack and Brady had no chance on that play as Spence penetrated the line immediately. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy got some pressure on the day, but not enough to force any mistakes by Brady.
The defensive line also struggled against the run, giving the Patriots’ running backs plenty of holes, especially near the end of the game. The Bucs’ defense gave up a season-high 156 rush yards to the Pats, including 65 yards to former Buccaneer LeGarrette Blount.GRADE= DLINEBACKERS
After two spectacular games to start off the season, the Buccaneer linebacker corps was bound to cool off eventually. They cooled off against the Patriots, but still had an decent game. Lavonte David led the linebackers with nine tackles, including two tackles for loss, half a sack, and a PBU. David already has a team-leading three sacks on the season, more than he had all of last year (two).
Middle linebacker Mason Foster, who had the best game of his career last week, had eight tackles against the Patriots and a hit on Tom Brady. Strong side linebacker Dakota Watson didn’t record a tackle on the day.
Overall the linebackers had a so-sogame, but did struggle in run defense and containing the screen pass, which killed the Bucs most of the game.GRADE= CSECONDARY
Despite Tom Brady having all day to throw the ball, the secondary held him to 225 passing yards, which is less than what Freeman finished the game with. Brady also had two touchdown passes, but both were on plays where the defensive line failed to generate any pressure. Strong safety Mark Barron continued his impressive season by leading the team in tackles with 11, including a half sack and a pass break up. Barron also intercepted Tom Brady in the end zone, keeping the game from looking much more ugly than it could have looked.
Free safety Dashon Goldson, who narrowly avoided being suspended for the game, had seven tackles and didn’t play quite as aggressive as he had in two game prior, which is a good thing because he wasn’t penalized and still managed to have a good game.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis had five tackles and pretty much shut down receiver Kenbrell Thompkins the entire game, who he was covering most of the time. Thompkins did have two touchdowns, but neither of them were against Revis.
Rookie Johnthan Banks struggled, allowing one touchdown to Thompkins and a costly pass interference call, putting the Patriots deep into Buccaneer territory. Banks finished the game with three tackles.
Overall the secondary did a pretty good job of holding Brady in check despite how much time he was given to throw the ball.GRADE= BSPECIAL TEAMS
Michael Koenen punted and kicked the ball well on Sunday, not allowing a kickoff return, although there were only two kickoffs the entire game. Eric Page didn’t get the chance to return a kickoff, but did have a good return of 12 yards on a punt.
Kicker Rian Lindell missed another field goal, this time from just 38-yards out. The Bucs will need to figure out their kicking situation fast, because Schiano clearly (and rightfully) does not trust Lindell as he chose to go for four fourth downs instead of attempt a field goal. Lindell did make one from 30 yards out, but that’s hardly enough to keep the Bucs from looking elsewhere. GRADE= C-
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