With every scouting report, every free agency signing, every draft pick, one eye was one the celebration in the moment, but the other was always on the season, and when it came to the brightest of lights, the reason the weapons and the big names were brought in, this was the game they were brought to play in.
Unfortunately, it didn’t matter, as the Buccaneers fell to the Patriots by a score of 19-14.
The Patriots started with the ball, though not by their own choice. Brady and the Pats offense was moving the ball down the field well, as was expected, up until rookie safety Justin Evans, who was making the first start of his career in place of the injured Keith Tandy, intercepted him on the Buccaneers side of the field.
Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, they couldn’t capitalize and get points off the turnover, something that turned out to be a theme for the game. Minus the first play of the drive going for a Mike Evans first down, the Bucs offense stalled.
The Bucs and the Patriots would then go through a series of punts to one another until the Patriots capped off a 13-play, 89-yard drive that ended in a Stephen Gotskowski field goal.
The Bucs were again slow to respond, but thanks to running back Doug Martin, who was making his debut for the 2017 season, they found pay dirt and took the lead 7-3 – the only lead they would have that game.
In classic Patriots fashion, Brady and the Pats offense responded with a strong 9-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a touchdown. The Patriots scored another field goal before the half was over, but took a 13-7 lead going into that half.
The Bucs started with the ball to begin the second half, a crucial drive for momentum. But, unfortunately, they once again stalled early for a quick three-and-out.
The Pats extended their lead on the next drive to 16-7, and as a response, the Bucs again punted. Just as all momentum was getting away from them, and the game slipping for good, linebacker Ardarius Glanton came off a blitz and got a sack fumble that the Buccaneers recovered. Following the fumble, the Bucs had a 22-yard, 7-play drive that showed promise, but stalled in field goal range. That field goal was eventually missed.
Entering the fourth quarter, with hope bleak, things started to change – with the Bucs worst field position of the day, mind you. Starting from basically their own goal line, the Bucs began a long drive that included a huge 41-yard pitch and catch to DeSean Jackson. But, after a few more first down catches, the drive stalled in the red zone and the field goal was once again missed by Folk.
Following that drive, the Bucs forced Brady and the Pats to punt. This led to a nine-play, 74-yard drive that finally ended in a touchdown for the Buccaneers to bring the score to 16-14.
After a long Patriots drive and a field goal, the score was 19-14.
However, that’s how it stayed, and that’s how it ended.
Winston ended the game 26-for-46 with 334 passing yards, one touchdowns and no interceptions. in his first game back, Martin recorded 74 rushing yards on 13 carries. DeSean Jackson led the team in receiving yards with 106 on five catches. Mike Evans was next with 49 yards on five grabs. Cameron Brate had 58 yards on five catches and a touchdown, but also some key drops.
Kendell Beckwith and Justin Evans were the best defensive players for the Bucs on the night. Beckwith ended the game with 13 tackles and Evans had nine with an interception. The Bucs did record three sacks in the game. Those getting the sacks were Clinton McDonald, Gerald McCoy and Adarius Glanton.
Nick Folk was 0-for-3 on field goals ranging from 31, 49 and 55 yards.