Preseason Week 2 Recap: Patriots Throw Buccaneers Overboard

The early returns on the new-look Patriots defense are very impressive.

What a beautiful site it was to watch the Patriots last night. A balanced and aggressive attack led the team out of the gate and they dictated the game from the get-go.

It wasn’t that the Patriots were up 28-0 at the half; we have seen them do that before. It was the defense. Forcing two three and outs to begin the game, the Patriots had a strangle hold 14-0 before the Bucs could even notch a first down.

Of note was their obvious defensive pressure. With the first team defense instilled for the most part (excluding Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Brandon Spikes and others), the defense swarmed the offensive line off each edge and up the middle.

Newly acquired free agent Andre Carter (who had 11 sacks as recently as 2009) was fierce off the edge in displaying his quickness. His pressure set up sacks and continuously collapsed the pocket which forced bad throws. Carter did not log a statistic in the box score, but if you have a good set of eyes you could definitely tell the difference he made.

Although it was only a pre-season game, the Patriots were prepared. This reflects their ability to stay focused even if it is an exhibition.

Let’s review our five things to watch for:

1. The First Team Offense. Tom Brady led the Patriots offense to three touchdowns on their first three possessions. A balanced attack saw BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead combine for 117 first half running yards and Tom Brady throw for 118. The Buccaneers were on their toes and continued to make miscues. As a result, each of Brady’s touchdown passes to Aaron Hernandez and Chad Ochocinco were because of blow coverage.

While there was much to be happy about, the Patriots can improve after the second quarter saw Tom Brady take a number of hits in the pocket. One play specifically in their own endzone featured rookie Nate Solder unable to hold his man one-on-one as Brady got rid of the ball, but was nailed. Sebastian Vollmer and Dan Connolly appeared to struggle on the right side as well in the second frame. Keeping Brady upright and healthy is priority number one.

2. Eyes on Jerod Mayo. Jerod Mayo is the player most affected by the switch to the 4-3, as it moves him outside of his usual inside/middle linebacker position and his early returns are great. When he wasn’t rushing off the edge and sacking Josh Freeman (Mayo had two sacks on the night), he was dropping in coverage and deflecting passes to runningbacks out of the backfield. Mayo has always been a stud in this defense and giving him the opportunity to run loose in this role is going to go a long way in helping this team.

3. Ryan Mallett to Get a Look with the Second String? Mallett did indeed get an extended look tonight with the second string. Brian Hoyer, who started last week,  saw time in spot duty, but it was Mallett’s second half. His first pass went for an interception that was returned 69 yards for a touchdown. To make matters worse, Mallett was decked on the return. He did rebound to complete an efficient 9-of-14 passes, but he was not accurate on the deep ball and missed some opportunities to add to his 71 yards in the air. The youngster still needs some work.

4. Protect the Football. The Patriots first team offense, unlike last week, protected the ball. However, Stevan Ridley could not survive an earth-shattering hit on a fourth down short yardage play and coughed up the football. This is a great coaching point for Ridley though. He had the first down, but continued to stay up and, as a result, was very vulnerable. Cornerback Kyle Arrington would even the turnover battle for the Patriots with an impressive, physical interception in the second half.

5. The Weather. While it was hot, humid, and wet, the Patriots were not all that affected by the weather. It was reported the other day when the Patriots moved their practice inside the bubble due to inclement weather, that Bill Belichick still squirted the football with a water bottle in an effort to emphasize the situation. The Patriots were very prepared and this will go a long way in helping during the September 12th opener when the Patriots head to Miami.

This was the perfect storm for the Patriots. They played well, stayed healthy (although Fletcher, Lockett, Woodhead left the game), and took away crucial coaching points to improve upon. The blocking needs to be better for Brady and the second and third teams still have a lot to prove during the next two games.

The Patriots do not play until next Saturday at Detroit in what should be a good match-up in the all important week 3 of the preseason that will feature starters playing into the second half.

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