The Patriots offense struggled to move the ball in this game, as the Bucs jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and never looked back, eventually securing the 30-27 win.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the game:
Offense struggles, particularly offensive line- Tom Brady played well into the third quarter, which was surprising considering that he was getting hit a lot. Nate Solder actually played better in this game, I thought. Sebastian Vollmer did not play and Mankins was in and out. The problems for the offensive line really seemed to lie more with communication than anything else, as often times the Bucs had free blitzers right in the Patriots backfield.
Wes Welker was among those missing from this game, which may have played a factor in the struggles. Aaron Hernandez was the leading receiver with five catches for 52 yards. Brandon Lloyd had only one catch but was looked for fairly often and drew a couple pass interference calls. The offensive line play was so bad, there was not much time to throw deep.
Tom Brady wasn't able to get very much going, fumbling once and even throwing a pick six. He was 13/20 for just 127 yards. He did manage to throw a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski on his last series of the game, deep into the third, on a drive that was aided greatly by Stevan Ridley.
Steven Ridley secures starting job- Stevan Ridley also got a long look and really impressed. He had 16 carries for 87 yards and the Patriots first touchdown. He also added a long 29 yard run. Ridley might have very well secured that number one running back spot on the depth chart with that performance.
Shane Vereen, Spencer Larsen, Steven Gregory, Kyle Arrington injured- Running back Shane Vereen was hurt early in the first quarter when he was taken down for a loss. Fullback Spencer Larsen, who many picked to make the roster, was injured in the second quarter. Both were looked at on the sideline.
Corner Kyle Arrington had maybe the most serious looking injury, as he left in the second quarter and did not return. It was reported he headed to the locker room very slowly.
Safety Steven Gregory was hurt on a collision with Ras-I Dowling, he walked off the field and the injury did not appear to be too serious. With Patrick Chung already injured, Gregory's status bears watching.
Jeff Demps- Demps did not see the field until the third quarter, even Aaron Hernandez returned a kick before he did. He did not have any explosive kick returns but did add a 29 yard run in the fourth quarter. He had three carries for 41 yards.
Defense still looks solid- Don't let the 30 points fool you. The starting defense actually continued to look good. It feels weird to say that the Patriots offense was poor and the defense was good. Aside from the opening series of the game, when the Patriots let Josh Freeman play catch with Vincent Jackson and march right down the field, the Pats starters held the Bucs starters largely in check.
One of the touchdowns came from the Brady pick six. Most of the other points were on three 50+ yard Tampa Bay field goals. The Bucs scored another touchdown late in the fourth quarter against the Patriots backups.
Chandler Jones impresses again- Jones continued to cause havoc for the opposing offense, highlighted by one play in which he drew a holding call and still sacked Josh Freeman.
Marquice Cole gets long look over Alfonzo Dennard- Dennard didn't really show up, though it's hard to really critique cornerback play unless A. they have the ball thrown at them or B. you have the coaches film. We won't have access to B. until the regular season. It seemed that Marquice Cole got a lot of playing time though, he was targeted often and held up pretty well. That has to be concerning for the rookie Dennard, who has missed significant time with injury.
Doug Martin is impressive- Stevan Ridley was impressive but so was Doug Martin, who had 13 carries for 53 yards, a touchdown and a long of 19.
Ryan Mallet, King of Garbage Time? The Patriots trailed 30-14 in the fourth, but Ryan Mallet led two touchdown drives, throwing one to Jeremy Ebert and one to Jesse Holley to have the team pull within three with 33 second left. Brian Hoyer was never on the field.