Three things we learned in the Patriots 30-28 loss to Tampa Bay:
Remember when the Patriots offensive line needed to put in a good showing in their third preseason game?
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Yeah . . . they didn’t get the memo. In fact, you could argue that this was their worst game. It seemed like almost every time you looked up when the Pats were on offense Brady was either on the run or on the ground. He was hit hard on a number of occasions, and fumbled on one of them. The Bucs’ Michael Bennett blew past Marcus Cannon around the outside and crushed an unaware Brady as he was about to make his pass. Brady may have held on to the football for a half-second too long, but Cannon and the O-line couldn’t bail him out. I know it seems like I harp on the O-line, but it’s the Patriots’ biggest area of concern in this preseason. Logan Mankins will surely make things better, but it’s TBD if he’s going to be enough.
The offensive struggles weren’t just in the first quarter though. Brady stayed in the game for three quarters, and didn’t throw a TD until late in the third to Rob Gronkowski.
After the game, Bill Belichick ripped into his team – especially the offense – saying that they really didn’t do anything well Friday night.
“I think it was pretty obvious tonight that we got a lot of work to do,” Belichick said, “We have a long way to go. We really didn’t perform at the level we need to at any area. When you can’t score offensively, you give up a lot of points on defense, and nobody can make any plays in the kicking game, then you don’t have a real good chance to win and that’s pretty much the way it was tonight.”
Ridley – believe it or not
Bill Belichick’s disappointment in the offense was already discussed, and he didn’t make an exception for the running game. But second-year back Stevan Ridley solidified his spot as the Patriots No. 1 running back going into the regular season with a solid performance Friday night.
Ridley rushed the ball 16 times for 87 yards, including a goalline touchdown. He also had three receptions for 17 yards. Ridley showed his speed on numerous occasions, and appears to have the potential to eventually become a legitimate back in the NFL. Shane Vereen, meanwhile, had a short night. He limped off the field in the first quarter with an apparent left leg injury – perhaps ankle/foot – and couldn’t seem to put much weight on it coming off. Vereen was hit with the injury bug last season too, and if he’s on the shelf to start this one, Ridley could literally run away with the job for good.
The injury to Shane Vereen Friday night isn’t the only injury the Pats had to deal with. The defense took a beating as well. The Patriots were already without Pat Chung for this one, and his partner in crime, Steve Gregory, ended up leaving the game with what the Patriots deemed a thigh injury. He looked to be limping, but walked off on his own power and was walking on the sidelines. It could be enough to sit him for the fourth and final preseason game, but hopefully nothing more. He told reporters after the game that he would be fine. Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington, who led the teams in interceptions last season, also limped off the field. Conflicting reports said the issue was a back injury or a leg injury. His status is uncertain.
Once again rookie Nate Ebner made the most of his opportunities, co-leading the team in tackles with six – all solo. Chandler Jones also played another superb game for the Pats, making himself present on the pass rush and also stuffing a run in the third quarter., He looks to be a real steal in the draft thus far. Although his brother, Jon “Bones” Jones recently backed out of UFC 151, it doesn’t appear that Chandler is backing down from anything.
Brian Hoyer didn’t get in the game Friday night. It’s still too soon to call Ryan Mallett – who looks to be improving – the backup, but it might be in the Patriots best interest if they think Mallett has grasped the playbook. Mallett showed off his arm strength with a nice TD pass to Jesse Holley in the opposite direction of where he was running. Hoyer will certainly get time on Wednesday against the Giants. Will it be his last chance?
-Aaron Hernandez found himself in an unfamiliar game time situation. He returned a punt five yards for the Patriots Friday night.
-Tom Brady connected with Brandon Lloyd for the first time in the preseason – 12 yards on the catch.
-The Patriots unveiled Jeff Demps Friday night, and he was pretty active. Three carries for 41 yards, including a 29 yard run. He was also targeted three times, but to no avail. He really showed his speed on a punt return that was eventually called back. Demps caught the punt on one end of the field before turning on his jets and making a run for the other side.