---- — BIG SHOWS
1. Jerod Mayo — The captain came to play with a team-high five solo tackles and a sack. Doug Martin threw post-game props his way for taking away the run. Who am I to question Doug Martin?
2. Brandon Bolden — Maybe, he should be asking for more playing time here. Three rushes for 51 yards and five catches for 49 yards more. But the great part of his game is that he didn’t nearly get marooned to Siberia three weeks ago because of fumbles, only to come back and dance and mock the opposition today, a la Stevan Ridley. He runs, hands the ball to the ref and gets back to the huddle.
3. Dobson/Thompkins/Edelman — Danny Amen-who? These receiver trio totally outplayed Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams — who probably combine for six times their salary. Totalled 17 catches for 137 yards. But as Bucs defensive lineman Gerald McCoy noted: “This guy (Tom Brady) has just turned so many receivers into stars in this league.”
1. Steve Gregory — To their credit, the Pats have done an awful lot to solve the confusion in their secondary. Right now, Gregory is the only guy showing up on the wrong page. Maybe it’s not a good fit. He’s not a cover-2 deep safety. He wants to be up into the action.
2. Tom Brady — Telling you, against a horrifying effort defensively like that, Tom Brady could/should have been better. You can’t throw the pick in the end zone. And you can’t be sacked three times when you’re missing open receivers. He played OK. Just OK. It was that easy.
3. Ryan Allen — Sorry, I miss Zoltan.
GRADING THE GROUPS
Line (A) ... When you run for 156 yards of offense and possess the football for over 33 minutes, the offensive line is getting its job done.
Running Backs (A) ... Balance is a beautiful thing. When Stevan Ridley is not going great (11 carries, 35 yards, too much spinning and post-play celebration) it’s nice to have a LeGarrette Blount (14-65) or Brandon Bolden (3-51) to mix in.
Tight Ends (C) ... Michael Hoomanawanui catches both balls thrown his way for 31 yards, fighting off tacklers for extra yardage to put the Pats in position for a field goal on his 16-yarder. Preseason sensation Zach Sudfeld with another 0-fer.
Wide Receivers (A) ... For who they are, it’s a miracle afternoon, despite how easy Tampa made it on them playing predominantly undisguised soft, cover 2 zone.
Quarterback (B-) ... Sorry, Tom. You’re the genius at MIT who barely just passed the home economics midterm. This team needs you focused and better prepared.
Line (A-) ... For the life of me, I don’t get the Joe Vellano experiment. But you have to like the way the regular front four — Jones, Kelly, Wilfork and Ninkovich — handled themselves. They won the battle up front, clearly after the first quarter.
Linebackers (A) ... Predictable play-calling — runs from run sets, passes from passing sets — made their lives easier, but Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes played their best football of the young season, stacking up 10 solos. Back to invisible for Dont’a Hightower.
Secondary (B+) ... Sure, Josh Freeman is headed to the scrap heap and he threw a gimme right to Aqib Talib, and it wasn’t one of his five worst throws of the night. Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard had their moments of shame, but it mattered little. Freeman (19 of 41, 236 yards) wasn’t the guy to make them pay. When the opposing QB has a rating of 54.5 and you’ve held the opposition to three points, it’s a job well done.
Why Belichick’s better
I ask all Pats fans out there, especially those who’ve watched every step of the Bill Belichick Era, have you ever seen a defense called by Belichick that featured a 280-pound defensive end try to cover the opposing team’s lead wide receiver?
Ever? Not once!
Yet, that’s what we saw on second-and-6 from the Tampa 16 with the Pats going in. Kenbrell Thompkins left Adrian Clayborn in the dust for the easier of touchdowns, and that play turned the game.
Now I asked Clayborn — nicely — about the play and if it was unfair to ask a guy his size to try and shadow Thompkins.
His response spoke oodles of the coaching, or lack thereof, in Tampa.
“I don’t think I had him,” said Clayborn, who was at least 10 yards closer to Thompkins than any other Buc. “I think I had the back. But that was our defense. And you have to do what’s called. It’s not like there’s another option.”
The papers in Tampa should probably flag Greg Schiano’s entire defensive game plan while they’re at it. Two straight weeks, Buffalo and New York frustrated the daylights out of Tom Brady and this offense with tight man coverage, daring the passing game to beat them. The results with 23 points and 13 points.
So Schiano, instead, goes with cushy zone, cover-two looks, allowing the Pats to run to open space and Brady to play a little easy pitch-and-catch.
Seriously, some coaches have records that don’t equate to their ability. Schiano’s 7-12 start with Tampa fits like a glove.
‘Free Points, Getcha Free Points, He-Ya’
For a team so “desperate” to not go 0-3, the Buccaneers were certainly in a giving mood yesterday.
First, Rian Lindell missed a chippy, 38-yard field goal. And then, a wide-open Tim Wright allows for four more freebies, when he lets an easy TD to slide right through his hands. Instead of 7, they settle for 3 there.
Just to finish off the first half in style, it was Josh Freeman — for some reason throwing when his team probably should have been headed to the locker-room — hitting Aqib Talib in stride for an interception.
Imbecilic time to be throwing the football.
Three more free points on Stephen Gostkowski’s perfect 53-yard field goal to end the half.
Pump the brakes, folks
I know all over the Valley and New England this morning, folks are lining up plane flights to the Pro Bowl to see Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins after yesterday’s effort.
Understand this. The rookies, who combined to catch 10 balls for 93 yards and a pair of TDs, got open through scheming against a soft Tampa zone.
Anyone playing the Bucs should remember, run one guy through the zone and follow him with a short guy, and he’ll be open every time.
Not that the kids didn’t take a step forward. They did. But the Bucs made it easy. I don’t see other teams following suit.
So are the Patriots for real?
The Tampa players, many of them huddled in small, secretive groups at times — and that’s not a good sign for a coach — seemed flustered by all the questions about the Pats.
Rookie safety Johnthan Banks, hardly a team guy by his actions on the field, said angrily: “They’re pretty good. It’s the NFL. Everybody’s good.”
And the guy in the next locker, Darrelle Revis, I’m just sure his heart’s in it with the big contract in sunny Tampa/St. Pete.
“They’re a little different. They don’t have that veteran experience,” said Revis. “But they played well today. (The young receivers) are all right.”
The truth is, we still don’t know about the Pats. The defense, yeah, they have taken some baby steps. And the offense isn’t as bad as it looked early.
But this was a Tampa team that appears rudderless. There was no desperation, not from the players or the coaching staff.
We’ll get a look with road trips to Atlanta and Cincinnati up next, followed by a home date with Drew Brees and the Saints, followed by a Meadowlands junket to play the Jets.