The Rear View Mirror – Game Five

The Patriots squeezed out a 19-14 victory in Tampa Bay on Thursday Night Football. This was their third straight game decided in the final minute of play. New England’s Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 48-yard field goal (his fourth of the night) to extend the visiting team’s lead to five points with just over a minute remaining. The Buccaneers’ final drive moved 61 yards on three completions and ended at the Patriots’ 19 yard line. Quarterback Jameis Winston’s (334 yards on 46 attempts) final pass attempt to tight end OJ Howard was deflected by cornerback Johnathan Jones at the front of the end zone as time expired.

Trey Flowers has been New England’s best pass rusher this season

Photograph by Kim Klement and published by USA TODAY Sports

Nine Observations from Game Five…

1. Defensive end Trey Flowers overpowered tight end OJ Howard to bring down running back Jacquizz Rodgers at the line of scrimmage in the 1st quarter. In the 2nd, Flowers was the victim of an uncalled hold by lineman Evan Smith, similar to the holding penalty Nate Solder was flagged for in the 1st quarter. Shortly thereafter, Flowers drew a penalty flag on OJ Howard for holding. Near halftime, Flowers got past tackle Donovan Smith for a quarterback sack on first down.

2. The Buccaneers offense exploded in the 4th quarter, gaining over half of their 409 total yards – and all of their “big plays” (gaining 20 yards or more) – in the final period. Receiver DeSean Jackson (106 yards on five catches) caught an uncontested slant on third-and-two, outran the pursuit angles of corner Malcolm Butler and safety Duron Harmon, and was only caught from behind by safety Devin McCourty after a gain of 41 yards. Later, Jackson got open between cornerbacks Johnathan Jones and Stephon Gilmore up the right sideline for 29 yards. On the Buccaneers’ final drive of the game, Butler had tight man-to-man coverage on Jackson but the receiver still pulled in a pass on a deep in-cut over the middle for 24 yards.

3. Devin McCourty (11 solo tackles) made a nice open field tackle on a slip screen to DeSean Jackson in the 3rd quarter. McCourty also sliced blitzed between right tackle and tight end to bring down running back Jacquizz Rodgers for no gain to end the 3rd quarter. Midway through the 4th McCourty dislodged a pass attempt to tight end Cameron Brate in the end zone to save a touchdown.

4. Linebacker Elandon Roberts executed a nice A-gap blitz (between the center and guard) in the 4th quarter that forced a quick pass by Winston. Earlier in the final quarter he and Kyle Van Noy combined for a tackle of the running back at the line of scrimmage. In the 4th quarter Dont’a Hightower laid a big hit on receiver Adam Humphries after a reception in the right flat, but failed to wrap up the runner before he broke free for a first down.

5. New England was flagged on 12 accepted penalties and 108 penalty yards, with three particularly bad moments standing out. Defensive linemen Deatrich Wise, Jr and Cassius Marsh committed back-to-back roughing the passer penalties to push Tampa Bay into field goal territory right before half time. Midway through the 3rd quarter, against a fourth-and-two punt formation, Brandon Bolden committed an “off sides” penalty to give the Buccaneers a new set of downs.

Danny Amendola was Tom Brady’s security blanket

Photograph by Reinhold Matay and published by USA TODAY Sports

6. Receiver Danny Amendola caught all eight passes thrown his way (77 yards), including three third-down conversions: In the 2nd he used an inside-out move to break free of cornerback Brent Grimes in the red zone, in the 3rd he bounced back from an offensive pass interference call to covert over the middle of the field, and in the 4th he again converted with a catch over the middle with cornerback Robert McClain in coverage. Amendola also chipped in a 40-yard punt return to set up New England for a field goal before halftime.

7. Receiver Brandin Cooks (five receptions for 85 yards) showed off his versatility on back-to-back plays early in the 3rd quarter. He took a quick pass at the line of scrimmage, juked cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, and gain 17 yards up the left sideline. Then Cooks ran a deep crossing pattern for a 34-yard reception at the right sideline. On the bad side, Cooks dropped a slant pass on third down in the 1st quarter, dropped a pass in the left flat in the 3rd, and was penalized for a blatant “block in the back” penalty on Chris Hogan’s end around in the 3rd.

8. For the second consecutive game, running backs Mike Gillislee and Dion Lewis combined for a decent ground attack with 105 yards on 19 carries (5.5 yard average). In the 1st quarter Lewis ran behind a crushing block from fullback James Develin on lineback Adarius Glanton for 33 yards off right tackle. Later in the 1st, Mike Gillislee picked up nine yards off left tackle on a zone run thanks to a nice block by center David Andrews on defensive lineman Chris Baker.

9. David Andrews was overpowered by defensive tackle Clinton McDonald for a sack of Brady in the 1st quarter. At the end of the 2nd quarter, Andrews’s helmet was knocked off blocking on a Dion Lewis run and the lineman turned around to petition the back judge instead of following the play as it reversed back in his direction. Guard Joe Thuney surrendered one Brady’s three sacks when he was beaten to the inside by defensive end Robert Ayers in the red zone.

…And one comment about Game Six.

As the 3-2 Patriots travel to New Jersey to play the 3-2 Jets, one concern is the physical abuse Tom Brady has received so far this season. The quarterback has received 35 recorded hits this season, 59% more than last year’s pace (22 total over the first five games). That increased pressure could help explain some offensive sputters against Tampa Bay, including Brady’s interception in the 1st quarter on a badly overthrown pass to Chris Hogan, and his fumble on a sack in the 3rd when linebacker Adarius Glanton came free from the right side.

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