TAMPA – Five quickie thoughts on the Patriots’ 30-28 loss to the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium, which will be couched with the reminder that because of newspaper duties, I missed a large portion of the second half:
- Rough one overall: This game was nearly a carbon copy of the Patriots’ third preseason game last year when they went to Detroit and were terrible in all three phases during a 34-10 loss to the Lions. Some of the things I wrote then: “The Patriots’ trip to Detroit was pretty much an abject failure with a 34-10 loss.” … “Patriots LBs and DL combined for one sack, three hurries and five hits for nine total quarterback pressures. That’s it.” … “Definitely not Brady’s finest hour, but it wasn’t terrible.” … “[Offensive line] wasn’t a complete disaster, but it certainly wasn’t good. Your grand totals when Brady was in the game: two sacks, four hurries and three hits for a total of nine quarterback pressures in 24 dropbacks (37.5 percent). That obviously can’t happen during the season.” …. Sound familiar? It’s part of making the sausage. Don’t read too much into it, good or bad. The Patriots wound up doing OK when the games really counted.
- Ridley’s the running back: We got teased a little bit between Shane Vereen’s performance against the Saints and Stevan Ridley’s fumble in practice, but Ridley is the guy at running back after his 87 yards and Vereen going off, again, with an injury. However, Ridley has to get better on pass protection. He nearly got Brady killed.
- Good to get guys back: We saw a lot of guys make their preseason debuts, including Logan Mankins – whose presence alone gave the line more confidence. TE Daniel Fells is a true pro and very versatile. We instantly saw a lot of legit three-TE sets. CB Alfonzo Dennard got on the field and we saw a tough, physical little CB who could make this team. We just have no idea what the coaches think of him in areas we can’t see: offseason workouts, weight room, film room, study habits. Those things all count when it comes to filling out a roster. Tough to see FB Spencer Larsen go off as soon as he got back. Would be really surprised if he makes the team now.
- Demps is going to be fun: Jeff Demps was unleashed on the NFL and, I’ve got to admit, he was pretty darn impressive. I don’t care if it was in scrub time, 41 yards on three carries is eye opening. Demps doesn’t even know what the heck he’s doing yet, but to show off the natural running instincts that he did? That’s a real good place to start. He doesn’t appear to be a natural pass catcher, and durability and ball security will always be concerns, but if first impressions count, the Patriots have a bona fide weapon to sprinkle in.
- Few final thoughts: I think Marquice Cole is making this team. Showed good slot coverage ability, he’s a good special teams player. …. The Tom Brady-Brandon Lloyd connection looks like it’s not instant oatmeal. They need more game action together. Lloyd looked uncomfortable. And so did Brady without Welker. … Aaron Hernandez is and will be the No. 1 option in this offense with Welker No. 2, and then Rob Gronkowski. …. Patriots played very soft in the back end to cover up for all the inexperience (seems like last year) so it was hard to get a read on the secondary. … Not a ton of pressure up front but we’ll have to watch the tape. Don’t remember seeing Rob Ninkovich do much.