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Buccaneers hold off the Patriots

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Let’s remember one thing – it’s the pre-season.

And that’s a good thing, since in pre-season game number three, normally a “dress rehearsal” for the regular grind, the New England Patriots certainly didn’t look the part of a playoff team, much less a Super Bowl contender.

Tampa Bay’s defense throttled Tom Brady and the offense for most of the first half, and coasted in with their subs in the second half as the Buccaneers beat the Pats 30-28 in a closer-than-it-seemed exhibition at Raymond James Stadium Friday night.

The Bucs hit the Pats in the mouth right from the start, taking the opening kickoff and moving 68 yards in eight plays, and Doug Martin taking it in for a one-yard touchdown run. Tampa scoring wasn’t as much a surprise as was the ease with which they scored – against a New England defense that had proven stingy in their first two exhibition games at Gillette Stadium.

From there, Brady and the offense found themselves struggling – an interception by Mark Barron was returned 22 yards for a score to make it 14-0 with 3:09 to play in the first quarter – and on several occasions thereafter, the makeshift offensive line missed a block, or a back or receiver missed picking up a rusher. The end result was Brady taking the brunt of an unnecessary beating.

A one-yard Stevan Ridley touchdown run got the Patriots on the board in the second quarter, coming at the end of an 81-yard drive. But the defense allowed the Bucs two long distance field goals (Connor Barth 56 yards and Kai Forbath from 51 yards, respectively) to end the half with Tampa Bay up 20-7.

Forbath got the scoring in the third quarter started for Tampa with another long distance boot, from 55 yards, to put the Patriots in a 23-7 hole. With most of the regulars remaining in the game, Brady finally engineered a “Patriot-like” drive, moving 84 yards in eight plays, and Rob Gronkowski catching the TD pass from 16 yards out.

Perhaps that’s all the coaching staff needed to see. With most of the regulars coming out as the game entered the fourth quarter, the Bucs did manage another score with ex-UConn QB Dan Orlovsky moving his team on a 78 yard drive in 11 plays, capped off by an eight-yard TD toss to Sammy Stroughter with 7:50 to play.

The subs mopped up the rest of the way. Ryan Mallett took over for Brady at quarterback, and led his offense on a 76 yard drive in nine plays, highlighted by the first appearance for recent rookie signee, Olympian Jeff Demps. Playing at running back, Demps hit the left side of his line for a 29-yard gain, which led to Mallett’s three yard TD pass to Jeremy Ebert with 4:21 remaining, pulling the Pats within 30-21. Another late drive led by Mallett found Jesse Holley from the TB four to make things closer at the end, capping a 12-play, 65 yard march in just under two minutes.

But the score didn’t move from there. And Game Two in the past five days for New England ended the way the first one did – with a loss. However, you might remember the Patriots played poorly in a loss at Detroit last pre-season (also the 3rd game), and it didn’t seem to affect them at all during a 14-2 regular campaign.

Good thing it’s still the pre-season.


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