NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones
The New England Patriots improved to 2-0 in the preseason tonight, withstanding an eleven-point fourth-quarter push from the Greg Schiano’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although the game came down to the wire, it should be considered an encouraging performance from Bill Belichick’s squad, as New England’s starters dominated on both sides of the ball, while key reserves such as quarterback Ryan Mallett stood out as well. Read on for some of the keys to tonight’s win.
1. Brady shows no ill effects after his early exit from Wednesday’s practice
Tom Brady’s knee scare was the most notable storyline of the week from New England’s perspective, but the veteran quarterback showed no ill-effects, completing all nine of his pass attempts en route to a fifteen-play, eighty-yard opening drive which consumed nearly seven minutes and resulted in a long touchdown pass to newly-signed wide receiver Danny Amendola and subsequent two-point conversion throw to Zach Sudfeld; on the drive, Brady went 8/8 for 72 yards and a touchdown. He completed his next three passes as well before missing Danny Amendola on a third-and-six, a throw which proved to be his final attempt of the game.
2. Ryan Mallett struggles early, rebounds later in appearance
Continuing a trend which has existed throughout Ryan Mallett’s entire tenure with the Patriots, the young passer looked inconsistent at best, at times demonstrating his arm strength and touch but failing to consistently place balls where receivers could get them. The passer missed some throws by a wide margin, including a third-down curl route to Kenbrell Thompkins which fell well short of its intended target, but looked like a starting-caliber quarterback on others, such as his perfectly-placed completion to DAaron Dobson on what turned into a twenty-three-yard gain. Paradoxically, the lead-footed Mallett made two impressive throws on the run, converting first-downs by connecting with Michael Hoomanawanui and Julian Edelman. The last significant event of Mallett’s appearance was his touchdown throw to tight end Zach Sudfeld over the middle of the field.
3. The chances of Tim Tebow making the final roster continue to shrink
As for Tim Tebow, this week’s game served primarily to confirm impressions formed during last week’s game, most notably that, while he offers value as a runner, his passing skill remains well behind where it needs to be in order to make the final roster. Tebow recorded a pair of modest gains on his first two rushing attempts and would have had another long scramble if not for a penalty, but his throws were consistently unimpressive. Early in the fourth quarter, Tebow threw an interception which facilitated a Buccaneers touchdown, cutting the lead to just seven points; midway through the final frame, Tebow had completed just one of seven attempts, his lone completion for a loss of yards. At this point, Tebow must still be considered an unlikely candidate for the roster.
4. Wide receiver Amendola, tight end Sudfeld impress in the receiving game
After a quiet preseason debut, newly-signed wide receiver Danny Amendola quickly made his presence felt, demonstrating his catching radius on a difficult short throw, making a three-yard reception not long after, and converting a first down during the same drive; the first two receptions came outside of the hash marks, while the third was on a crossing route. To conclude the drive, Brady connected with Amendola on a seam route down the middle of the field for a twenty-six yard touchdown on what looked like a blown coverage. On New England’s second drive, Amendola caught another screen pass, then
Undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld continued to impress, making a difficult catch between two defenders on a two-point conversion attempt, getting both feet inbounds to extend New England’s lead to 8-0 following the Patriots’ first drive of the game. Sudfeld made another incredible catch on a throw from Ryan Mallett, getting behind a linebacker in order to reel in a long touchdown catch over the middle which was initially tipped into the air. Sudfeld looked slow to get up following the touchdown, but appeared to recover.
5. New England’s defensive backs turn in a mixed performance
Rookie cornerback Justin Green may be one of the latest undrafted free agents to make an impact for the Patriots in 2013. The first-year player covered his assignments well for most of the game, defending both inside and outside routes, including a well-covered deep throw in the third quarter; Green’s only struggle came on a slant route in which Green was successfully fooled for a modest gain. At this point, he may be able to claim Ras-I Dowling’s roster spot if the former second-round pick is unable to return to action soon. However, Green did blow a coverage on what ended up being an incomplete pass but what could have easily been a long completion; additionally, another long pass to Derek Hagan was called back on a rare offensive pass interference call.
Green’s college teammate, second-year safety Tavon Wilson, may have slid further down the depth chart after a defensive holding call gave Tampa Bay a first-down and goal from inside the five yard line; Wilson surrendered a touchdown on a back-shoulder throw to conclude the drive. Opposite Green, Logan Ryan rebounded from a poor performance last week by undercutting an out route and returning a pass from Mike Glennon fifty-three yards into the end zone to give New England a 25-10 lead.