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slides: What to Watch For: Patriots vs Buccaneers

Thursday, October 05, 2017


Stephon Gilmore

The New England Patriots (2-2) are back in action on a short week to face the  (2-1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. 

"I mean there's no short weeks or long weeks. It's going to come down to how well we play and how well you play is often times a reflection of how well you practice and prepare," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his press conference on Tuesday.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski added, "... this is a different week than any other week. We're playing like three days before Sunday on Thursday night. So you've got to turn the page, you've got to be prepared, you've got to lock it in and just do overtime right now."

The Patriots are coming off a 33-30 loss to the Carolina Panthers last week, while the Bucs are coming off a 25-23 win over the New York Giants. 

Kick-off is set for 8:30 p.m. 

Patriots vs Tampa Bay

The Patriots and Buccaneers will meet in the regular season for the first time since 2013 and the ninth time overall.

In the last meeting between the two teams came in September of 2013 when the Patriots cruised past Tampa Bay 23-3 at Gillette Stadium.

The last time the Patriots played a road game in Tampa was in 2007 at Houlihan’s Stadium.

This will be the first time the Patriots play a regular season game at Raymond James Stadium. They have played there six times in the preseason.

The Patriots hole a 6-2 advantage over the Bucs all-time.


Related Slideshow: 5 Things to Watch For: Patriots vs. Buccaneers

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Offensive Line

Keeping Tom Brady upright continues to be an issue for the offensive line early on in the season. 

According to NFL stats, Brady has been sacked 13 times and hit 27 times in four games. 

Last regular season, New England quarterbacks were sacked 24 times and hit 73 times.

The Buccaneers come into the game with only one sack on the season, giving the Patriots offensive line an opportunity to build some confidence. 

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Stephon Gilmore

Last week, Cornerback Stephon Gilmore was responsible for two blown coverages that led to touchdowns and two penalty calls, one of which led to Carolina's game-winning field goal. 

When asked about it after the game, Gilmore called it a "communication issue." 

This week, Gilmore and the rest of the Patriots secondary will face a Bucs team that carries the third-best passing attack in the NFL. 

The Patriots defense has given up 24 runs longer than 10 yards or passes longer than 25 yards so far this season. 

They have given up 55 plays of 10 or more yards so far this season, 17 of those coming against the Panthers. 

"I sit here and say it's correctable, but it's up to us to correct it. It's not going to just correct itself. It's really on us of getting it done. I think we're on the right path, but like I always say, being on the right path, you don't know until you go out there and do it in the game," said Safety Devin McCourty. 

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Running Attack

The Patriots running attack will face a big challenge on Thursday night going up against the Bucs defense. 

Entering this game, Tampa's defense gives up only 2.9 yards per carry, which is second best in the NFL. 

So far this season, the Patriots average 95 rushing yards per game led by Mike Gillislee who is averaging 3.4 yards per carry on 57 carries this season. 

The Tampa defense is led by defensive lineman Gerald McCoy. 

"Thirty-three sacks in the last - whatever - four years, an explosive guy, quick, good athlete, good balance, smart, plays blocking schemes well, recognizes protections well, instinctive player, strong tackler, good against the running game. He's got a lot of negative plays, good pass rusher, good leverage, rushes with power, has quickness, a tough guy to block," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. 

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Alan Branch

One player that has been mostly absent on the Patriots defensive line so far this season has been Alan Branch. 

Since the season opener against Kansas City, Branch's snaps have gone from 42 down to six against New Orleans, up to 21 against the Texans and then back down to 12 in the last game against Carolina. 

The Patriots defense has given up over 1,800 yards and an average of 30 points per game through the first four games this season. 

The Patriots need more from Branch going forward, will be interesting to watch his snap count this week, a short week for the team. 

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Short Week

The Patriots are at an early-season crossroads. 

They are 2-2 on the season and now go on the road to face Tampa Bay on a short week following a home loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. 

It should be noted that the Patriots have started 2-2 four previous times in the Brady-Belichick era and went on to win the Super Bowl two of those times. 

"There's always urgency here. There's urgency in the spring at workouts, in summer practices and so forth. No one likes where we're at but we're the only people who can do something about it. I mean 2-2 is not where we want to be but if you want to get to 3-2 we've got to play better than the way we played the first four weeks," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his press conference on Tuesday. 

However, the short week makes it tougher. 

New England only practiced one day this week, a walk-through, and enter the game with plenty of questions on defense and on the offensive line. 

The good news is after this game, the Patriots get 10 days off before facing the Jets on October 15. 


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