Gresh's Grades: Defense still earning high marks
A very nice win on what turned out, weather-wise, to be a nice day. The defense tightened things up after allowing some first-quarter yardage. And offensively they kept at it, finally breaking through at the end of the second quarter. The kicking game contributed and they won the turnover battle. The young kids got better, and if you look at the season the way I do -- as four-game quarters -- they have a chance to close out the first quarter of the season with a very good, if not sterling, record.
Believe it or not, the quarterback left some throws and points out on the field and his play lowered this grade. They got better in the goal-to-go and red areas, producing points if not always touchdowns. They featured some different looks, like a split-back shotgun with 3 WRs and some 4-WR sets. They scored over 20 and it's another win at home. QB needs to be better, but he's the least of this team's problems.
He was just average. I'm surprised at some of the decisions and throws by TB12. He missed Dobson in the end zone on a play action that would've been a touchdown (and, yes, I know he had a defender coming down on him; it still needed to be a better throw). He also missed both Thompkins and Edelman on a deep play action where he could've chosen who he wanted to score a TD. And the decision to force it into the back of the end zone on the interception is not Brady-like. He needs to yell at himself after this one.
RUNNING BACKS: B
This grade gets lowered by LaGarrette Blount, even though he averaged 4.6 yards-per-carry. We now know why he was traded. In situations where he should put the shoulder down and run hard, he dances too much. Bolden ran for 51 yards, but 46 came on one carry so we need some perspective with his performance. The thing I liked was Bolden showing up in the passing game. They need to mix in more Ridley in the air attack, but that will come. The pass protection has to improve immediately. But good job overall. If Blount would run with thunder, he'd see more touches.
WIDE RECEiVERS: B+
Much better for Aaron Dobson. He looked smooth, confident, ran crisp routes, and had 7 catches on 10 targets. We didn't see the long speed from him -- and Tampa took some of those deep plays away -- but we didn't see him in the wrong place like last week. Kenbrell Thompkins did a nice job with some yards after the catch and for a second week he did well getting separation. He needs to work on catching EVERY easy one, EVERY time. But in three weeks they've gotten nothing but better.
TIGHT ENDS: B-
They didn't dominate in the passing game, but it's another win with little production from this position. Hoo-man had two catches in his two targets but Zack Sudfeld did nothing in terms of catching the ball. The blocking needs to get better. They helped in the run game, but not much. Hopefully Gronk is back next week.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B+
They gave up some sacks where center Ryan Wendell got pinballed around and the running backs didn't step up in keeping the pocket firm. Conversely, the play action was excellent and was also a reflection of how well they blocked in the run game. They just need to fix the leakage up the middle and this group will be fine. I am concerned about Sebastian Vollmer not playing in the second half. They need him the next few weeks, especially against Atlanta and Cincinnati.
This group won the turnover battle, was respectable against the run, recorded three sacks, and won in the red area. And allowed only three points. (My partner on Patriots postgame, Gary Tanguay, thought they were lucky they only gave up three in the first quarter.) But while Tampa Bay left some plays out there, the Pats held the Bucs to one third-down conversion in the second half and NEVER let them get a rhythm offensively.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A-
I thought at times they were a little soft in the middle against the run. Tommy Kelly has been a nice edition, just as impressive as Andre Carter was two years ago but in a different way. He is more of a physical inside presence and it isn't always about getting to the QB the way it was Carter. I love the combo of Jones and Buchanan rushing from the same side.
I thought this group excelled, considering the amount of what I would call 3-4 looks. When Chan Jones's hand is down and Ninkovich is standing up, I consider that a 3-4 look. Spikes, Mayo and Hightower were all in coverage at various points and all did a nice job. Their tackling was better and they were stout when they needed to be. I really like that they trusted them to cover guys like Doug Martin when he motioned out wide. Good work.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B
Once the Tampa Bay starters were out of the game, it was much easier for this group to meet their objectives. Josh Freeman went 9-for-20 in the first half and, while he didn't make great passes, there was always someone there to defend the throw. Talib had yet another pick which set up a late first-half field goal. The safties did a nice job not letting anyone get deep and their angles to ballcarriers was spot on. Next week will be a stiff test; we'll see if Talib and Dennard can stay with Julio Jones and Roddy White.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Every kickoff was a touchback and Gostkowski drilled three field goals; he was perfect. And Ryan Allen is coming along. He's getting better pinning the opponent inside the 20. And when given the chance, he can boom the ball. Kickoff returns are almost non-existent in the NFL these days, so Blount (while I don't like it) is serviceable. And Edelman is a difference-maker as a punt returner. All in all, they were very good.
IT AIN'T BROKE...
1) Situational 'D'. It's been good this year and is getting better. 2) Coaching. Good use of personnel on offense and trusting guys on 'D.' 3) Special Teams. Production both with yards and points.
...BUT IT NEEDS FIXING
1) Quarterback accuracy. 2) Pass protection. Both in the middle of the O-line and with the running backs. 3) Need more QB pressure. Especially with Matt Ryan next week. | Andy Gresh is a talkshow host on 98.5 The Sports Hub and for nine years has worked pre- and postgame analysis on the Patriots Radio Network. He is also co-author of the recently released book “The Great Book of Boston Sports Lists.”