FOXBORO -- Following Sunday's 23-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots complimented themselves for staying in short-yardage situations after a few tough drives to begin the game.
New England got off to an ugly start, offensively, punting on their first three possessions. And on their fourth possession, the Patriots were in a position to either attempt a 54-yard field goal which would tie the game at 303, punt again, or -- on 4th-and-2 from Tampa Bay's 37-yard line-- go for it.
They decided to go for it. And it was a play that changed the game.
"We got in some long-yardage situations early: 2nd-and-18, 3rd-and-15, and couldn’t overcome them," said Tom Brady. "You’re not going to overcome those very often. When we were able to keep it in 3rd-and-twos, threes, fours, ones, we were able to convert more of those. I think that was the big thing: avoiding the negative plays and staying out of long-yardage, like it usually is."
The Patriots had started the drive on their own 34-yard line after the Buccaneers failed to convert a 4th-and-5 pass. Then, as the Patriots had 4th-and-2, Brady lined up in shotgun, and quickly sent a pass to Aaron Dobson on a three-yard out route to the right side, picking up the first down.
After that, the Patriots gained 31 more yards on the next four plays. The fourth play was a 16-yard touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins, which gave New England a 7-3 lead.
From there, the Patriots never looked back. And their first three sloppy possessions ended up having no effect on the outcome.
"We got off to a little bit of a slow start," said Brady. "We just didn’t convert some meaningful third downs. And when you don’t do it, you’re off the field and you’re punting the ball to the other team. But our defense did a great job limiting them to a field goal and then stopping them. Really that was a big turnaround when they stopped them in the fringe, we took the ball went down the field and I hit KT [Kenbrell Thompkins] on the route for the touchdown. So that ended up being a big swing with the big stop, a good drive and really resulting in a touchdown."
"We went out there and we kind of just put our nose on the ground and grinded away," said wide receiver Julian Edelman. "We put together some good practices and we were able to execute a little more this week in certain situations that we practiced a lot over the week."
Situations like a 4th-and-2 completion on the outside to Dobson, which gave new England's offense the confidence it needed to snap out of its early funk.