STRANGEST WAY TO START A PATRIOTS FOOTBALL GAME
New England won the toss and elected to def…no, wait; they received. The Patriots won the toss and took the ball. Holy Moses. The last time that happened? September 7, 2008. Yup. This is the preseason.
STILL THE CRAZIEST LINEBACKER YOU KNOW
Brandon Spikes is going to be fun to watch in his contract year, hm? He sat Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman right down on Tampa's second snap. Running back Doug Martin, all 5-9, 215-pounds of him, was in to block on the play. Spikes used every bit of his 40-pound advantage, and a whole bunch of crazy, to dust off Martin like a piece of lint. Freeman took the sack.
CLEAREST SIGN THE QB IS OK
Brady sprained his knee during Wednesday's practice and was back on the field Thursday. But the session was a slow-paced walkthrough and it was hard to say if he would, or should, play against Tampa. Well, he played. Brady actually got two series of work, completing 11 of 12 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.
QUIETEST PLAYMAKER OUT THERE
Matt Slater, New England's go-to gunner on special teams, received high praise from Bill Belichick in the days before this game. "Matt's one of the best in the league. He draws a lot of double-teams and deservedly so. He does an outstanding job of covering punts." Slater made good on those words by sprinting downfield and just eliminating returner Eric Page from the equation. Tampa got just 3 yards on the return and had to start at its own 23-yard line.
When the Patriots went to the bullpen and Ryan Mallett, things didn’t start so hot. Facing a third-down situation quickly on his opening series, Mallett had Kenbrell Thompkins open at the sticks but threw the ball into the turf at Thompkins’ feet. Mallett began 4 for 8 for 32 yards on his first two series.
BEST TURN OF A TOUGH SITUATION
Logan Ryan, a rookie cornerback out of Rutgers, probably didn't expect to get a ton of snaps in his first season. Oh, well. With both Alfonzo Dennard and Ras-I Dowling currently limited, Ryan was forced to hop a few spots up the depth chart. At least he's making the most of it. The cornerback translated some practice ballhawking into game day skill as he jumped a route in the third quarter and intercepted Mike Glennon. Touchdown.
MOST SCATTERSHOT OPENING
Tim Tebow's first passing attempt of the night came on the first third down he faced. And, as Aaron Dobson raced downfield, Tebow lasered a throw into the turf where Dobson's heels had been about a second before. In. Com. Plete.
LEAST SPECIAL SPECIAL TEAMS
Before the third quarter was over New England had multiple special teams penalties (offensive holding, false start), booted a field goal into the right post (though it was from 50 yards), and allowed a 63-yard kickoff return. The kicking unit didn't have a great week of practice, come to think of it.
Buccaneers rookie cornerback Mason Robinson picked off Tebow on a fourth quarter second-and-10 and ran it back 21 yards. Good play? It was OK. But the pass was a gift, a duck Tebow sailed over the middle of the field after getting some pressure from William Gholston. Tampa ended up with a field goal on the ensuing drive that narrowed New England's lead to 25-21.
STRANGEST STAT LINE
Tebow is a nice guy; we're not trying to pile on. But check out the quarterback numbers from Friday night's win over Tampa Bay. Brady: 11/12 passing for 107 yards, 1 TD; Mallett: 12/20 for 137 yards, 1 TD, 8 yards rushing on one carry; Tebow: 1/7 passing for -1 yard, 1 INT, 30 yards on six carries. Stats might be for losers, but numbers don't lie.