Tale Of The Tape: Tampa Bay Buccaneers At New England Patriots
- QuarterbackIt may be hard for Greg Schiano to build a case that his team can win the quarterback duel in this meeting. Josh Freeman has all the physical tools that a quarterback needs to be successful, but he makes far too many mistakes and he doesn’t seem to learn from them. Freeman was just 9-of-22 in the Week Two loss against an ordinary New Orleans pass defense.Tom Brady has plenty of problems to deal with, but even though the Patriots are quite deficient in the receivers department, he usually finds a way to win. Brady is an expert at figuring out how to take advantage of a defense and he combines that with excellent accuracy and a hunger to win every time he is on the field. He had a poor statistical game vs. the Jets in Week Two — 19-of-39 for 185 yards – but he was happy because his team came out on top.
- OffenseThe Bucs should be a much better offensive team than they are, and it’s got to be frustrating to Schiano. Running back Doug Martin may be the third-best running back in football behind Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster. Vincent Jackson is a game-changing wide receiver who can dominate a game when he catches a key pass early in the game.The Patriots desperately need to get tight end Rob Gronkowski back in the lineup because he can catch nearly everything and runs well after the catch. He may not be back for this game. That means that Julian Edelman will have to do the job with his quickness and reliable hands. Running back Stevan Ridley is determined to show head coach Bill Belichick that he does not have a fumbling problem.
- DefenseThe Bucs hurt themselves badly when linebacker Lavonte David made a mindless error and took a penalty in Week One that allowed the Jets to steal a last-second victory. Still, David is one of the Bucs’ best defenders because of his range and ability to overpower runners and blockers. Safety Mark Barron is coming off a 13-tackle effort against New Orleans and he is solid in coverage.The Patriots are a much better defensive team than they were in the first half of the 2012 season. They improved once they picked up cornerback Aqib Talib, who is going to have a chance to show his former team that he is one of the best in the league when he matches up with Jackson. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork anchors the middle of the line and will try to keep Martin from getting his ground game going.
- Special TeamsThe Bucs are probably not going to win a lot of games this year because of their special teams. Rian Lindell is an ordinary placekicker who is not a threat on long-distance attempts. Michael Koenen averaged 40.5 yards on six punts vs. New Orleans and the Bucs don’t have any legitimate threats in the return game.Stephen Gostkowski gives the Pats a big advantage in the kicking game. He seems to be at his best when the game is on the line. Punter Ryan Allen played a key role in the win over the Jets as he averaged 46.7 yards on 11 punts. Edelman is a shifty and elusive punt returner.
The Pats don’t have anywhere near the firepower that they have had in recent years, but they won’t pay for it against the Bucs because Freeman simply makes too many errors and the Pats will force him into a significant number of errors. New England cruises at home. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor