Devin McCourty saw plenty of Tom Brady in practice over their decade of playing together, but Sunday night's game will provide far more challenges for the Patriots secondary than just the quarterback pulling the trigger. Tampa's offense ranks first overall in points and eighth in yards, with a deep group of weapons who will stress the depth of the Pats' matchup pieces.
"We're going against a guy that knows what you're in, he knows what you're trying to do, he's reading every man on the field, he's seen it all and obviously he's seen this [defense] more than anything because of his years in the system and going against the defense in training camp and OTA's," said McCourty. "This team, as much as the talk will be about Tom and Gronk coming back, they are really good at a lot of positions.
"Overall, for us as a team, we just got to play our best football collectively. Complementary football, all the things we talk about each week that I would say we haven't done a good job of so far, we have to do that Sunday night to be able to have a chance to win the game."
"They're a good team obviously, we can attest to the great quarterback, great offensive line, great running back and receiving corps," said Deatrich Wise. "They have awesome players, awesome weapons but it's always up to us to continue to do our fundamentals and techniques on every play."
From Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, to Cameron Brate and Leonard Fournette, there are playmakers at every spot on the Bucs offense and they run two or three deep at those positions. Even though the Patriots come in with the fourth-ranked pass defense in Football Outsiders DVOA metric, the Bucs are a unique challenge.
While the Patriots defense has been solid through three games, they must find a way to make more plays in the critical moments, especially at the end of games. But perhaps more important is not beating themselves, because Brady and the Bucs will make them pay for their mistakes, especially any that are self-inflicted like ill-timed penalties or bad plays on third down or inside the red zone.
"This is one of those weeks we can't have a bunch of 'my bads,' we've got to be on it," said McCourty.
A season after playing in front of no fans, Sunday night's matchup should be the kind of electric atmosphere that was sorely missed in 2020. All eyes in the NFL world will be on Foxborough.
"It's going to be a loud atmosphere, I know all the fans across the nation are definitely going to come to this game," said Wise. "It's a big game and looking forward to the crowd being loud, about 100 decibels, for four quarters. We're looking forward to it."
"It's going to really come down to competing each play, winning matchups, those simple things are hard to do against this team," said McCourty. "The teams that have had success against them you see they're able to do that consistently throughout the game but there's a reason why they won the Super Bowl last year and they're off to a great start this year because they're a really good football team."