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Game Preview: Buccaneers at Patriots

PDC-20211003_game-preview-bucs

WEEK 4 · Sun 10/03 · 8:20 PM EDT

Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

AT

Patriots

New England Patriots

NBC / NBC Boston / Patriots App
98.5 FM The Sports Hub
GILLETTE STADIUM

The New England Patriots will play their second straight game against an NFC South opponent when they host the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a nationally-televised Sunday Night Football matchup. Last week, the Patriots hosted New Orleans in a 28-13 loss.

The Patriots are an NFL-best 59-18 (.766) against the NFC since realignment in 2002, the best inter-conference record in the NFL during that time.

SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS

High-powered Bucs attack hits Gillette Stadium

By Paul Perillo

When the Patriots run - Edge: Buccaneers

The Patriots want to be a physical offense that runs the ball to stay ahead of the chains. Thus far in 2021 that hasn't been the case often enough. Damien Harris runs hard and with determination, but he hasn't been productive enough to keep the offense in manageable third downs. He has two long runs this season – 35 yards on the first play of the season and a 29-yard touchdown in Week 2. Otherwise he's carried 43 times for 112 yards, which translates to 2.6 yards per carry. Trent Brown's absence on the right side has something to do with that, but overall the offensive line needs to do a better job of creating space for Harris and the rest of the ball carriers. That task won't be any easier against a really tough Bucs front that features Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston in front of athletic linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David. That group surrenders just 63.7 yards per game (fourth in the league) and 3.1 per rush (third) on the season. Even if Brown returns the Patriots will be hard-pressed to get the ground game in gear against such a formidable foe.

When the Patriots pass - Edge: Buccaneers

Mac Jones has been dealing with a lot of pressure and for the most part he's stood up well and delivered the ball accurately. Last week against the Saints that wasn't always the case. The constant pressure forced some errant throws and Jones tossed three interceptions and was sacked twice in a 28-13 loss. On the positive side, Tampa Bay's secondary has been in disarray all season. Sean Murphy-Bunting is on injured reserve with an elbow injury, leaving Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean at corner with Antoine Winfield, Jordan Whitehead and Mike Edwards rounding out the secondary. And Dean was knocked out of the Rams loss with a knee injury, leaving Dee Delaney and Rashard Robinson to fill in. The Bucs rank 31st in the league in passing yards allowed (338.3) and with just three sacks all season there hasn't been any pressure on the passer either. Jason Pierre-Paul sat out the loss to the Rams with a shoulder injury, allowing rookie Joe Tryon to take his place. Shaq Barrett has just one sack on the other side, and with little help up front the secondary has been in scramble mode every week. The Patriots haven't been able to consistently generate much through the air other than leading receiver Jakobi Meyers, who has 19 catches for 176 yards. Expect Tampa to play the receivers tight and force Jones to beat them over the top until something changes.

When the Buccaneers run - Edge: Patriots

Tampa hasn't really tried to run the ball much this season, attempting just 48 rushes in three games. As a result the production hasn't been there as Leonard Fournette (24 carries, 94 yards) and Ronald Jones (15 carries, 52 yards) haven't been factors thus far. The Bucs average just 3.5 yards per carry (26th in the league) with Tom Brady and wideout Chris Godwin accounting for the team's lone rushing touchdowns. The Patriots run defense has been better than in recent seasons but is still a work in progress. At times against the Saints the front seven made life difficult on the dangerous Alvin Kamara but when the game was on the line New Orleans had success running between the tackles. It will be interesting to see if Bill Belichick tries to entice Brady into running the ball while flooding the secondary with extra bodies to combat the potent passing attack. If that's the case Fournette might find some success operating against light fronts with limited personnel. But Tampa has thus far been unwilling to take the time to establish any sort of running game and the Patriots should be able to hold this group in check.

When the Buccaneers pass - Edge: Buccaneers

This one isn't hard to handicap. Brady has a bevy of weapons to choose from, and provided that he gets some time to throw he should be able to succeed through the air. Godwin, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and Tyler Johnson can make plays, and tight ends Rob Gronkowski, Cam Brate and O.J. Howard fall into that category as well. Jonathan Jones could draw Godwin in a matchup that might require a double team. Godwin is a dynamic presence in the slot and averages almost 13 yards per catch. Evans and J.C. Jackson should see a lot of each other, leaving Jalen Mills and Joejuan Williams to handle the others. Perhaps Williams' size could lead Belichick to use him on Evans, but either way the matchups seem to favor the visitors. No one is more aware of Brady's ability to pick apart a defense than Belichick and Patriots Nation, and Sunday night figures to be a very difficult assignment. Look for Belichick to mix and match his personnel often, and for him to litter the field with as many defensive backs as possible in an effort to minimize the damage.

Special Teams - Edge: Patriots

The Patriots coverage units have been anything but special as of late. Last week they allowed a 25-yard punt return, had a kickoff go out of bounds for the second straight week and Jake Bailey had two touchbacks and a punt blocked. Other than Nick Folk's near-perfect start to the season (one missed PAT in 13 attempts including nine field goals) things haven't been great. But Belichick's teams generally rebound from subpar performances on special teams and that will likely be the case. Jaydon Mickens is a dangerous return man but missed the Rams game due to a hip injury. Jaelon Darden took his place for both kicks and punts and was held in check. The Patriots haven't gotten much from their return game with Brandon Bolden (kicks) and Gunner Olszewski (punts) not getting many chances. Olszewski did provide a late lift with an 18-yarder to set up the Patriots lone touchdown against New Orleans. Bucs kicker Ryan Succup has attempted just three field goals, making two with the miss coming from 55 yards, but he's made 13 of 14 PATs. Punter Bradley Pinion has been effective with half of his 12 punts being downed inside the opponents' 20 against zero touchbacks.

Patriots.com's Mike Dussault shares his players to watch ahead of the Patriots Week 4 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Table inside Article
2021 REGULAR SEASON NEW ENGLAND TAMPA BAY
Record 1-2 2-1
Divisional Standings 2nd (T) 2nd (T)
Total Yards Gained 1,953 1,218
Total Offense (Rank) 317.7 (22) 406.0 (8)
Rush Offense 91.7 (24) 56.3 (31)
Pass Offense 226.0 (20) 349.7 (2)
Points Per Game 18.0 (26) 34.3 (1T)
Total Yards Allowed 847 1,206
Total Defense (Rank) 282.3 (5) 402.0 (26T)
Rush Defense 122.7 (24) 63.7 (4)
Pass Defense 159.7 (2) 338.3 (32)
Points Allowed/Game 17.0 (5) 29.3 (27)
Possession Avg 30:36 27:17
Sacks Allowed/Yards Lost 6/59 6/38
Sacks Made/Yards 9/61 3/31
Total Touchdowns Scored 4 14
Penalties Against/Yards 18/168 27/230
Punts/Avg. 13/46.2 12/44.3
Turnover Differential 0(18T) -1 (20Tt)

QUARTERBACK COMPARISON

#10
2021_headshots_recropped__0042_Jones_Mac_2021
MAC JONES, QB, PATRIOTS
HT: 6-3 | WT: 217 | COLLEGE: ALABAMA

QB Mac Jones completed season-high 30 of 51 passes (58.8 pct.) for 270 yards & TD vs. 3 INTs & rushed for seasonhigh 28 yards last week. Leads all qualified rookies in pass yard (737), completions (81) & comp. pct. (67.5). 

Table inside Article
SEASON COMP ATT YDS TD INT LNG SK/YDS
2021 81 120 737 2 3 32 6/59
#12
tom-brady-headshot-bucs
TOM BRADY, QB, BUCCANEERS
HT: 6-4 | WT: 225 | COLLEGE: MICHIGAN

QB Tom Brady passed for 432 yards & had 2 TDs (1 pass, 1 rush) in Week 3. Has 80,291 pass yards & can surpass Drew Brees (80,358) for most in NFL history. Spent 20 seasons (2000-19) with NE & is franchise's all-time leader in wins (219), pass yards (74,571), pass TDs (541) & completions (6,377), all the most by any QB with one team ever. Led NE to 6 Super Bowl titles & 17 division titles & was 3x NFL MVP & 4x Super Bowl MVP with Patriots. Totaled 1,025 completions, 11,388 pass yards, 73 TD passes & 30 wins in 41 postseason games with NE.  

Table inside Article
SEASON COMP ATT YDS TD INT LNG SK/YDS
2021 97 141 1,087 10 2 47 6/38

SERIES HISTORY

The Patriots and Buccaneers will meet in a regular season game for the 10th time overall and for the first time since the 2017 season when New England beat Tampa Bay, 19-14, on Thursday Night Football on Oct. 5, 2017.

The Patriots are 7-2 against the Buccaneers all-time in the regular-season. Head coach Bill Belichick's first game as head coach of the Patriots came against Tampa Bay on Sept. 3, 2000. Tampa Bay claimed a 21-16 victory in that game, but the Patriots have won seven of the nine total games in the regular season series, which dates back to 1976, the first year of existence for the Buccaneers franchise. New England won the first three games in the series from 1976-88. Tampa Bay claimed the next two meetings, before a Patriots 28-0 shutout victory in a meeting between the two teams in 2005 got the Patriots back on the winning side.

The Patriots beat the Buccaneers in 1988 and then went 17 years before their next win against the Buccaneers in 2005.

The 17-year victory gap is the second longest for the Patriots, trailing only a 33-year win drought against the Washington Football Team, which lasted from 1973-2006.

SERIES BREAKDOWN

Home Record: 3-1

  • Foxboro Stadium: 1-1
  • Gillette Stadium: 2-0

Away Record: 4-1

  • Tampa/Houlihan's Stadium: 2-1
  • Raymond James Stadium: 1-0
  • Played in London's Wembley Stadium: 1-0

Total Points in Regular Season Series: 201-107

Largest Margin of Victory: 28 pts (12/17/05 and 10/25/09)

Largest Margin of Defeat: 20 pts (11/16/97)

Longest Win Streak: 4 games (2005-17)

Bill Belichick vs. Tampa Bay: 5-1 (4-1 with New England)

CONNECTIONS

FORMER BUCCANEERS

  • K Nick Folk (2017)

FORMER PATRIOTS

  • QB Tom Brady (2000-2019)
  • WR Antonio Brown (2019)
  • TE Rob Gronkowski (2010-18)
  • GM Jason Licht (1999-2002, 2009-11)

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

  • The New England Patriots own a 59-18 (.766) record vs. NFC teams since realignment in 2002, the best inter-conference record in the NFL during that time.
  • The Patriots have gone 89 straight games (regular and postseason) scoring in the first half, an NFL record. The Patriots also own the second-longest streak at 82 games with a first-half score (2006-11). The last time the Patriots failed to score in the first half was a 16-0 loss at home against Buffalo on Oct. 2, 2016.

PLAYER NOTES

(From NFL Communications Week 4 Capsules)

PATRIOTS

  • RB Damien Harris has 50+ scrimmage yards in 4 of his past 5. Rushed for 121 yards in only career game on SNF (11/15/20 vs. Bal.).
  • WR Jakobi Meyers had season-high 9 catches for 94 yards last week. Aims for his 4th in row at home with 6+ catches.
  • WR Kendrick Bourne set season highs in catches (6) and rec. yards (team-high 96) & had 1st rec. TD of season in Week 3.
  • WR Nelson Agholor aims for his 3rd in row vs. TB with 5+ catches, 85+ rec. yards & rec. TD. Has TD catch in 2 of his past 3 on SNF.
  • TE Hunter Henry had season-high 5 catches last week.
  • TE Jonnu Smith had 6 catches for 78 yards & TD in only career game vs. TB (10/27/19 w/ Ten.).
  • DB J.C. Jackson had season-high 5 tackles in Week 3. Has PD in 2 of 3 games this season. Has 11 INTs since 2020, tied-most in NFL.
  • DB Devin McCourty had 11 tackles in last meeting. Aims for his 3rd in row on SNF with PD.
  • LB Matt Judon had season-high 2.5 sacks last week, his 7th-career game with 2+ sacks. Aims for 3rd in row with sack.
  • LB Ja'Whaun Bentley led team with 7 tackles & had PD in Week 3. Aims for 3rd in row with 7+ tackles and PD.
  • LB Josh Uche aims for his 3rd game in row with sack.

BUCCANEERS

  • RB Giovani Bernard tied his career-high with 9 catches and had 12th-career rec. TD in Week 3.
  • TE Rob Gronkowski spent 9 seasons (2010-18) with NE & had 521 receptions for 7,861 yards & 79 TDs, the most rec. TDs in franchise history. Had 81 receptions for 1,163 rec. yards and 12 TDs in 16 postseason games with NE. Has 8,668 rec. yards and can surpass Greg Olsen (8,683) for 5th-most rec. yards by TE in NFL history.
  • WR Mike Evans had 8 catches for 106 yards in Week 3, his 29th-career 100-yard game. Since 2014, ranks tied 2nd in rec. TDs (63) & 3rd in rec. yards (8,471).
  • WR Chris Godwin had 6 receptions for 74 yards and 1st-career rush TD last week. Has TD in 6 consecutive games, longest active streak in NFL.
  • LB Lavonte David aims for his 17th in row with 5+ tackles.
  • LB Devin White aims for his 14th in row with 6+ tackles. Has 8 sacks & 9 TFL in his past 6 on road.
  • LB Shaquil Barrett has 6 TFL in his past 6.
20211003-BroadcastInfo-16x9-pdc-bucs

BROADCAST INFORMATION

TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on NBC 10 Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Fred Gaudelli and directed by Drew Esocoff.

NATIONAL RADIO: Sunday's game will be broadcast to a national audience on Westwood One. Ryan Radtke will call the game with Tony Boselli providing analysis.

LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network's 35 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.

PATRIOTS APP: This week's game is available to stream nationally in the United States in the New England Patriots official app. Not available internationally.

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