The Patriots kicked off Bucs week on Wednesday, as the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will come to Foxborough off a loss, led by two all-time former Patriots. There are plenty of big storylines, this game has been circled for almost two years, but the bottom line is the 1-2 Patriots are facing an excellent football team and both teams need a win.
"It'll be a big challenge for us this week, obviously, facing one of the top teams in the league, if not the top team," said Bill Belichick on Wednesday morning. "Certainly, Rob and Tom have done a lot for this organization. A lot for me, and I appreciate everything they've done and have a ton of respect for them, but you know, this Sunday we're on opposite sides of the field. We're going to do what we can to not make them enjoy the night. I'm sure they'll do the same to us but look forward to the opportunity and the challenge and look forward to Sunday night."
For rookie quarterback Mac Jones his first three games have been a baptism of fire. He's thrown and taken some punches and he's rapidly acquiring experience. But now, his biggest challenge yet.
He'll face a Bucs defense recently seen chasing Patrick Mahomes all over the Super Bowl field. It's a talented group that hasn't quite knocked off their championship rust but has all the pieces necessary and is sure to follow the trend of sending rushers after the young QB.
"Blitzing... that's part of certain people's strategies especially younger quarterbacks," said Jones on Wednesday afternoon. "[I can] just watch the tape and see what they've done, try to react as part of the game. It's not like you're just gonna be able to sit back there and they're just gonna bring three or whatever. They get to choose and you just have to react to what it is."
Jones was hit 11 times against the Saints, something that will have to change against the Bucs if the Pats' offense is to take advantage of a pass defense that has given up the most passing yards in the NFL.
"Just coming to work every day and just blocking out the noise and focusing on what you have to focus on, that's what the really good players do," said Jones. "They just show up every day with the same positive attitude and they come to work and they grind through the days and work through all the problems that they have and keep pushing.
"Things aren't always going to go perfect, they're never going to go perfect honestly in the NFL. There's good players on both sides of the ball. It just goes back to practice execution and just trying to learn and keep moving forward improve on one thing every day and go from there."
While the spotlight will continue to shine on the heavily-hyped contest, Jones wrapped up the week's first day of preparation, maintaining that one-day-at-a-time approach.
"We can't really focus on what's gonna happen in the game," said Jones. "We had a good practice and the defense had a good practice. We've got to play together, that is one thing that we want to do, every team that wins usually plays together in all three phases.
"If we can do that I think things will be good."
Practice & Injury Report
The Patriots kicked off the week of practice on the upper fields in full pads and had full attendance except for James White, who suffered a hip injury against the Saints. N'Keal Harry, who opened the season on Injured Reserve after suffering a shoulder injury in the preseason, was present at practice, starting the clock on his return.
White's season is over according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, reported today.
The Patriots had multiple new additions to their Injury Report, including Isaiah Wynn, Kyle Van Noy, Ja'Whaun Bentley, Nick Folk and Henry Anderson.
Quotes of Note
Jakobi Meyers on building off the first three games of the season:
"Those first couple weeks are definitely building blocks for us. Just seeing what we have as an offense, as a unit, being able to go out there and execute, knowing what some guys do well, what some guys don't do as well. There's definitely a lot of learning experience from those first games."
Lawrence Guy on the team's mindset this week:
"Ignore the noise. We can't control what's going on outside of this building, all we can control is what happens in meetings and on the practice field. The day we decide to listen to everything that's going around, is the day you lose focus on what the goal is. The goal is to play football, we want to go out there, we want to compete, we want to win games."