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Notebook: Red zone, ball security top offensive priorities

The Patriots will need to fix some of the problems that have stalled out their offense if they're to match points with Tampa.


One stat that jumps out when analyzing the Patriots first three games of the season is in the red zone, where the Pats are dead last in the league, picking up touchdowns on just 25 percent of their trips inside the 20. For comparison, Tampa has thrown three times as many passes inside the red zone as the Patriots, with six touchdowns to one.

New England will look to get on track against a Bucs defense that ranks 12th in the league in red-zone defense.

"They're really good, a lot of good players at every single level," said tight end Hunter Henry on Thursday. "We've got to be smart about what we're doing and execute our gameplan and take care of the ball, I think that's one of the biggest things."

Executing in the red zone and avoiding penalties, like Henry's false start on fourth down last week, will be critical against a good team like the Buccaneers.

"We need to get down there [inside the red zone] more, we need to finish drives all the way," said Henry, "We've also killed ourselves with penalties, I was part of that last week.

"We've gotta be locked in and finish those drives. We're kind of stalling on the fringe of the red zone and kicking a lot of field goals. We need to get into the red zone then we can execute those things."

While Henry and Jonnu Smith were veteran arrivals who are assimilating into the offense, rookie Mac Jones has impressed Henry with his progress. Last season, Henry saw first-round pick Justin Herbert follow a similar path, as the chemistry between Mac and tight ends continues to grow.

"Mac's done a good job, he's going to continue to get better, I saw that last year [in Herbert] and I'm seeing that in Mac, the daily improvements each week," said Henry. "Every time you step on the field, all of us, the more you see, the more you're going to be able to process things. All the guys respect him and admire him, we're behind him 100 percent."

Sunday night's contest looms large over the week of preparation but Henry's been around the block in the NFL. Still, it's easy to get up for any NFL game, especially one on national television.

"Sunday night football, it's the only game on TV at the time, all the eyeballs are on it," said Henry. "It's a big game, going against a really good opponent. I think all of us are really excited."

Judon: Not just Brady that has to be stopped.

Matt Judon had his best game as a Patriot last weekend, picking up 2.5 sacks and showing some of the playmaking ability he flashed in training camp and in preseason. With most of the questions coming at him about Tom Brady, Judon pointed out it is an entire offense that has to be stopped, not just the quarterback.

"We have to stop their whole offense," said Judon. "We have to stop [Ronald Jones], we got to stop Leonard Fournette, we got to stop Mike Evans, we got to stop Gronk, O.J. [Howard], [Cameron] Brate, whoever they have at tight end. We have to defeat all the blockers up front and then we also have to play complementary football on offense and special teams.

"So Tom Brady is a great quarterback and nobody can take away what he did but we're not here to talk about that right now. We have to play a game and we have to stop him from winning a football game."

Practice & Injury Report

The Patriots welcomed full attendance at Thursday's practice, once again held on the upper fields and on this day wearing shells and shorts. As expected, James White was not present as his season will reportedly be ended after a hip injury sustained against the Saints. White is likely to be moved to Injured Reserve prior to the Bucs game as the team weighs their personnel needs. N'Keal Harry could be a candidate to take White's spot on the active roster if he is fully ready to go after just a week of practice.

Kyle Dugger (limited - hamstring) was a new addition to a growing Injury Report.

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