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Patriots bury Bucs, 28-0, claim AFC East

After beating up on the Jets and Bills, two teams playing out the string of their respective losing seasons, the Patriots were eager to see where they stood against one of the league's playoff contenders and best defenses in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Their answer was a 28-0, dominant win.



]()This one was even more lopsided than the score would indicate when one considers the Bucs never even saw the Patriots red zone and only once started a drive on the Patriots side of the field. Bucs quarterback Chris Simms was harassed all day, getting sacked seven times, fumbling twice (losing one of them) and finishing with only 155 yards passing (21 of 34) despite having to go to the air often as his team fell behind early.

The Patriots defense was equally up to the task when it came to stopping Tampa Bay's young, dynamic runnner Carnell Williams. "Cadillac" was good for only 23 yards on 14 carries. The Patriots linebackers had a particularly strong game with 6 of the 7 sacks, while the defensive line had one of its best games in terms of controlling the line of scrimmage.

Tom Brady showed no signs of the shin injury he suffered last week in Buffalo. His 258 yards and 3 touchdowns (20 of 31 passing) came in chunks with much of the yardage going to David Givens who exploded for 6 catches and 137 yards with a touchdown.

The Patriots offense picked up right where it left off last week. In his first series of the game Brady converted a third and 7 with a beautiful pass he laid just over two Bucs defenders and into the arms of Givens for a 32-yard pick-up. Four plays after Corey Dillon caught two passes for 20 yards total down to the Tampa Bay 9, tackle Tom Ashworth declared as an eligible receiver. With Benjamin Watson out with injury and Daniel Graham still hurting, New England was short on tight ends so Ashworth got the nod on this play. He shot off the line from the right side with no one covering him and Brady threw a quick pass from 1-yard out for the touchdown, the first of Ashworth's career.



]()The second quarter opened with the Patriots still up 7-0 and defending a third and 4 from their own 32. Simms had already been sacked once (McGinest) and under steady pressure from the Patriots front and on this play, Rosevelt Colvin got to him again for an 8-yard loss forcing a punt.

Meanwhile, since New England's impressive drive to start the game, the offense had punted twice as the Tampa Bay defense began to settle down. They would have punted for a third and fourth time before the half but on that fourth attempt, Tampa Bay was flagged for roughing the kicker and the Patriots had first and 10 from the Bucs 38.

It still took a Brady to Christian Fauria completion for 17 yards on third and 16 to keep the drive going. Then, the dam really opened up on the drive when Brady hit Tim Dwight for 27 yards. Brady was whacked in the facemask on the play by Simeon Rice and the catch and penalty gave New England a first and goal from the 3. Dillon banged it in behind right guard for the score on the next play.

The Patriots tacked on seven more before the half. Mike Vrabel leveled Simms from behind inside of two minutes left and the ball squirted free. Willie McGinest scooped it up and headed downfield going 19 yards. As he was being tackled he tried to pass off the ball to Artrell Hawkins but it was ruled an illegal forward pass. Regardless, New England took over on the turnover at the Bucs 27. After an 8-yard completion to Troy Brown and a Kevin Faulk 3-yard run for a first down, Brady dropped back from the 16 and looked to Givens one-on-one down the right sideline. Just before the goal line, Givens got behind his man and cut in. Brady led him perfectly and New England had a 21-0 lead going into the locker room.



]()The Patriots defense continued its dominance and abuse of Simms through the third quarter. Early on, a Tedy Bruschi sack for a 12-yard loss came right after Richard Seymour was flagged for roughing. On the Bucs third drive of the quarter, it seemed Simms was hit on every play with no doubt about it when McGinest sacked him for the sixth time on the day on fourth and 3.

The Patriots completely buried the Bucs the first time they had the ball in the fourth quarter. Starting at midfield, Brady hit Branch for 19 and then Andre Davis for the same amount with a facemask penalty to boot. That brought up first and goal at the Bucs 8. Givens caught one for 6, nearly dodging his way in before getting slammed by Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen. On third and goal, Brady slid around the pocket buying time until he spotted Dillon, who made the catch and fell backwards in the end zone.

With two games to go, New England has clinched the AFC East and at least one home game in the first round of the playoffs.

Patriots inactives: Heath Evans; Ross Tucker; Matt Light; Nick Kaczur; Benjamin Watson; Dan Klecko; Marquise Hill; Matt Cassel (3rd QB).
Buccaneers inactives: Todd France; Derek Watson; Blue Adams; Marquis Cooper; Chris Colmer; Scott Jackson; Anthony McFarland; Tim Rattay (3rd QB).

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