There was no bounce-back for the Patriots QB back-ups in their second preseason game as the Tampa Buccaneers had its way with the Patriots, 27-10.
Matt Cassel was a little better than last week, going 6 of 10 passing for 57 yards but never got anything going. Kevin O'Connell may have taken a slight step back with his play; 6 of 15 passing for 61 yards and an interception.
Maybe the offense had an excuse with Tom Brady not making the trip to Tampa Bay. But what about the defense? In the first half of this one, when the first stringers were out on the field for at least some of the action, New England's defense looked completely defense-less. The Buccaneers offense racked up 114 yards on the ground and another 120 in the air with starter Brian Griese going 9 of 10 and Luke McCown 6 of 7.
Overall, the Patriots barely looked interested.
After winning the opening coin toss and deferring, New England kicked off to begin the game. Tampa Bay methodically drove 80 yards in 17 plays with Brian Griese going 7 for 7 along the way and Earnest Graham scoring on a first and goal plunge for six. It was a no-nonsense drive that took advantage of a couple missed tackles against the run and some soft coverage by the Patriots defense. All 17 of the Bucs plays went for gains of under 10 yards aside from one Antonio Bryant end around which went for 16.
New England's offense came out in a two tight end set (Benjamin Watson and Dave Thomas) with Cassel under center. After runs of 5 and 3 for Laurence Maroney, Cassel looked to Randy Moss slanting in from the right side. In coverage, Tampa's Barrett Ruud read the play and made a one-handed snatch to come up with a seeming interception. While the television audience went to a commercial break, the Patriots called for a review The ruling was that ball hit the ground before Ruud had possession. Still, Ruud's play brought up a fourth and 2 and the Patriots went three and out.
]()Now in the second quarter, New England's second possession lasted longer but fared no better. Wes Welker had a nice scamper for 12 yards on third and 2 from the Patriots 30 and Maroney had a 10-yard run to start things but a Kevin Faulk fumble on second and 17 from the Bucs 30 ended the drive.
Tampa Bay converted the turnover into three points on a 35-yard Matt Bryant field goal. On the scoring drive, the big play was a 33-yard pick-up for Bryant in which he stiff-armed Jerod Mayo to the ground who aimed too high on his tackle attempt over the middle of the field. Once by Mayo, Bryant made for the sideline for the big gain.
The Bucs were poised to add to their lead at the two minute warning. This time, they were picking up yards in chunks. A 23-yard run up the middle by Bennett. Maurice Stovall with an 18-yard catch. Kenneth Darby with a run of 12 and a catch for 11 more. When play resumed after the break, McCown dumped a little pass over the middle on second and 10 to Bennett who shifted his way 13 yards to the 1. Bennett closed the deal on the next play with a 1-yard touchdown and with 1:13 left in the half it was 17-0, Buccaneers.
Cassel worked quickly, starting from his 32 after Matthew Slater returned the kickoff 23 yards. He found Moss for gains of 10 and 15, enough to give Stephen Gostkowski a chance to attempt a 53-yard field goal with two seconds left. Gostkowski made it, supplying the lone bright moment for New England in an otherwise dismal first half.
The Patriots took the second half kickoff and immediately gave Tampa Bay six more points. Dan Connolly's shotgun snap to Cassel on the first play of the drive went high and Cassel couldn't gather it in. Instead, Sabby Piscitelli scooped up the loose ball and strolled in for the touchdown.
Yes, it got worse. O'Connell replaced Cassel and on his first pass attempt -- his first play -- he escaped pressure, rolled to his right and hit Elbert Mack right in the numbers. Problem was, Mack is a Buc and the interception gave Tampa Bay the ball, first and 10 on the Patriots 29.
A few plays later, the Bucs were first and goal from the 1 but a holding call stalled the drive and Tampa Bay settled for three to make the score 27-3 with 7:38 left in the third quarter.
Play moved into the fourth quarter where, finally, the Patriots showed some life. O'Connell went 3 of 4 with completions to CJ Jones for 14 and 17 and Chad Jackson for 12. Jones' catch for 17 brought the ball to the Tampa Bay 1 where Heath Evans carried for the score.
That ended the scoring at 27-10 with the rest of teams' scrubs looking to get some reps on tape.