John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that New England will have a much better idea of where they stand this Saturday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit Foxboro. The 9-4 Bucs have won 4-of-5 and are tied for first in the NFC South. They boast a powerful rushing attack led by rookie Cadillac Williams (924 yards) and a defense that has forced 26 turnovers. But they're also starting a green quarterback in Chris Simms, son of former Giant Phil Simms. If the Pats' run defense can remain stout, they'll likely come after Simms like they did Losman and Brooks Bollinger of the Jets. "At times, I think that our pressure has been effective," Belichick said. "At other times it hasn't. Overall, we've given up some huge plays, some enormous plays, and we've made some plays. You're always trying to make more than you give up, no matter what you call. That's, in the end, what you're trying to get to."
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe offers a story on Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Chris Simms. Simms, the son of Phil Simms is proving he belongs in this league. Sunday, Simms was impressive completing 20 of 27 passes in a 20-10 win over Carolina that moved Tampa into a first-place tie with the Panthers in the NFC South. "He's throwing the ball great," Tampa coach Jon Gruden said. "He had 20 completions, and four [others] were dropped. The balls were laid right in there. He's throwing the ball extremely accurate. He's seeing the game. He has a sense of pressure, and he is a pretty athletic guy for a big guy. We are excited about what he has done and I think he knows he has work to do, but he is making progress."
Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald writes that even though the Patriots have won two in a row, we won't get a better handle on this team until it gets back on the horse, so to speak, and plays one of those so-called elite teams. That will happen Saturday against the 9-4 Bucs, who have won three straight road games, including a 20-10 victory against the Carolina Panthers Sunday. "They are one of the hottest teams in the league. They've won four of their last five and three of those on the road. It's clear they can go on the road and win against good, quality football teams," Pats coach Bill Belichick said yesterday. "They've shown they can go and play well, and I'm sure they'll be ready to go this week. I hope we are." The Bucs have the second-ranked defense in the NFL behind the Chicago Bears. They've allowed the third-fewest points per game and third-fewest yards per rushing attempt.
Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe writes that after studying film of Sunday's 35-7 win over Buffalo, Patriots coach Bill Belichick still wasn't certain about the 15-yard crackback infraction whistled on Tom Brady, calling it a "close call." But Belichick, who said yesterday that Brady was fine after suffering an injury to his left leg, was sure of one thing: It didn't matter that it was No. 12, instead of a player wearing a number in the 60s or 70s, who blocked Troy Vincent during Deion Branch's second-quarter run. "Of course not," Belichick said when asked if he preferred that Brady not block. "If it's their job to block, they block. If it's their job to tackle, they tackle. What are you going to do if someone intercepts a pass? Let them run in for a touchdown? A football player is a football player. If you have a job to do, you do it. There's no class system for everybody. Everybody's got to block, everybody's got to tackle at some point. That's football."
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers his weekly Patriots report card. The lowest grade of a C went out to the Patriots special teams, who allowed Terrence McGee to rack up 126 return yards on five attempts.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers a story on the Patriots secondary. The Pats, tied for last in the NFL in takeaways (11) heading into yesterday, picked Losman off three times while holding the Bills to just 2-of-20 third-down conversions. It was a marked improvement from their October 30 effort against Buffalo when they gave up 263 passing yards to Kelly Holcomb and allowed 7-of-14 third-down conversions. "Anytime you can get out there and make plays on the ball, it just builds your confidence," said cornerback Ellis Hobbs, who had his team-leading third pick. "The thing is we went out there thinking 'get off the field. We don't need to be out here.' It was very crucial, not only physically getting off the field, but for team morale."
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his analysis of the Patriots 35-7 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant writes that Tom Brady, who has yet to miss a start since officially taking over for Drew Bledsoe in Week 3 of 2001, was limping during and after the Bills game. He was hit in the left leg by defensive end Aaron Schobel as he dived into the end zone to score the Patriots' first touchdown on a 3-yard run. Except for the limp, Brady did not seem to be affected by the injury. With the Patriots leading 28-0 with seven minutes left, Brady was replaced by former Bills QB Doug Flutie, 42, whose appearance drew the loudest roar from an otherwise disgusted Bills crowd. The Patriots were given the day off Monday, and Brady, who does a weekly Monday morning call-in on WEEI-AM in Boston, was evasive when asked him about the injury.
Michael Parente of the Woonsocket Call writes that the New England Patriots have found the perfect cure for their banged-up defense and it has nothing to do with adding new players to the secondary or reshuffling the lineup. Since running backs Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk returned on Dec. 4, the Patriots have strengthened their grip on the AFC East with back-to-back blowout wins against the Jets and Bills, proving that sometimes the best defense is a great offense. They've rushed for 305 yards in the past two weeks and dominated the time of possession, 80:09-39:59. On Sunday against the Bills, they finished with 159 rushing yards and held the ball for 41:59 - both season highs.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.