LONDON – So, it wasn't exactly 59-0, but winning by four touchdowns is still nothing to sneeze at.
For the second week in a row, the Patriots faced a winless team and won by an overwhelming margin. The difference this time – aside from the obviously unique venue – was that this Buccaneers team refused to give up after falling behind early, the way the Tennessee Titans did a week ago in Foxborough.
Though only a regular season contest, the game had all the makings of a Super Bowl: painted end zones for each team, an early evening kickoff, pre-entertainment featuring world-renowned singers, and more than 84,000 wildly enthusiastic, mostly United Kingdom fans who didn't stop cheering the entire game. When the Patriots scored their third touchdown early in the second quarter, the Bucs could easily have had the wind taken out of their sails.
But a pair of Tom Brady interceptions gave a clearly overmatched Tampa Bay team enough motivation to remain competitive. What's more, New England's offensive line was not at its best today, committing eight of the 10 infractions for which the Patriots were flagged.
The outcome, however, was never really in doubt, as the Pats regained their composure in the second half and added to their sizeable lead.
"I'm real happy about the outcome of the game. It was a good win for us," Brady told reporters in his post-game press conference. Normally, he's demure when assessing his own performance, yet Brady, given the circumstances of this unusual week, chose to focus more on the positives.
"To travel as many miles as we did, had a good week of practice. We made a lot of really good plays. It shouldn't be overshadowed by a couple of bad plays … I'm not disappointed at all."
Perhaps the biggest disappointment for Brady and his teammates came in the second half, when defensive line starter Ty Warren limped off the field after a punt. He was later seen being carted from the sidelines to the locker room and did not return to the game. Wide receiver Randy Moss also seemed to come up lame the play before, after missing a long pass from Brady on a third down and being hit by a Tampa defender. Moss return to make one more catch, but then retreated to the sidelines, where he removed his gloves and watched the remainder of the game.
However, the Pats could focus on several other positives outcomes, aside from the final score. Safety Brandon Meriweather's two interceptions (one a pick six), for instance, and rookie safety Pat Chung's significant playing time in New England's three-safety nickel defense.
The immediate contributions of rookie receiver Brandon Tate and veteran lineman Mark LeVoir are another example. Both were activated at the earliest possible time after coming off their respective injury lists (PUP for LeVoir, NFI for Tate). Tate's first play was an end-around, good for an 11-yard gain and a first down. He also was targeted in the passing game and returned two kickoffs for decent yardage. LeVoir came in and helped block for running back Laurence Maroney's touchdown carry and later spelled right tackle Nick Kaczur when the game was out of reach.
New England may return from the U.K. a bit banged up, but as they head into their mid-season bye week, they're 5-2 and playing better each week.