- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Picked-up pieces from reviewing the second half of the Patriots’ 23-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
1. The half opened with kicker Stephen Gostkowski booming a touchback. He later added two more. So he now has 14 touchbacks on 15 kickoffs this season, putting him close to the league leaders (he entered Week 2 tied for third). That reflects how Gostkowski’s powerful leg is a weapon for the Patriots, although it’s always easier for that to be the case earlier in the season.
2. On Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson leaving the game with a rib injury, it looks like it might have happened on his final reception (12 yards, 14:27 remaining in the third quarter) when linebacker Brandon Spikes tackled him to the ground from behind and Jackson might have landed on the football. Jackson played one snap after that.
3. Julian Edelman’s left-sideline-to-right-sideline 16-yard punt return with 8:06 remaining in the third quarter highlighted how a good returner often has to make at least one opponent miss to get a return started. Edelman did that. We actually counted four defenders that Edelman made miss on the return which set the Patriots up at their own 36-yard line and ultimately set up a 46-yard field goal. If not for Edelman’s return, the Patriots probably don’t get three points there because it wasn’t overly efficient offense on the drive.
4. The tight end hasn’t been a big part of the Patriots’ attack through the first three weeks of the season, but Michael Hoomanawanui’s second and third catches of 2013 came on the same third-quarter drive, which culminated in a 46-yard field goal. On the 15-yarder, Hoomanawanui found a soft spot in the Buccaneers’ zone coverage over the middle. On the 16-yard catch-and-run, he made the first tackler (safety Mark Barron) miss on what was an underrated “effort” play on third-and-19. The 16-yard catch-and-run is an example of what the Patriots probably like most about Hoomanawanui -- he is obviously limited when compared to someone like Rob Gronkowski, but he maxes out with what he has and is consistent and dependable.
5. Some have asked about defensive tackle Vince Wilfork’s play in recent weeks, as his position usually requires a closer look to get a better feel for what is happening in the trenches. Last week, he was surprisingly single blocked at times by Jets guard Vladimir Ducasse. Against the Buccaneers, he seemed to be more disruptive. For example, it was Wilfork who drew the holding penalty on center Jeremy Zuttah at the start of the fourth quarter, which turned out to be a drive stopper after Tampa Bay had generated some positive momentum on the march. We’ve seen Wilfork dominate games inside, and while that wasn’t the case on Sunday, he was disruptive at times inside.
6. Leading 23-3 with 7:38 remaining, and getting the ball on their own 29-yard line, the Patriots turned to their “four-minute offense” which, if effective, bleeds the clock to zero. The Patriots didn’t get it to zero, but it was still solid work as they fed LeGarrette Blount for eight runs on the 10-play drive before turning the ball over to the Buccaneers on downs with 2:57 to play. Nothing too fancy, just a case of the Patriots taking advantage of a worn-down defense (credit to the offensive line) and playing solid situational football to bleed clock and shift field position. Of Blount’s 21 snaps (including penalties), 12 came on the final two drives of the game.