FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing some halftime thoughts from the Patriots’ game against the Buccaneers (New England leads 17-3):
Offense rebounds after first quarter. The Patriots only ran 12 plays in the first quarter despite receiving the ball to open the game. Not a strong start, but the attack found its groove on its fourth drive of the game and the key from this viewpoint was getting the running game going. A switch to “11 personnel” (1 back, 1 tight end) was the catalyst, as the Buccaneers matched with their nickel defense. The Patriots got enough of a ground game going to help settle things down, and things started to click in the passing game. It still isn’t up to the standards quarterback Tom Brady wants, but some signs of life from the passing game. The rookie receivers have looked better this week, especially Aaron Dobson as some chemistry appears to be developing between Brady and Dobson. The Patriots are running the majority of their snaps with three or more receivers in the game, with Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman and Dobson as the top three. Thompkins has two touchdowns and has played every snap.
Fourth-down stops like turnovers. Two fourth-down stops in the game have essentially been turnovers for the Patriots’ defense. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard seemed to get away with a defensive holding call on one of them, and linebacker Brandon Spikes (one of the team’s top performers) and Dennard combined for a stop on a run play late in the second quarter. The defense has carried the Patriots through the first 10 quarters of the season, and the fourth-down stops were complemented by the offense today. Some drops by the Buccaneers have obviously helped the cause.
A lot of Bolden … and the rust shows. With Shane Vereen and Leon Washington out, the Patriots turned to Brandon Bolden as their top “passing back” and he played 16 snaps in the first half. This was Bolden’s first game of the season after being sidelined with a knee injury and he looked rusty. At one point late in the second quarter, he stopped running a route as the pass sailed past him incomplete down the right sideline. On the first drive, he struggled in pass protection. When the Patriots turned to Stevan Ridley more in the second quarter, the results seemed to be better.
Good situational football at end of half. The Patriots played good situational football at the end of the half, stealing three points on Stephen Gostkowski's 53-yard field goal. Great interception by Aqib Talib.
Overall, it hasn’t been pretty, but the Patriots will take it at this point. The Buccaneers get the ball to start the second half.