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Bucs defense strong in red zone

The Bucs offense couldn't produce enough points to keep pace with New England, but Tampa Bay's red-zone defense continues to make it difficult for opponents to come away with touchdowns. • New England got inside the Tampa Bay 20 five times during Sunday's game but only got touchdowns twice, both on Tom Brady passes to rookie WR Kenbrell Thompkins. The Patriots settled for one Stephen Gost­kowski field goal, and another drive ended with S Mark Barron intercepting a Brady pass in the end zone. • Twice, the Bucs held New England to field goals in the fourth quarter — S Dashon Goldson stopped RB Brandon Bolden a yard short of a first down, then former Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount was stopped by Goldson a yard short of a first down on fourth and 6 from the Bucs 11. • Tampa Bay entered the weekend with the league's No. 1 red-zone defense, allowing only one touchdown in opponents' six trips inside the 20. Last week, New Orleans had four red-zone opportunities and mustered only three field goals, stopped at the goal line on another trip. • The Chiefs, at 25 percent, are the only other team holding opponents to touchdowns on less than 33 percent of their red-zone opportunities.

As many missed opportunities as the Bucs had in the first half, they trailed just 7-3 late and would get the ball to open the second half. • Things went awry in the final two minutes, however, as the Patriots scored 10 points for a 17-3 halftime lead. • The most costly play came when Patriots QB Tom Brady threw a third-and-5 pass down the right sideline to rookie WR Aaron Dobson, who drew contact from Bucs rookie CB Johnthan Banks. The pass interference penalty gave the Patriots 28 yards to the 17. • "I played the ball, played the man, the ref has his opinion and that is what he gets paid to do," Banks said. "I've just got to keep playing. I thought I played pretty good." • Brady converted on third and 1 with a keeper, and two plays later, he found rookie WR Kenbrell Thompkins open in the back of the end zone for a 14-3 lead. • "I just think it's Tom Brady," DE Adrian Clayborn said. "He really picked and chose what plays he wanted to call, and he got us." • If that wasn't enough, the Bucs called a timeout facing third and 5 from their 25 with 17 seconds left in the half. On the next play, Josh Freeman was intercepted by former Bucs CB Aqib Talib, putting the Patriots at the Bucs 43 with 11 seconds left. • That was enough time for Brady to complete a 3-yard pass, call timeout, then gain 5 yards on a sneak to the 35. After another timeout, Stephen Gostkowski hit a 53-yard field goal as time expired. • "Each yard, to get a little bit closer, would increase our percentages on that," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We only had, I think, six seconds on the clock, so we had to do something pretty direct, get as many yards as we could in a short amount of time and take a timeout. Then Steve made the kick."

With top WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams sidelined at times during the game, new faces stepped into bigger roles on the Bucs offense.

"We did a little shuffling," QB Josh Freeman said. "We shuffled some guys around, but the bottom line is that the guys know the offense is expected to play at a high level. Some guys were able to make plays, but the chemistry was a little bit different."

That started with returner Eric Page, who caught his first NFL passes, getting three for 55 yards, including a 30-yarder for the Bucs' longest play of the day. Rookie TE Tim Wright had his first NFL catch, a 6-yard gain, though he also missed a potential touchdown grab early on.

FB Erik Lorig also had his first catch of the season. WR Kevin Ogletree, who had one catch in the first two games, had two receptions for 35 yards.

RB Mike James, a rookie from Miami, also had his first NFL touch, gaining 5 yards on his only carry.

Tight ends Tom Crabtree and Luke Stocker were inactive due to injuries, and the Bucs didn't get much from the position. Starting TE Nate Byham had one catch for 1 yard and Wright had his one catch. Second-year pro Danny Noble, promoted from the practice squad Saturday, was active but did not play.

Barron contributes all over the field

. Teams don't necessarily want a safety leading them in tackles, but the Bucs' Mark Barron continued his strong season with a team-high 11 tackles and an end-zone interception of Tom Brady. Barron, who leads the team with 28 tackles, leaped to grab a Brady pass in the third quarter intended for rookie TE Zach Sudfeld. The second-year player also was credited with a half-sack of Brady, teaming with LB Lavonte David on the third-and-2 play on the opening drive. He also had primary pass coverage on Patriots running backs coming out of the backfield, limiting them to six catches for 57 yards.

. Another concern to add to the list in the Bucs' 0-3 start: inconsistency in the kicking game, with Rian Lindell missing a 38-yard field goal on their opening drive.

"I guess, in a kicking situation, that's all they do, so we do have to examine that," coach Greg Schiano said. "That's a big 'all.' It's very hard to do, but that is all he does. He plays kicks. But I like Rian. I think he is a good kicker. I think he is going to be our kicker."

Lindell, who came to the team in the preseason after Connor Barth was lost to a torn Achilles tendon and Lawrence Tynes was sidelined by a staph infection, said he was disappointed at not executing an important kick.

"I still realize I'm capable, but between 1 and 4 (o'clock), that's when you have to prove it. I haven't done that very well the last couple of weeks," said Lindell, who also missed a 47-yarder near the end of last week's 16-14 loss to the Saints.

WRs among injuries

. Two key Bucs came out of the loss to the Patriots with injuries that could sideline them.

WR Vincent Jackson had a rib injury early in the third quarter and did not return, watching the game with a ball cap on from the sideline. The severity of his injury is unknown, and he did not speak to reporters after the game. WR Mike Williams missed a couple of series with a leg injury but returned.

DT Gerald McCoy was walking gingerly after the game with an injury to his left ankle. The severity was not disclosed, but McCoy said he was okay in the locker room.

The Bucs also lost DT Gary Gibson on the first play of the game due to a hip injury. The team already was without DT Derek Landri, who injured his knee last week.

Quick hits

. Tampa Bay has opened 0-3 12 times in its 38 seasons, most recently in 2009, and none of those teams went on to win more than six games that season.

. Through three games, the Bucs have 12 sacks. Last year they reached that total in Week 8 .

. With 19 completions Sunday, Josh Freeman has the career franchise record (1,144), surpassing Vinny Testaverde's 1,126.

. G Carl Nicks played his first game of the season, returning from a staph infection.

A pair of former Bucs played key roles in the Patriots' 23-3 win, adding a personal feel to Tampa Bay's loss. • RB LeGarrette Blount, who was dealt to the Patriots in the offseason for the rights to former Gator and world-class sprinter Jeff Demps, had his best game since 2011, rushing 14 times for a team-high 65 yards to help salt away the clock in the second half. Blount had totaled 75 rushing yards in his previous 10 games, dating to his time with the Bucs last season. • Former Bucs CB Aqib Talib, dealt to the Patriots for a draft pick last season, had an interception of Josh Freeman just before halftime, setting up a field goal as time expired. Talib finished with three tackles, with not many of the Bucs' 40 passes thrown his way. • Bucs rookie DE William Gholston, drafted in the fourth round with the pick Tampa Bay acquired in the Talib deal, made his NFL debut and had one tackle. DE Trevor Scott, who played last season for the Patriots, also had one tackle for Tampa Bay.

As many missed opportunities as the Bucs had in the first half Sunday, they found themselves down just 7-3 in the final minutes before halftime, knowing they'd get the ball to open the second half. • Things went awry in the final two minutes, however, as the Patriots were able to score 10 quick points to all but put the game out of reach, ultimately cruising to a 23-3 victory at Gillette Stadium. • The most costly play came when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw a third-and-5 pass down the right sideline to rookie receiver Aaron Dobson, who drew contact from Bucs rookie Johnthan Banks. The pass-interference penalty gave the Patriots 28 yards to the Bucs 17. • "I played the ball, played the man, the ref has his opinion and that is what he gets paid to do," Banks said. "I've just got to keep playing. I thought I played pretty good." • Brady converted a third-and-1 with a QB keeper, and two plays later, he found rookie Kenbrell Thompkins open in the back of the end zone for a 14-3 lead. • "I just think it's Tom Brady," defensive end Adrian Clayborn said. "He really picked and chose what plays he wanted to call, and he got us." • If that wasn't enough, the Bucs called a timeout facing a third-and-5 from their 25 with 0:17 left. On the next play, Freeman was intercepted by former Bucs corner Aqib Talib, putting the Patriots at the Bucs 43 with 11 seconds left. • That was enough time for Brady to throw a 3-yard pass, call a time out, then scramble 5 yards on a quarterback sneak to the Bucs 35. After another time out, Stephen Gostkowski hit a 53-yard field goal as time expired for a deflating 17-3 lead. • "Each yard, to get a little bit closer, would increase our percentages on that," coach Bill Belichick said. "We only had, I think, six seconds on the clock, so we had to do something pretty direct, get as many yards as we could in a short amount of time and take a time out. Then Steve made the kick."

Headhere

. With top receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams sidelined at times during Sunday's loss at New England, new faces stepped up into bigger roles on the Bucs offense.

"Today we did a little shuffling," quarterback Josh Freeman said. "We shuffled some guys around, but the bottom line is that the guys know the offense is expected to play at a high level. Some guys were able to make plays, but the chemistry was a little bit different."

That started with returner Eric Page, who caught his first NFL passes, getting three for 55 yards, including a 30-yarder that marked the Bucs' longest play of the day. Rookie tight end Tim Wright had his first NFL catch, a 6-yard gain, though he also missed a potential touchdown grab early on.

Fullback Eric Lorig also had his first catch of the season. Receiver Kevin Ogletree, who had one catch in the Bucs' first two games, had two receptions for 35 yards.

Running back Mike James, a rookie from Miami, also had his first NFL touch, gaining 5 yards on his only carry of the day.

The Bucs had to play without tight ends Tom Crabtree and Luke Stocker, inactive due to injuries, but still didn't get much from the position. Starter Nate Byham had a single catch for 1 yard and Wright had his one catch. Second-year pro Danny Noble, promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, was active but did not play.



. Another concern to add to the list in the Bucs' 0-3 start: Inconsistency in the kicking game, with Rian Lindell missing a 38-yard field goal on the Bucs' opening drive.

"I guess, in a kicking situation, that's all they do, so we do have to examine that," coach Greg Schiano said. "That's a big 'all.' It's very hard to do, but that is all he does. He plays kicks. But I like Rian. I think he is a good kicker. I think he is going to be our kicker."

Lindell, who came to the Bucs in preseason after Connor Barth was lost to a knee injury and Lawrence Tynes was sidelined by a MRSA infection, said he was disappointed not to be able to execute a kick his team needed.

"I still realize I'm capable, but between 1 and 4, that's when you have to prove it. I haven't done that very well the last couple of weeks," said Lindell, who also missed a 47-yarder near the end of last week's 16-14 loss to the Saints.

A pair of former Bucs players played key roles in the Patriots' 23-3 win Sunday, adding a personal feel to a dissappointing loss for Tampa Bay. • Running back LeGarrette Blount, who was dealt to the Patriots in the offseason for the rights to former Gator and world-class sprinter Jeff Demps, had his best game since 2011, rushing 14 times for 65 yards to help salt away the clock in the second half. Blount had totaled 75 rushing yards in his last 10 games, going back to his time with the Bucs last season. • Former Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib, dealt to the Patriots for a draft pick during last season, had an interception of Josh Freeman just before halftime, setting up a field goal as time expired. Talib finished with three tackles, with not many of the Bucs' 40 passes thrown his way. • Bucs rookie defensive end William Gholston, drafted in the fourth round with the pick Tampa Bay acquired in the Talib deal, made his NFL debut and had one tackle. Another Bucs defensive end, Trevor Scott, who played last season for the Patriots, also had one tackle for Tampa Bay.

Headhere

. Two of the Bucs' key players came out of Sunday's loss to the Patriots with injuries that could sideline them.

Receiver Vincent Jackson suffered a rib injury early in the third quarter and did not return to the game, watching the game with a ballcap on from the sidelines. The severity of his injury is unknown, and he did not speak to reporters after the game. WR Mike Williams missed a couple of series' with an injury but later returned to the game.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was walking gingerly after the game with an injury to his left ankle. Again, the severity of his injury was not disclosed, but he said he was "OK" in the locker room.

The Bucs also lost defensive tackle Gary Gibson — who started — on the first play of the game due to a hip injury. The Bucs already were without defensive tackle Derek Landri, who injured his knee last week.

Headhere

. Teams don't necessarily want a safety leading them in tackles, but second-year safety Mark Barron continued his strong 2013 with a team-high 11 tackles and an end-zone interception of Tom Brady in Sunday's loss. Barron, who now leads the team with 28 tackles after three games, made a leaping grab of a Brady pass in the end zone in the third quarter, intended for rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld. He also was credited with a half-sack of Brady, teaming with linebacker Lavonte David to get to the Patriots quarterback on a third-and-two on the opening drive. He also had primary pass coverage on Patriots running backs coming out of the backfield, limiting them to six catches for 57 yards.

Headhere

. Tampa Bay has opened its season 0-3 12 times in its 38 seasons, most recently in 2009, and none of those teams went on to win more than six games that season.

. Through three games, the Bucs have 12 sacks. Last year it took until Week 8 to claim their 12th sack.

. With 19 Sunday, Josh Freeman now has the franchise record for most pass completions (1,144), surpassing Vinny Testaverde's 1,126.

. G Carl Nicks played his first game of the season after missing the first two weeks with a staph infection.

 

Bucs defense strong in red zone 09/22/13 [Last modified: Sunday, September 22, 2013 11:22pm]
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