TAMPA — Bucs coach Greg Schiano said there were highlights hidden in Friday's 25-21 preseason loss to the Patriots.
Special teams were much better.
Mike James and Peyton Hillis ran well, tightening the competition for the backup running back spot.
And Schiano believes the Bucs were more physical than in the first preseason game, a 44-16 home loss to the Ravens.
But that doesn't mask the fact there were a lot of errors and areas that need improvement as the Bucs head into the second half of the preseason. Schiano said there were a "truckload" of mistakes in the first game.
How about Friday at New England?
"There are a boatload of things we have to get corrected," Schiano said Saturday.
"That's what preseason is about. And hopefully, as we get closer to the regular season, we get all our guys back and let the thing run."
One of the biggest problems came in pass protection, where Schiano said they lost several one-on-one battles. That resulted in three sacks of Josh Freeman over the first two series and four for the game. Freeman didn't have any time, stunting the first-team offense's development.
While the Bucs played without starting guards Carl Nicks (toe) and Davin Joseph (knee), Schiano didn't use it as an excuse.
"I don't think that way because last year, we didn't have Joseph and Nicks for the majority of the year," Schiano said. "That's life in the NFL. You're not going to have a Pro Bowler stacked behind a Pro Bowler. It doesn't work that way, so we have to get the job done.
"It's going to be nice when we get them playing again. Certainly that firms up the middle. It gives you the ability to help your tackles a little more. But we didn't protect well in the first two drives, and that can't be. We'll get it fixed. I'm confident our guys will get it fixed and play better."
Two right tackles, Demar Dotson and Gabe Carimi (acquired from the Bears in June), were beaten for a sack. Schiano said Dotson didn't have his best game but is dealing with a minor leg issue.
"Demar Dotson is having a very good camp. He's our starting right tackle," he said.
"Gabe Carimi is learning the system, and he's getting better every day."
Schiano acknowledged the Patriots aggressively rushed the passer early and because they're a 3-4 team, it posed problems for a Bucs unit used to practicing against the 4-3. Plus, some pressures led to tough matchups for running backs. Freeman, for his part, said he needs to get the ball out quicker.
But Schiano said the struggles were mostly due to execution, not effort.
"We didn't win some one-on-one battles," Schiano said. "I don't think we got outphysicaled. That's a positive because (the Patriots are) a very physical football team. There was a lot of good hitting going on. It had a regular-season feel to it."
Had this been a regular-season game, however, Schiano said there might not have been as many one-on-one matchups because they could chip block or slide protection to help. But Schiano said they weren't concerned with scheming.
"We want to see one-on-one matchups," Schiano said. "Preseason is a time to stretch yourself. Let's see what we can and can't do. And if it doesn't work, why is it?
"Because we can't or because we made an error that we can correct? I would have liked the result to be a little better at the beginning, but I was pleased with the physicality of our team. We hit hard just like they did."
Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith @tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_JSmith.