Patriots-Buccaneers: What we learned

Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady knows his connection with his rookie receivers is a work in progress, even after positive signs in the New England Patriots' 23-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
But all things considered, and with all the weapons he's lost, the New England quarterback is thrilled to be 3-0.
"Just to get to 3-0, we've only done it once, the last seven years, or nine years or something like that, which is a pretty good (2013) stat," Brady said after rookie receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins combined for 10 catches and Thompkins caught two touchdown passes in the Patriots' 23-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "I'd love to get to 4-0."
The Patriots are 3-0 for the first time since 2007. They squeezed by the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. By comparison, Sunday's victory was a breeze as the Bucs fell to 0-3.
"I feel good -- 3-0, can't ask for anything better," said New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
Quarterback Josh Freeman played parts of the game without top receivers Vincent Jackson (ribs) and Mike Williams (leg) and at one point in the second half, rookie backup Mike Glennon warmed up on the sideline.
Asked after the game if Freeman gives his team the best to win, coach Greg Schiano said, "He does," and added he didn't consider a change during the game.
Freeman, who came in 31st in the league in passing (Brady was 21st) did some good things early but fell apart. He finished 19 of 41 for 236 yards and an interception. Freeman is 43-for-94 in three games.
The Bucs have scored three points in their last seven quarters.
"We'll evaluate the tape, start with me, work through our staff and our players, get feedback and figure it out," Schiano said. "There's no magic pill. We've done it before as a group, we're not doing it now. We need to figure it out why. That's what we'll do."

What the Buccaneers said
"I thought we hung in there early and it was a good football game, and as time went on and we didn't make plays, we didn't convert. It wasn't an explosion, it was a gradual tipping of the scales." - Coach Greg Schiano after his team's third straight loss Sunday.

What the Patriots said
"We know that (Darrelle) Revis is an elite cornerback and it was good for me to just get a feel for him. To go out there and play a full game against him was good." -- Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins on being covered by Revis.

What we learned about the Buccaneers
1. There is individual talent on the Tampa Bay roster, but it's not adding up to positive results. The Bucs had chances against a spotty Patriots' defense early but there were missed throws and dropped passes; and then the New England defense grew confidence. The Tampa Bay defense was manhandled in the second half.
2. Josh Freeman certainly doesn't look like an NFL starter -- his confidence is shaken and it is more and more evident the friction with coach Greg Schiano is a detriment. Freeman was 19-for-41 Sunday and is 43-for-94 through the first three games of the season. After Sunday's game, Freeman, who was also 0-3 to start his rookie season, said "We are taking a lot of shots and when you're throwing the ball downfield that many times, a lot of the times the back gets eaten up in protection, it's a shot play, they cover it and you've just got to launch it and get it out of bounds. I'm going to have to go back and evaluate today and all of our pass attempts - which ones were throwaways. We have to find a way to complete more passes - complete them on third down and in the red zone."

What we learned about the Patriots
1. Despite their growing pains on offense, the Patriots are 3-0. Other than the win-loss column, New England hasn't been overly convincing. Sunday's game at Atlanta could provide the first real test of 2013. Quarterback Tom Brady's frustration was evident again at times, but he's making the most of his inexperienced receiving corps, biding time until tight end Rob Gronkowski returns. He could be ready to make his season debut Sunday against the Falcons.
"It's interesting because you go through the spring camps and you have the practices and because there's no real competition and there's no scoreboard, and in some ways you get a false sense of security that things are going the right way," Brady said of developing his receiving corps without his five top receivers from 2012. "... today was a better day all around. It's a week-to-week thing in the NFL and you have to put it in every week. And every week the urgency is more because there are less games and there is less you can do about your season. Just to get to 3-0 - we've only done it once in the last seven or nine years, which is a pretty good stat. I'd love to get to 4-0."

2. The young wide receivers might be alright after all. Yes, there were dropped passes and routes run the wrong way Sunday, but Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson did combine for 10 catches and the first two touchdowns of Thompkins' career. For Brady, frustrations were few and far between compared to last Thursday against the New York Jets. His body language -- and the on-field results -- were improved.
"Well hopefully it stays that way. I thought the guys did a great job - we had a good week of practice and I think it ultimately showed up," said Brady. "It was a good win. It was fun to be out there, fun to see us play a little bit better, so it's nice to be 3-0."

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