Sunday, September 22, 2013

Four Point Stance: Buccaneers at Patriots


On paper, Week 3's match-up between the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers is your typical 2-0 team versus your 0-2 team. Talk to Bill Belichick, however, and he'll tell you otherwise. Belichick spent much of this past week talking up colleague Greg Schiano's crew, which he said was only a few plays away from being where his own team sits now.

The same logic can be flipped on a Patriots squad that's won a couple of squeakers the first two weeks and has some serious issues in the passing game to resolve. One area that needs little help thus far is the secondary, which is among the top 5 defenses in pass coverage. Couple that with a shaky start for the Bucs passing game and the Pats may find themselves in a propitious position after a nontraditional start. (Photo: Mark Runyon | Pro Football Schedules)


Stout secondary? Believe it or not, the Pats' defensive backfield is legit, ranked second in the league in pass coverage, according to Pro Football Focus. Much of the credit can go to their No. 1 corner, Aqib Talib, who through two games has tallied two interceptions and a forced fumble. That's helped the team to a plus-3  turnover rate so far, which fares well against a Tampa team that's turned the ball over four times total in its first two games.

No revisions at receiver. Hopefully Tom Brady is over his temper tantrum from a week ago, as it seems like he'll be surrounded by the same receiving corps that he struggled with in Week 2 against the Jets. Despite sightings on the practice field and media availability, both Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola will continue to sit this weekend as they rehab their respective injuries. New England's receivers have pulled in only 53 percent of their targeted passes as a whole, with rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson each hovering around only 30 percent. A sub-par secondary may help the rookies out, however, with the Tampa Bay DBs allowing more than 250 passing yards a game thus far.

Freeman's demons. After finishing last season with more than 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns, 25-year-old Josh Freeman has not started off the 2013 campaign as he would have liked to. The former Pro Bowler has completed only 45 percent of his passes in his first two games and currently holds the NFC's lowest passer rating at 63. That lack of success could be deadly for Freeman against New England's secondary, and it may force the offense to be too one-dimensional and rely too much on its running game. Freeman is currently 0-4 against AFC East opponents with a combined passer rating of 50.5.

Martin moving the chains. Speaking of the rushing attack, there's been no complaints about how workhorse Doug Martin has started off the season. The sophomore is currently second in the league in yards per game average (104.5) and leads the league in touches per game (26.5). The 24-year-old was impressive his rookie year, putting up more than 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns. Expect the Bucs to hand it to Martin until the Pats can prove they can stop him, which has been a bit of an issue in the first two games for New England. The inside tandem of Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork haven't made much of an impact in the backfield so far, which has allowed teams to average four yards a carry early on.
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