Meriweather's Breakout Performance

Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather hasn't always been a playmaker. At one point, there were concerns of his performance on the field. On Sunday, Meriweather did his best to dispel any doubt he's the man in the secondary.

Aside from the fact the Patriots recorded another blowout against an inferior opponent Sunday, arguably the biggest story emanating from London is the performance of safety Brandon Meriweather, who came up with two big interceptions in a 35-7 victory.

Meriweather's first pick resulted in a 39-yard return for a touchdown on Tampa Bay's opening possession, which immediately set the tone.

His second pick came later in the opening quarter. In the end, Meriweather's prowess on defense, coupled with another big game from Tom Brady, upped New England's record to 5-2 and began discussions about whether the safety is the playmaker this team desperately needs.

Has the bar been raised for Meriweather? Impossible, says the third-year safety.

"The level of expectation? I don't know, because, to be honest, my level of expectation is already through the roof," he said. "I expect myself to be great every day. Not good here, good there, great here, great there -- I expect to be great every day."

That sounds great, but the truth is Meriweather hasn't always been great. Few players have, but Meriweather's overall game still needs some work. Nonetheless, his performance Sunday is a breath of fresh air for the Patriots, who are looking for leadership in the aftermath of Rodney Harrison's retirement.

"Brandon stepped up with some huge plays (Sunday), and those are the plays he's capable of making," Belichick said. "He's been around those, and today they fell for him. But he's a good player for us, and there's a lot of plays that don't show up on the stat sheet.

"(Sunday's) plays did, but there's a lot of ones that he makes that don't. He's done a real good job."

Meriweather's always been a smooth talker, but now he's backing up his words on the field. This is exactly what the Patriots need -- a playmaker on defense who can control the secondary and deliver the kind of game-changing plays that swing the momentum.

"Before we came into this game, he said he was going to have two picks," teammate Brandon McGowan said. "He didn't say he was going to take one to the house, but he did that, too. You know, the (defensive backs) talk a lot, and he talks. He's the first person I heard when I stepped in here May 5."

Welker Leads The Pack
Following Sunday's performance in London, WR Wes Welker now leads the league in receptions with 46 and also holds the league's highest yards-per-game average at 96.8. Welker has done all of this despite missing two games with an injury, which only further highlights how important he's been when he's in the lineup.

Welker caught 10 passes for 107 yards Sunday against Tampa Bay and overall has produced a first down or a touchdown on 58.7 percent of his catches.

Thomas Under Review
LB Adalius Thomas returned to the lineup Sunday after sitting out last week's game as a healthy scratch. He finished with one tackle as the starting outside linebacker and also forced a hurried throw on another occasion. Thomas did not play much in the second half, which might've had more to do with the lopsided score than anything else. Still, this wasn't the kind of impact performance the Patriots are expecting on a weekly basis.

"He's a good contributor," head coach Bill Belichick said. "He's contributed a lot for us over the last two years. I'm sure he will continue to in the future."

Just "Good Enough"
QB Tom Brady wasn't overly impressed with his performance Sunday, or his 107.3 passer rating, but he described the victory over Tampa Bay as "good enough."

Brady threw two interceptions, but also completed 23 of his 32 passes, including 10 to Wes Welker.

"We had a goal coming over here and there were certainly plenty of distractions for us," Brady said, "but to get the win and then to fly home and have a little bit of time off, I think we'll all reflect on the last seven weeks and hopefully move forward with better preparation, better concentration and go out there and be able to perform better in the last nine weeks of the year."

NOTES:
--DE Ty Warren suffered an ankle injury in Sunday's win over Tampa Bay. The Patriots have not announced any updates on his status.
--NT Vince Wilfork controlled the line of scrimmage in Sunday's win and did a great job freeing up plays for other defenders, including Jerod Mayo, who had eight tackles.
--G Logan Mankins committed four penalties, including two in the second quarter, and played a large role in an awful performance by the offensive line.
--WR Randy Moss looked awkward at times and only caught five balls for 69 yards. Wes Welker's performance certainly took some of the steam from Moss, but he looked sloppy at times running routes and getting his footwork in place.
--S James Sanders continues to lose playing time to Brandon McGowan and did not play much at all against the Buccaneers. His stock has dropped with each passing week.


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