When I tuned into the game Sunday afternoon, the first thing that caught my eye was a man in a full kilt…and a Tedy Bruschi jersey. It’s something that’s not frequently seen at the Razor’s Edge on a Sunday. Shades of blue and red surrounded Wembley stadium as the New England Patriots faced their second winless opponent of the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All these combined, made for a very special game of the NFL’s 2009 International Series.
The Patriots were all smiles as they arrived in London, just a few days after their record breaking 59-0 win over the struggling Titans. Tom Brady explained, “I'd love to go out there and play my best every time out for my teammates, for my coaches and the fans certainly.” This entire game was for the international fans. They loved every minute of the Patriots and Buccaneers visit, and all 84,254 fans couldn’t wait to sport the jerseys of teams they’ve probably only seen via satellite.
Now onto the game, last week I made an eerily accurate prediction for the, in fact, I gave Tampa’s kicker Shane Andrus some credit and predicted him making a field goal on top the single touchdown. Tampa’s scoring was stopped a seven points and Tampa’s game morale was instantly depleted from the start of the game, thanks to an interception by Safety Brandon Meriweather in which he ran for 39 yards for the first touchdown of the game. One of the major concerns coming into the game was the turf at London’s Wembley stadium. Tom Brady expressed his concern to ESPNBoston, “…it's a soccer field, so I guess it's pretty flat and the grass is a little bit longer, which hopefully slows down the pass rush of Tampa Bay. That's what I'm hoping. I always like it when they're as far away from me as possible.” Brady was sacked just once during the game.
The conclusion of the game exposed a few important things: that the Patriots are starting to play much more consistently, the quarterback situation in Tampa is bordering a disaster and the depth of the Patriots’ receivers is becoming more and more impressive with every week. 5-2 is a great position to be in, especially entering a much needed bye week.
London loves Tom and apparently so does Coach Belichick, “He's a great leader. He's a great worker. And I'm glad he's our quarterback. There's nobody I'd rather have than Tom Brady.” I agree, I’m glad he’s our quarterback too.
The Rookie Report Card – Patriots vs. Buccaneers
A- :: Safety Patrick Chung
The highest pick the Patriots had in the 2009 Draft has had not problem adjusting in London. With 4 total tackles and a sack at Wembley Stadium, his strengths are starting to be a very strong presence on the team and to the Patriot’s opponents.
B- :: Wide Receiver – Brandon Tate
Hello Brandon Tate! The third round draft pick from North Carolina may not have been catching touchdown passes or getting a high number of snaps this season but in London, he was given a few more opportunities. Tate was on the receiving end of two kickoff returns and ran for a total 44 yards. With rookie Edelman out for a few games due to an injury, it would be ideal for Tate to make plays while he still can.
B+ :: Cornerback Darius Butler
Playing consistently is one of the biggest challenges for a rookie. Darius Butler is quickly becoming one of the most high impact rookies for the Patriots. No major plays this time around but still left London with another interception under his in his stats.
Korner Kicks: Bye
The bye week is a double-edged sword for the teams in the NFL, it can turn a team on a winning streak complacent or give a struggling a team a time to regroup. With a 5-2 record, the Patriots are in the middle. Before beating two winless teams one after another, Patriots fans struggled to watch their quarterback miss targets and getting stopped just before the endzone. Struggle no more, Bill Belichick has plans set for the bye week, “We got a little bit of time now to go back and regroup and work on -- certainly a lot of things we need to work on here going forward…” Never completely satisfied with the team’s performance, Bill Belichick gives credit where it is due then moves on. So let’s give credit for the last two weeks’ wins then move on, Dolphins, Jets, Colts and Saints are the next few opponents. Enjoy the bye week.
Kisha Tapangan covers the NFL and the New England Patriots for PatriotsInsider.com. To read more of her material, visit her blog at www.nrwithkisha.com . To contact Kisha, you can email her here: firstname.lastname@example.org