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Once again, it started out looking like a third ugly game in a row to start the season. New England couldn’t get things done, but fortunately for them, neither did the Buccaneers. The second quarter allowed the Patriots to run up ground which Tampa Bay couldn’t make up. In the end, New England walked away with a much more comfortable 23-3 win.
After a quick Patriots punt to start, Tampa marched down the field, thanks in no small part to a 28-yard pass to Mike Willams, and put themselves in a good position to take the lead with a 38-yard field goal, but Rian Lindell whiffed wide right. After another Patriots punt, Tampa marched down the field again, helped out by a pass interference call, and put themselves in position for a 30-yard field goal. This time, Lindell hit the kick to give Tampa a lead.
After the third Patriots punt, Tampa tried to get down the field more quickly, but found themselves with an awkward fourth down at New England’s 34, where it’s too close to punt but too far to go for a field goal. One incomplete pass later, and it was New England’s turn again.
In New England’s first possession of the second quarter, they found themselves in a similar spot, but their short passing game got them the yards they needed to keep the drive going. After further pressing the Tampa defense, Tom Brady found rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who juked and jived his way past multiple defenders into the end zone to give New England the 7-3 lead.
Tampa again found themselves in no-man’s land at the New England 38, but this time with a more manageable 4th-and-1. However, Doug Martin was stuffed by the front line of the Pats’ defense just shy of the first down, and New England took over. They marched downfield with halftime looming. With under a minute to go, Brady found Thompkins again in the back of the end zone and took a 14-3 lead.
Without much time left, Tampa looked to be running out the clock, but after the first play, suddenly turned to a passing game in an effort to suddenly make a big play. That hurt them bigtime when Aqib Talib picked off a pass intended for Vincent Jackson. Following a quick pass and 5-yard quarterback sneak, Stephen Gostkowski hit a whopping 53-yard field goal as time expired to give New England a 17-3 halftime lead.
Things only looked to be getting worse in the 3rd quarter for Tampa, with New England knocking on the door again. but Mark Barror managed to pick off Brady in the end zone on third down to kill off the momentum. Even so, Tampa wasn’t able to capitalize, being forced into a quick three-and-out.
It was the same story for the remainder of the game, with Tampa being able to make a push here and there, but not nearly being able to finish anything off. Gostkowski kicked two more field goals for good measure, giving New England the 23-3 win.