Upon Further Review: A Look Back At Pats-Bucs
|10.28.09 at 12:49 am ET|
This is a weekly segment we’re calling “Upon Further Review,” one last look at the tape from the previous week’s game and meant to include some things we may have missed the first time around. Basically, it’s one last chance to empty out the notebook before the focus shifts to the week ahead.
Safety Brandon McGowan continues to be the surprise of the season. Seven games into the post-Rodney Harrison era, the Maine product has been tapped to play much the same role that Harrison has done the last few years, a safety/linebacker hybrid who plays closer to the line than a regular safety, but can also d-up against some slot receivers in a pinch. In addition, he’s now the designated tight end stopper — he did it Sunday against the Bucs, holding Kellen Winslow to two catches for a season-low nine yards. (But then again, “season-low” is a descriptive phrase that has come out of a lot of games where McGowan has been matched up against opposing tight ends. Just ask Tony Gonzalez.) I’m eagerly awaiting the Nov. 15 matchup between McGowan and Indy’s Dallas Clark.
In fact, let’s give the entire secondary a shout-out here. Coming into the season, they were the great unknown. Three of the four starters who opened the season have all been either traded, released or they have retired. Into the breach stepped players like McGowan, a rapidly improving Brandon Meriweather, Leigh Bodden (maybe the most physical corner the Patriots have had in years) and youngsters Darius Butler and Pat Chung, two players who have seen a dramatic spike in playing time the last two weeks. It will be interesting to see if the youngsters can continue their upward trend, and how much veteran James Sanders will play down the stretch as a result.
Adalius Thomas? Meh. Not sure what’s going on there, but after another look at the tape, he certainly didn’t stand out for me Sunday against the Bucs. In fact, there were plays where he was blocked out of the action rather easily. He took 16 snaps by my count, and did make one impressive play — stopping Derrick Ward on a third-down run. The rest of the way, he was underwhelming and rather pedestrian. If he is dogged by an injury, the bye week is certainly coming at a good time for him.
There is a drumbeat that’s growing louder — we are in the early stages of the Sea Bass Era, with Matt Light’s critics going as far as suggesting that the veteran left tackle has been “Wally Pipped” out of a job by the rookie from Houston. While his two starts have been enough to give him a passing grade, I’m not quite ready to give the job to Vollmer just yet. The rook was flagging twice for holding against a below-average Tampa Bay defensive line. As the bye week approaches, you can make a good argument that Vollmer has been the second-most impressive rookie (behind Julian Edelman). But that doesn’t mean he’ll step into Light’s position just yet. Light’s contract is up after the 2010 season — if Vollmer become the full-time left tackle on this team, it won’t happen until then.
It hasn’t always showing up on the stat sheet, but both Derrick Burgess and Tully Banta-Cain have spent the last two weeks in the Tennessee and Tampa Bay backfield. The two pass-rushers have played very well, Banta-Cain in particular. He had five tackles on Sunday, two of them for a loss, but his best moment came when he ran down a screen pass. It certainly got Bill Belichick’s attention. “He rushed, got off on the ball, he beat (offensive lineman Donald) Penn on the snap,” Belichick recalled on “The Big Show” on Tuesday. “He got to the quarterback, and Penn cut him just as the ball was released. He was about seven yards across the line of scrimmage, and got up and made a play after about a six-yard gain downfield on third and 12 or whatever it was. Those are the kind of plays that don’t really show up on the stat sheet, but they’re terrific plays.”
We were a bit confused as to why the Patriots didn’t run the ball more than they did. Tampa Bay came into the game allowed an average of 172 rushing yards per game, 31st in the league. However, New England’s running game struggled to put together constant yards, but did end up with 107 yards. Another look back at the video reveals that Tampa Bay spent a good chunk of the game stacking the line, bringing safety Sabby Piscitelli down into the box to try and stuff the Patriots run game. So New England tried some different things in an attempt to get some ground yardage, trying to use the Bucs’ tendency to overpursue against them. “The screens, the reverses, the play-actions … kind of anything to get the defense running one way and then bring it the other way with play-action or try to separate the defense, because they’re a very hard-pursuing team,” Belichick said Monday. “They really hustle and they pursue hard to the ball. So when you can get them going one way and screen them or draw them or reverse them or play-action them, we felt like those would be good plays for us.”
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