Two Thumbs Up

The good reviews continued for the Patriots as their recent stop in Tampa on their “Preseason of Punishment” tour yielded another healthy beat down of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The final score of the game really didn’t reflect how unbalanced of a match up this truly was as the Patriots left town with 31-14 win. However the game was pretty much over after the first quarter with the Patriots absolutely dominating and staking a 21-0 lead.

Despite this being a meaningless “practice” game in the preseason, it was a significant game for New England for a couple of different reasons. In the first preseason game a majority of the starters did not even bother to dress, let alone play. Therefore it was important in terms of beginning to build that rhythm and team chemistry that is inherent for success in the regular season. Secondly, Tampa Bay, unlike their first opponent, Jacksonville, is considered to be a pretty good team.

Last season they finish with a 10-6 record, barely missing the playoffs. And, in the first game of their preseason, they demolished and shut out a Kansas City Chiefs team who won their division a year ago and hosted a playoff game. So going into the game many people thought it would be a good test to better gauge the Patriots’ early-season progress. That was not the case however, because the Buccaneers were no match for New England.

It’s difficult to really glean anything too substantial from these first two contests given that they are basically in place for coaches to play players who normally wouldn’t play in order to help determine who will make the roster, but their were a couple of positive signs worth mentioning.

The defense, which was terrible last year, has been especially impressive. Through the first two games the Patriots have outscored their opponents 78-26. Even more remarkable is the fact that the defense has only allowed one touchdown to opposing offenses over the first 120 minutes of the preseason, and that came with 9:28 to go in the 4th quarter of the blowout against Tampa Bay.

The inability for the other teams to score has been a direct result of a ferociously intense pass rush. This was a facet of the game that was nearly nonexistent for the Pats last season. New England has tallied seven sacks in their first two games and the transition by Bill Belichick to the 4-3 defense appears as if it will pay huge dividends for them this year.

The well-oiled machine, known as the Patriots offense, is running as smoothly as possible this early on. Tom Brady looked sharp in his first start as he was eager to get on the field and tinker with his new toy in the wide receiving corps – Chad Ochocinco. The two of them have been working relentlessly to get down their timing and become familiar with one another this preseason.

The hard work paid off as they connected for beautiful, play action touchdown pass as part of the first quarter rout doled out by the Pats. This should be the first of many to come for this tandem and the Patriots look like they have pulled off another steal from a desperate organization eager to unload their disgruntled talent.

Next up for the Patriots is the Detroit Lions on Saturday. A rematch from last year’s Thanksgiving shootout, it should be another good opportunity to continue to build that chemistry and confidence in preparation for week one. Look for defensive newcomers Shaun Ellis and Albert Haynesworth to possibly make their highly anticipated debuts for the team as their contribution should further fortify an already formidable defensive front.

While these games might not mean anything, it’s hard not to get excited from what the Patriots have shown us so far. Last year was a great regular season, but the playoff flop left the fans and players with a very bitter taste in their mouths. Hopefully that taste will remain and serve as motivation for the Patriots as they begin the quest for their first championship since 2004. It’s an extremely long road until we reach that point, but it’s certainly a really good start.

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