‘Thursday Night Football’ tonight: Streaming, TV, why the Buccaneers will beat the Patriots
There isn’t a scenario in which you — or anybody else — had the Patriots tied with the Jets in the AFC East after four games. Yet here we are; New England has fallen short of expectations and New York has wildly exceeded them and both outfits are 2-2.
“I think we’re all disappointed.” Tom Brady conceded Monday morning, hours after the team lost at home to the Panthers. “Losing doesn’t sit well with any of us,” Brady said during his weekly appearance on WEEI’s “Kirk and Callahan Show,” via ESPN.com.
“Hopefully we can figure out how to play more consistently over the course of an entire game. Offensively, we have to be able to score more points than the other team; no matter what they score, we have to score more. If we score three points, the defense has to hold them to nothing. That’s what being a good team is all about.”
The offense isn’t the problem though. It’s the league’s worst defense (that’s no exaggeration — this group has been abysmal) that’s the problem. Communication has been identified as the main culprit, which means the issues are fixable. Veteran linebacker and team leader Dont’a Hightower is “absolutely” certain the unit can turn things around.
“We’ve got to hold each other to a higher standard than that,” Hightower said this week. “That starts today. We know where we have to be at and what we have to do. The time is now. There’s no more next week or any other s—. We have to get going.”
“It’s the small things that happen,” he continued, “getting that little bit of extra pressure on the quarterback, that extra knock back on the line of scrimmage, that extra knock back on the center or the quick jam at the line of scrimmage. All the little things matter right now. I think what we need to do, and what we’re going to start doing, is going at that. Don’t take things for granted, you know? Appreciate every little thing and be knowledgeable of each small detail. We’ll start from there and see where it goes.”
It won’t get any easier against the Bucs; Tampa Bay’s offensive line ranks fourth in run-blocking and eighth in pass-blocking, according to Football Outsiders, while New England’s pass defense ranks dead last in the league.
But if you’re a Pats fan, despondent about the slow start, take solace in this: Of the four previous times the team has started 2-2 under coach Bill Belichick, they made the playoffs all four times and on two occasions won the Super Bowl, most recently in 2014.
So yeah, it could be worse. Just ask the Bucs. They last went to the playoffs in 2007 when Jon Gruden was the coach and Jeff Garcia was the quarterback. And from 2011-2015 the team cycled through three coaches, four starting quarterbacks, didn’t have a winning season and finished dead last in the division every year. Thankfully, things changed in 2016 when Dirk Koetter replaced Lovie Smith. Tampa Bay went 9-7 as Jameis Winston continued his march to full-fledged franchise quarterback. And through three games this season the Bucs are 2-1 and look very much like a team that could be playing in January.
Our prediction: Buccaneers 28 Patriots 27