The Buccaneers suffered their first loss of the season last week against the Los Angeles Rams, despite putting up over 400 yards of offense. The team will look to rebound against the 1-2 New England Patriots in Foxborough on Sunday night.
This game will be one to remember, as it marks Tom Brady’s first time playing the team he spent twenty seasons with. While the Patriots are not the same as they once were, the Buccaneers can’t let their guard down, as back-to-back losses would hurt their momentum. Let’s take a look at how Tampa Bay can move to 3-1.
Protecting Tom Brady (Again)
Last week, the Buccaneers were tasked with stopping Aaron Donald from pressuring their quarterback. This week, it will be Matthew Judon who they’ll have to look out for. Judon isn’t as explosive as Donald (and both play different positions), but he could certainly rack up a few sacks if left unguarded. Once again, the entire offensive line needs to step up and make sure that the former Baltimore Raven doesn’t get too close to Brady.
Working Around JC Jackson
JC Jackson has become one of the league’s best cornerbacks, and with Stephon Gilmore out, is New England’s top option at the position. In a week 2 game against the New York Jets, Jackson had two interceptions off passes thrown by rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. While Brady has much more experience than any rookie, head coach Bruce Arians likes to take deep shots down the field, and plays over 20 yards could be dangerous if Jackson is anywhere nearby. Arians may want to be more reserved with the passing game this week, even though the offense doesn’t typically operate that way.
Establishing the Run Game
In last week’s loss against the Rams, the Buccaneers’ two best running backs (Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones) combined for just 19 yards on the ground with a 2.1 YPC average. The debate is no longer over who should be the starter, rather how many rushing yards Tampa can put up as a team. The Rams have a great defense, and it’s understandable that they were able to stop the run. However, New England’s defense is one of the better units in the NFL, too. If the Buccaneers are unable to effectively run the ball, it could hurt them down the stretch, especially in the playoffs. Considering it’s already week four of the season, the time is now or never, even if the opposing defense presents challenges.