Thursday night the New England Patriots took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New England was looking to improve to 3-2 on the season while Tampa Bay wanted a win to move to 2-2. At halftime the Patriots were up 13-7 and they ended up securing a 19-14 victory, despite some questionable clock management at the end of the game. Below are some takeaways from New England’s Week five road win over the Bucs.

Week Five New England Patriots Takeaways

Too Many Self Inflicted Wounds

The Patriots, especially with Bill Belichick at the helm, have been a very disciplined team. But on Thursday night they were not. Against Tampa Bay New England committed too many penalties, including four that gave the Bucs first downs. The Patriots also had penalties on offense that cost the team first downs (like Danny Amendola getting called for offensive pass interference). Sure, that flag against Amendola could just have easily not been thrown, but he did fully extend his arm, so the penalty was called. The Patriots cannot afford to extend opposing offenses’ drives and give teams extra chances or have their own first down conversions called back due to penalties. Simply put, they need to stop making dumb mistakes.

But penalties weren’t the Patriots only issue Thursday night. New England’s receivers dropped too many balls, including Brandin Cooks, who missed multiple catches he should have made. Some receivers, including Cooks, Amendola and Chris Hogan, did have nice games, but Tom Brady needs to know he can trust all of his receivers. The Patriots receiving corps cannot fail to secure catches they should make. Dropped passes lead to stalled drives, which leads to fewer points.

The Patriots also turned the ball over twice. Brady threw a terrible interception (his first of the season) in the first half and then lost a fumble after getting sacked. Yes, obviously the offensive line needs to play better, but New England needs to limit turnovers if they hope to win the AFC East, make a deep run in the playoffs and try to repeat as Super Bowl champions. It’s difficult to consistently win games if a team loses the turnover battle.

Defense Looked Better

The Patriots offensive line still struggled (Brady was hit six times and sacked three), but the defense was improved, even if they allowed a fifth straight quarterback to throw for over 300 yards. New England entered Week five ranked dead last in the NFL in yards per game allowed (456.8) and second to last in points per game allowed (32.0). But on Thursday New England’s defense appeared to play better. Matt Patricia‘s unit still surrendered 424 total yards, but they allowed only 14 points in the Patriots victory.

It’s possible that New England simply confused the Bucs by playing so much zone Thursday night and Tampa Bay refused to run the type of offense that New England has struggled against so far this season. But the Patriots didn’t allow big chunk plays (except the 41-yard play to DeSean Jackson) and they held Tampa Bay to only 14 points. There is clearly still room for improvement going forward but the Patriots “bend but don’t break” philosophy was enough to get the win Thursday night.

Patriots Won the Field Goal Battle

Yes, the Patriots defense looked better than it had in the first four weeks of the season, but Bucs place kicker Nick Folk  deserves an assist on the Patriots win. While Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski went 4/4 in his field goal attempts (he made from 27, 23, 45 and 48) Folk had a terrible night. The former Arizona Wildcat went 0/3 in his field goal attempts and his team lost by five points. If Folk made just two of the field goals he attempted his team would have come away with the win.

Last week the Patriots lost at home by three to the Carolina Panthers when Panthers kicker Graham Gano kicked a game winning field goal as time expired. Sometimes games come down to little things and the Patriots were victorious Thursday night thanks largely to Gostkowski’s leg, while a big reason the Bucs lost was the inability of their kicker to put the football through the uprights.

This was a good road win on a short week for the Patriots, but only time will tell if they can fix enough of their flaws to get back to the Super Bowl.

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