Week 15 Game Recap: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0, New England Patriots 28
What you need to know
The Buccaneers came into this game having won four of their last five. Three of those games, including consecutive wins in the last two were on the road, where they possessed a 5-2 record. They left with many questions. Chief among them are what will this loss do to their playoff hopes and how can they better protect quarterback Chris Simms. Since Simms has replaced the injured Brian Griese as a starter, the Bucs are 4-4. In the four wins, Sims was sacked a total of two times. However, in the four losses, Simms has been sacked an alarming 22 times, including seven today. Simms was under nearly constant pressure and gamely took a beating. He started the game with a dislocated ring finger on his left (throwing) hand. During the game, he injured his left thumb as well. Considering the beating he was taking, Simms played reasonably well. He finished 21-34 for 155 yards. Simms now has thrown 117 consecutive passes without throwing an interception.
Things were no better for Cadillac Williams, who entered the game 76 rushing yards shy of 1,000 in his rookie season. Williams was able to gain only 23 yards on 14 carries. His long run of the game went for three yards. As a team, the Bucs rushed for a total of 30 yards. Overall, they were outgained 336-138.
The Tampa Bay defense entered the game ranked number two in the NFL and played reasonably well, especially against the run. The Patriots only managed 83 rushing yards and a 2.6 per carry average. Tom Brady passed for 258 yards and three touchdowns. The Buccaneers were able to pressure Brady throughout the game, but only totaled one sack, as Brady frequently did a good job of getting rid of the ball just before the pass rush arrived.
The breaks of the game just didn’t go Tampa’s way, especially on special teams. The Buccaneers forced the Patriots to punt late in the second quarter while trailing only 7-0. However, Ryan Nece was called for a roughing the kicker penalty that gave the Patriots a first down. New England took advantage of the second chance and drove down the field for their second touchdown. Furthermore, Mark Jones returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter, but the play was called back on a holding penalty.
The Patriots opened this game by marching straight down the field with a twelve play 76 yard touchdown drive. Tom Brady was four for six for 53 yards on the drive, including a one yard touchdown pass to tackle Tom Ashworth (the first reception of his NFL career). David Givens had a key 32 yard reception and a nine yard gain on a reverse to propel the drive. After the opening drive, the Patriots offense struggled with three and outs on their next three possessions, before scoring touchdowns on their final two possessions of the half. It turned out that New England would not need the additional scores, as the defense pitched its first shutout in 36 games.
David Givens was the offensive star of the game for the Patriots. Givens had a career high 137 yards on six receptions, including a 16 yard touchdown late in the second quarter. Corey Dillon found daylight hard to come by on the ground, gaining only 48 yards on 19 carries. However, Dillon did reach the end zone twice: Dillon scored on a three yard run in the second quarter and caught a two yard pass for the final touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter.
Tom Brady, who had been listed as questionable on the injury report, started for the 85th consecutive game. Brady did not appear to be hampered by his calf injury. He passed for 258 yards with three touchdowns. With Tom Ashworth and Corey Dillon adding touchdown receptions, Brady has now thrown touchdown passes to twelve different receivers this season.
The Patriots won for the fifth time in six games and clinched the AFC East title with the victory. In their last three games (all wins), New England has given up a total of ten points. The Patriots are playing with their starting front seven healthy on defense and it shows. During the current three game winning streak, New England has given up a total of 85 rushing yards.
What you ought to know
|QB Chris Simms, Pass: 21 - 34 - 155 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0|
Despite facing a heavy pass rush throughout the game, Simms stood tough and was able to complete nearly 62% of his passes. He certainly was not helped by the Tampa Bay running game, which totaled a measly 30 yards on the ground and had a long run of four yards. Due to the lack of a running threat, The Patriots defense was able to tee off on Simms, who was sacked seven times. When given adequate time to throw, Simms was effective in finding open receivers and getting them the ball. However, Tampa Bay hardly tried to stretch the Patriot defense during the game and Sims averaged only 4.6 yards per pass attempt.
Simms started the game with a dislocated ring finger on his throwing hand. During the game, he injured his thumb, likely hitting it on a defender’s helmet on a follow through. The thumb injury appeared to bother him slightly, but Tampa Bay’s modest passing totals had more to do with poor protection and lack of a running game than it had to do with Simms’ thumb.
Simms did not throw an interception and currently has a streak of 117 consecutive passes without one. Simms fumbled twice on plays where he was blindsided by Patriots’ defenders. Willie McGinest’s recovery and return set up New England’s offense at the Tampa Bay 27 with just over a minute to go in the first half. Three plays later, Tom Brady hit David Givens for a 16 yard touchdown pass and the Patriots had a 21-0 lead.
Williams entered the game 76 rushing yards short of 1,000 for his rookie season. However, Cadillac found holes few and far between and was able to muster only 23 yards on 14 carries and a long gain of three yards. Williams will have to wait at least another week to reach the milestone. Tampa tried to persist in giving Williams the ball in order to keep the New England defense honest, but the offensive line was unable to open any big holes for him. He tied a career high with three receptions, but gained only four yards on them. Williams saved a turnover when he recovered a Chris Simms fumble.
Pittman had the Buccaneers’ longest run of the day, a four yard gain. He added a two yard run on his other carry and a three yard reception.
|RB Mike Alstott, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0, Rec: 2 - 8 - 0 (2 targets)|
Alstott converted one short yard carry into a two yard gain and a first down. He had two receptions of four yards a piece. The second converted a first down on a third and one in the fourth quarter. At this point in his career, the Buccaneers are mostly limiting Alstott to short yardage attempts and as an occasional receiver out of the backfield. He has had more than four carries in a game only once this season.
Hilliard did his best to help keep the offense moving. He had receptions of ten, eight, 22, three, and seven yards. All of the catches came on third down plays. All but the last one converted first downs. Hilliard’s 22 yard grab was the Buccaneers’ longest gain on the day.
Galloway, Tampa Bay’s leading receiver, was targeted a team high eleven times in this game. He had receptions of 15, five, nine, and nine yards. Galloway dropped two passes. Though first was broken up by Ellis Hobbs, Galloway did not have any excuse for the second drop, as he was wide open on a fourth and one play.
Clayton is struggling in his sophomore campaign after his impressive rookie season. He had receptions of eight and eighteen yards during the second half of this game. Clayton dropped a pass on his other target, but it appeared that the defender may have hit him slightly before the ball arrived.
Smith, Tampa Bay’s rookie tight end, had four catches. His biggest gain was nine yards. Smith also had a short reception negated by a penalty.
Becht dropped the only pass thrown his way.
The Buccaneers entered the game with the number three run defense in the NFL and played a solid game. New England gained only 83 yards and had a 2.6 yard average per carry. Corey Dillon had a three yard touchdown run that was set up by a game-swinging roughing the kicker penalty. The Patriots’ longest running play netted 14 yards.
The Buccaneers defense allowed the Patriots to march right down the field on the game’s opening possession. However, the Patriots were held to quick three and outs on their next three drives. The game looked like it would be a defensive battle until a roughing the punter penalty gave New England’s fifth possession new life. Six plays later, the Patriots reached the end zone and never had to look back. David Givens had a career game with six receptions, 137 yards, and a touchdown. Tom Brady threw two other touchdown passes in the game. Simeon Rice had the only sack of the game for the Buccaneers; it was his tenth sack of the season and marked the eighth time he has had at least ten sacks in a season.
|QB Tom Brady, Pass: 20 - 31 - 258 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 6 - 0|
Brady was questionable for this game, but started for the 85th consecutive time and played like he was fully healthy. Brady entered the game leading the NFL in passing yardage. He added 258 to that total with three touchdowns. Brady did a nice job of moving around the pocket and buying time before he found Corey Dillon for a two yard touchdown flip. Brady’s 20 completions were spread among nine different receivers. He has now thrown touchdown passes to twelve different Patriots this season. He did not have any turnovers, though Juran Bolden dropped an easy interception on a ball that Brady underthrew badly off of his back foot.
Brady did not show any signs of his shin or shoulder injury. His three rushes for six yards all came on sneaks.
43 year old backup, Doug Flutie, made his third appearance of the season for two kneel-downs at the end of the game.
|RB Corey Dillon, Rush: 19 - 48 - 1, Rec: 4 - 15 - 1 (4 targets)|
Dillon frequently found the running room hard to come by in this game. He gained only 48 yards on 19 carries. If you take away his long run of 14 yards, Dillon averaged less than two yards per attempt. However, Dillon did reach the end zone twice, once on a three yard second quarter run and once on a two yard flip from Tom Brady. Dillon added three other receptions.
|RB Kevin Faulk, Rush: 6 - 18 - 0, Rec: 2 - 8 - 0 (2 targets)|
Faulk did not find the running any easier than Dillon. He totaled 18 yards on six attempts. One of his carries came on a direct snap. Faulk ran a sweep on the play, but the Buccaneers were not tricked and the play gained only three yards on third and six. Faulk had a nice catch and run that resulted in a 13 yard gain. His other reception came on a screen pass that did not fool the Tampa Bay defense and resulted in a five yard loss.
Pass had one four yard reception on his only target. He did not receive any rushing attempts.
|WR David Givens, Rush: 2 - 13 - 0, Rec: 6 - 137 - 1 (8 targets)|
Givens had a career day with 6 catches for 137 yards and one touchdown. He had receptions of 32, 31, 16 (touchdown), 15, six, and 37 yards. Givens was stopped at the Tampa Bay one yard line on his six yard reception. His last catch was his 56th of the season, tying his career high. Givens’ performance was his sixth career 100 yard game. He also ran two reverses for nine and four yards. Givens’ 150 total yards eclipsed the entire Tampa Bay offense by 12 yards. Givens did drop one pass.
Branch had receptions of eight and 19 yards. He had a short reception called back due to a penalty. Branch was targeted deep once, but Brady overthrew the ball (probably intentionally) as Branch was triple covered on the play. Branch also dropped a pass on a third and four play; it looked like Brady expected Branch to head downfield, while he instead stayed put and therefore was forced to reach for the pass.
Davis had one 19 yard catch.
Dwight’s 27 yard reception set up Corey Dillon’s three yard touchdown run on the following play.
Brown was targeted once, but did not have a catch.
Fauria caught two passes. He had a short three yard catch and a seventeen yard reception on third down and sixteen that kept the Patriots’ second touchdown drive alive.
Watson did not play due to a head injury.
The Patriots limited the Buccaneers to 30 rushing yards and a long run of four yards. Tampa tried hard to establish a rushing attack, but had little luck. The Patriots held Tampa Bay to 12 first downs and 138 total yards.
The Patriots held Chris Simms to 155 passing yards. The dominant run defense allowed them to put relentless pressure on Simms, sacking him seven times and hitting him numerous others. With the yardage lost from the sacks, the Buccaneers had 108 net passing yards. Mike Vrabel’s second quarter sack forced a Simms fumble that was recovered by Willie McGinest and set up a touchdown. Tedy Bruschi had nine solo tackles, two assists, two sacks, and a forced fumble. McGinest contributed two sacks, while Artrell Hawkins and Rosevelt Colvin also had sacks.