Despite extremely high preseason expectations, the Patriots entered week 5 of the NFL season as a team with significant question marks, specifically on defense. Through the first four weeks of the season the Patriots defense was allowing an average of 456 yards and 32 points per game. Opponents were averaging 7.1 yards per play. The $65 million man, Stephon Gilmore, looked completely lost. In the words of the great poet Bart Scott, that defense couldn’t stop a goddamn nose bleed. And the matchup didn’t seem to offer any respite as the Patriots traveled to Tampa Bay on a short week for a TNF matchup against the NFL’s 3rd ranked passing attack lead by Jameis Winston.
But as we have seen year after year, Bill Belichick and the coach staff found a way to pull their shit together after a tough start to the season. Despite allowing 400+ yards again, the defense made timely plays to hold the Buccaneers to only 14 points. And boy did they look dapper doing it in their white-on-white TNF color rush uniforms.
Brady looked like a tall glass of milk in all white as he spread the ball around for 303 yards in the air, with four Patriots finishing with 50+ receiving yards. Brandin Cooks led the way with 5 catches for 85 yards. Amendola did his best Edelman impression by coupling 8 catches for 77 yards with some shifty plays on special teams.
However, the star of the show for the Patriots was undoubtedly Tampa Bay kicker Nick Folk. After winning the kicking job in preseason over former 2nd round draft pick Roberto Aguayo, Folk apparently came down with a case of Blair Walsh syndrome. Folk had a mental meltdown against the Patriots going 0-3 on attempts from 56, 49 and 31 yards.
But, as was typical with the 2017 Patriots, the game wasn’t without its share of rectum clenching moments. After a failed onside kick the Buccaneers got the ball back at their own 25 with 1:10 remaining in a 19-14 game. Winston promptly drove them down to the Patriots 19 yard line before throwing incomplete into triple coverage as time expired.