In one of the more unimpressive wins you’ll likely see in 2017, the New England Patriots beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 19-14, on Thursday – despite allowing 400+ yards and committing 12 penalties and two turnovers.
It was ugly.
“Yeah, they look like a team that’s hellbent on finding ways to lose games,” CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “And that’s the complete antithesis of the whole narrative of the Patriot Way and the rebranding of that franchise from sort of sad-sack afterthought – even in their own market playing second fiddle to the Bruins or the Red Sox or the Celtics or whatever – to now this archetype franchise of the NFL and the closest thing we’ve seen to a true extended dynasty in the salary-cap era.”
The Patriots’ problem is pretty simple.
“They don’t have talent,” La Canfora said. “It’s not like they don’t have the sexy talent. (Brandin) Cooks can still make plays. Gronk will eventually play again next week. How effective he’ll be and when does he get hurt again is a different question. And they obviously still have Tom Brady. But they can’t win in the trenches right now. They’ve always been able to do that. Not that they had guys who were all first-round picks there, but they had a five-man offensive unit more years than not that collectively was better than the individual talent. They had a rotation of guys in their front three or front four who got job done. That’s just not the case right now.”
Doug Martin ran 13 times for 74 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and a touchdown Thursday. Why he wasn’t given more touches is a mystery.
“If Tampa would have run the ball more last night, the numbers would have reflected the degree to which the Pats were getting beat up,” La Canfora said. “They just decided not to run the ball against Cover 2. I don’t know why because when they gave it to Martin, he was effective.”
New England also allowed Jameis Winston to throw for 334 yards.
“The pass rush is pedestrian,” La Canfora said. “They mixed up their D-line and their D-tackles and they benched Alan Branch, who had been struggling, but they still got gashed enough in the run game that it’s going to concern you. And you mentioned the penalties and the mental mistakes and they’ve obviously had some communication breakdowns in the secondary. They came into the week the worst defense in the NFL. They held up – kind of bend-don’t-break last night – but if the kicker has even an average day, they lose that game in all likelihood.”
Indeed, Tampa Bay’s Nick Folk missed three field goals Thursday. If he made even one of them, the outcome could have been different.
“Yeah, I would be concerned about the New England Patriots,” La Canfora said. “Look, they’re going to win that division. I think they’ll finish a game ahead of Buffalo. But it’s about January and February there. That defense is not built for January and February.”
The Patriots play the Jets (2-2) on the road in Week 6 before hosting the Falcons (3-1) at home in Week 7. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., respectively.