The offense struggled for much of the first half, but once Rob Gronkowski found his way back onto the field, Tom Brady started clicking again.
The offensive line looked dismal once again, leaving Brady susceptible to big hits and possibly even injury. There needs to be some change going on there. Maybe the answer lies with the reinsertion of Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer, and hopefully camp no-show Brian Waters, but only time will tell if Nate Solder or Marcus Cannon can perform under pressure in the league.
On defense, Vince Wilfork and the line established a presence once again, holding the Bucs to less than three yards per carry during their time on the field. The defensive backfield struggled, though, allowing Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson to make fools of them early and often. And the second stringers weren't much better, with a tough couple of major breakdowns in the second half.
Stevan Ridley finally asserted himself as the man for the lead running back job, rushing for 87 yards on 16 carries and providing a presence both on the inside and off the edge. Meanwhile, New England awaits results on the injured knee of Shane Vereen, which could be a big loss if it's serious enough. Hopefully it's not.
To keep up with all the news, notes and analysis with your New England Patriots, be sure to follow NESN's NFL Writer @LukeFHughes on Twitter.
Fourth Quarter, 0:33, Bucs 30-28: Ryan Mallett shows some great arm strength and escapability on that touchdown. He may be young, but he's really coming on as a player as this preseason goes on.
Jesse Holley gets the credit on the touchdown this time around, which may be his crowning moment in camp as he doesn't figure to have much more time with the Pats.
Mallett is still in just his second year, and he is in no way ready to be a consistent starter for the Patriots or any NFL team. But he's definitely earning himself some more credibility and could even be sneaking up behind Brian Hoyer on the depth chart. He's got talent and could be on his way to a starting gig in years to come.
Fourth Quarter, 2:00, Bucs 30-21: Donte Stallworth may be fighting for his roster spot, but he definitely isn't doing anything to earn it.
There's a sling to the outside from Mallett and yet another drop off the hands of Stallworth. Meanwhile, Deion Branch was sure-handed once again Friday night, snagging the only ball thrown his way.
This could be Stallworth's last chance to show something, especially seeing that the Pats need to cut 10 players before next week. Maybe Stallworth is one of the guys to go. Sorry to see you go, Donte, but you've got to show something to keep yourself alive.
Fourth Quarter, 4:21, Bucs 30-21: Ryan Mallet can sling it, and he showed so with a few solid tosses and a three-yard touchdown to rookie wideout Jeremy Ebert. But Jeff Demps just showed up his young quarterback compadre.
Demps may not be your prototypical running back — 5-foot-6 is a bit small for the position — but, boy, can he run.
After getting blown up along the sidelines — and I mean, BLOWN UP! — Demps got right back in on the action and broke a 29-yard scamper between the tackles and nearly all the way to the house.
He's not going to be an everydown back ever, most likely, and he probably won't see much time in the backfield this season, but with speed like that, he's going to get some burn and likely burn some dudes at some point.
10:25 p.m.: As we asked for some clever names for Chandler Jones earlier in the night, it looks like we've got out winner.
Chandler "the mauler" was the best we could come up with. I bet there's even more creativity out there, but for now, I like the ring of it.
Thanks to everyone who sent a suggestion in. We'll have much more as the season rolls on.
@lukefhugheshwo about chandler ''the mauler'' jones
— christopher mehegan (@celticsfan2584) August 25, 2012
Fourth Quarter, 10:13, Bucs 30-14: Josh Freeman held the Patriots defensive backfield hostage for much of the first half, but now it's Dan Orlovsky — seriously! — who is making the reserves looks foolish.
Orlovsky has gone 6-for-7 since entering the game, throwing for 53 yards and an eight-yard touchdown en route to a Bucs 30-14 lead.
This one hasn't been pretty for the Patriots d-backs, and right there, Bobby Carpenter looked a bit slow.
Carpenter, who was unfortunately shielded by the official, needs to make some adjustments if he expects to make this roster or have any impact on the Pats this year. He's a talented player and a former first-round pick, but right now he looks like a deep reserve at best.
Fourth Quarter, 10:13, Bucs 23-14: While Randy Cross continues making a mockery of Nate Ebner — or who he likes to call Eber — the kid is showing up all over the place.
The former rugby star is proving his worth and why the Patriots spent a sixth-round pick on him, even when other teams didn't even have him on their boards.
Ebner's got a serious engine, making plays all over the field on defense and contributing on special teams with speed and some big hits.
End Third Quarter, Bucs 23-14: The Patriots are still down by multiple scores, but the offense seemed to find some more consistency in the third quarter.
Brady has now played all three quarters, and although he figures to sit in the fourth, he is beginning to find a rhythm with some of the guys on the outside — namely, Gronk.
may not be making the biggest splash in his first action with the Patriots, but
Stevan Ridley is certainly making the most of his opportunities.
Ridley, who impressed during much of the first half, continues to
establish the edge and really pound away on the Bucs defense.
While he seemed to disappear during Monday's game against Philly,
Ridley is quickly becoming the favorite to take the starting job.
Third Quarter, 0:53, Bus 23-14: Man, did that look familiar?
Brady to Gronk for a 16-yard touchdown, and with ease — or so it appeared.
With one of his favorite targets back on the field — Welker, the other, is sitting — Brady seemed comfortable and poised on that drive.
Gronkowski hasn't seemed all that effective in the preseason thus far, but with more plays like that, he may be in for yet another major season in 2012.
Third Quarter, 4:28, Bus 23-7: The Bucs may have a kicker controversy going on out on the field.
Connor Barth nailed a 56-yarder right through the uprights in the first half, but his competition, Kai Forbath, has done him one better.
After booting a 51-yard field goal at the end of the first half, Forbath hit a 55-yarder — with ease, mind you — to put the Bucs up 23-7.
This is getting to be a real romping, with Tampa just routing the Patriots in this one.
9:45 p.m.: The biggest story in the NFL this week — aside from some more terrible refereeing — was the continuing Maurice Jones-Drew saga.
MoJo, who was the NFL's leading rushing in 2011, has been holding out for a new contract all offseason, but it appears that MJD won't be getting one from new owner, Shad Khan.
Khan made the claim that MJD better "get on board" with the system or the "train is leaving the station."
Amidst all of this, do you think the Jags should trade MJD?
Should the Jacksonville Jaguars trade Maurice Jones-Drew?
Third Quarter, 9:50, Bus 20-7: Chandler Jones is an absolute monster, and the Bucs just can't stop the train.
Jones got inside on a few plays in a row, and this time he actually got to Freeman with a big blow to take down the 6-foot-5 quarterback.
Jones, nicknamed "the closer" by his teammates, earned the nickname by catching a punt to end a practice early and escape some late-night meetings for the team.
But with his motor and ferocity coming off the edge, you might as well offer up soem other nicknames.
Tweet me @LukeFHughes with your best nickname suggestions for Chandler Jones.
Third Quarter, 13:10, Bus 20-7: Brady and the Pats offense didn't show any real sign of improvement to start the second half.
A quick three-and-out series won't help a 20-7 deficit, and while this is the preseason, the offense needs to find a rhythm. Right now it just looks god-awful.
9:25 p.m.: While the Patriots look sluggish with a 20-7 deficit starting the 2nd half, the Red Sox have just taken the lead in Boston.
Check it out with our Red Sox Live Blog.
End Second Quarter, Bucs 20-7: The Buccaneers did just about everything right in the first half, but even with a 20-7 lead, they appear to be the big losers on the night.
While Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson have established a tremendous connection already — three catches, 49 yards — they have also suffered some severe blows by way of offensive guard Davin Joseph and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy being carted off.
As for the Patriots, the offensive line has continued to be a serious issue up front, allowing defenders to get to Brady on a consistent basis all night long — two sacks in the half. Brady bounced back, as usual, with a solid performance from under center, going 9-for-14 for 80 yards and a few pretty completions thus far.
The other big star of the half was second-year back Stevan Ridley. Ridley, who seemed to be stagnant once again in the early going, busted out a few real sweet runs and is showing off a combination of speed and strength en route to 10 carries for 52 yards.
The loss of Shane Vereen could be costly, as he's looked strong in the passing game and out in space early in the preseason, but the hope is that the knee injury isn't anything too serious and he could be back soon.
Second Quarter, 3:10, Bucs 17-7: Brady seems to be overcoming the constant pressure, but this offensive line really needs to improve.
Granted, Mankins and Vollmer are still working their way back from injury, but Brady is constantly being left open to these Bucs rushers and has even taken a few big licks in the early going.
The first two games seemed to express some concern, but this one appears to be the icing on the cake as both Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon are not living up the hype.
If Brady stays in there much longer with this hodgepodge crew, it could end up disastrous for the Patriots and Brady.
Second Quarter, 5:40, Bucs 17-7: Hernandez needs to hold on, there. A great pass from Brady, but just another silly mistake by New England.
These silly mistakes really need to be corrected, because this doesn't look like the same team — at least offensively — that came within one catch of a Super Bowl title.
Second Quarter, 6:14, Bucs 17-7: While the Patriots' offense continues to show signs of life, it seems that the defense has finally settled in as well.
After turning the ball over on downs, the Bucs managed just three yards and were forced to kick a 56-yard field — an impressive feat for Connor Barth as he looks to lock down the place-kicking job.
The Pats' rush defense has allowed just 28 yards on 11 carries here on Friday, though, showing that even if the pass defense is somewhat suspect, there is some positive coming from that D.
Second Quarter,12:07, Bucs 14-7: Brady finally gave some good leads to his receivers, and Stevan Ridley made the most of his chance to shine.
A couple of big runs, including a 30-yard bounce to the outside, helped the Pats' offense gain some serious ground and find its way to the end zone — finally.
Following the big 30-yarder, Ridley busted into the end zone on a two-yard blast up the middle.
With Vereen hobbling off with an apparent left leg injury, Ridley has the starting job at his fingertips, and it looks like he's grabbing it with full force.
End First Quarter, Bucs 14-0: Tampa Bay dominated the first 15 minutes in this one, but Tom Brady and the Patriots offense are bouncing back and look primed for a nice, long run.
A few big hits may have Belichick and company questioning how long they want to keep Brady in there, but the veteran QB is stepping up to the pressure and responding admirably.
The running back situation hasn't shown much thus far, with both backs looking really soft on jaunts up the middle. Shane Vereen hobbled off the field and is being looked at by trainers, but Ridley finally broke one to the outside an 11-yarder.
New England needs to hold the tempo on defense and really find some consistency out of the defensive line to take the pressure off the d-backs.
8:15 p.m.: Tom Brady may be struggling early on, but the Red Sox are on fire offensively against the Kansas City Royals.
Keep up with all things Red Sox, including the most up-to-date trade info, on NESN and with the Red Sox Live Blog.
First Quarter, 03:08, Bucs 14-0: Patriots fans gasped collectively at the start of the Patriots' second drive there.
As Brady dropped back in the pocket, Bucs end Michael Bennett blew by right tackle Marcus Cannon and lit up the Pro Bowl quarterback in a scary sequence.
The very next play, a third-and-long from inside the Pats' red zone, Brady dropped back but saw a batted ball fall into the hands of rookie Mark Barron, who took the ball back for a touchdown.
That makes this one a 14-0 rout in the early going, and it's going in the Bucs favor. Maybe Brady should just take a breather until the regular season resumes.
First Quarter, 04:22, Bucs 7-0: The Bucs didn't get off an eight-play, 68-yard drive on this one, but Freeman and the Tampa offense are already looking much better than Brady and friends.
Martin got his act together with a few hard-nosed runs, but it was old friend Dallas Clark who really stood out on that drive.
Clark, who missed five games and saw his numbers decline significantly without Peyton Manning, left the Colts during the offseason and took over as Tampa's new starting tight end.
The 33-year-old pass-catcher has a pretty 12-yard snag across the middle and looks to already have a good connection going with Freeman.
First Quarter, 09:04, Bucs 7-0: Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were in sync on the first pass of the night, showing no signs of rust from Monday's night off.
But Stevan Ridley didn't look too strong on a pair of back-to-back runs, gaining just one yard and unable to get the first down.
It's an early assessment — way too early, even — but it looks like this tailback combo may need some more time to develop than initially thought.
First Quarter, 09:36, Bucs 7-0: Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson are exposing the Patriots pass defense.
The rookie running back Doug Martin may get the credit for the score, punching in a one-yard touchdown, but it was Freeman and Jackson who did the dirty work.
After two consecutive games of solid play in the defensive backfield, the Buccaneers big money receiver appears to have revealed a major flaw.
The fourth-year quarterback hooked up with Jackson three times for 49 yards and made the Patriots look foolish defensively. If VJax can continue playing at this high level, then the Bucs could be a serious threat in the NFC South this season — much like their 10-6 campaign in 2010.
7:33 p.m.: Josh Freeman and brand-new deep threat Vincent Jackson should pose a nice challenge to the Patriots pass defense.
After two straight solid performances, especially out of the first unit, New England may have its hands full against a pretty good quarterback and an elite receiver down in Tampa.
Steven Gregory, Tavon Wilson and Devin McCourty, who could reclaim his No. 1 CB job, will be relied upon heavily to slow down that attack.
7:05 p.m.: Tom Brady is out on the field and ready to get this night going.
While Brady, Gronk, Lloyd and Co. get set to kick things off at Raymond James Stadium down in Tampa Bay, here are some things to look for in this third preseason game.
1. Tavon Wilson to start at safety. Plenty of controversy surrounded the rookie defensive back after he was selected in the second round of April's NFL draft much higher than anticipated. Wilson didn't see any action over the past two games, but he should be out in full force to give Bill Belichick and the Patriots a full look at just what he can do.
2. Defensive line battle. A bevy of talented players are fighting for a spot on the Patriots' opening day roster. While the likes of Vince Wilfork, Chandler Jones and Kyle Love seem to be locks, some players are still fighting for their lives with the team. Look out for Ron Brace, Brandon Deadrick, Jermaine Cunningham, Trevor Scott and Tim Bullman to be put to the test in this one.
3. Wide receiver situation. Monday night, the battle between Deion Branch and Donte Stallworth took center stage, and Branch seemed to win handedly. But on Friday, Jabar Gaffney comes back into the equation, and the last wide receiver spot will become a three-pronged battle. While Lloyd, Welker and seemingly Slater are locks, Julian Edelman's status is still in the air, and he could be fighting for his job if he doesn't turn around his iffy special teams play.
Keep on the lookout for this and much more as the Pats battle the Bucs in Tampa on Friday night.
8 a.m. ET: Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were just two of the many Patriots starters to sit out of the team's second preseason game against the Eagles on Monday. But the move wasn't without good reason.
Bill Belichick thought his starters especially needed the break, as the Patriots were set to travel to Tampa Bay for a showdown with the Buccanneers just four days later. Now the day has come, and it's time to see Brady, Gronk and Wes Welker back out on the field Friday night.
New England has been in Tampa since Tuesday and spent the past two days practicing alongside, and in scrimmages against, the Bucs. So, Friday's game should be a bit of chess match as both teams already have a good understanding of one another.
Brady and the first-team offense will likely see the lion's share of the first-half snaps and could well give fans their first extended look at some of the new weapons. It will also be the Patriots' first look at the Bucs since acquiring big-play wideout Vincent Jackson in the offseason. So much to keep and eye out for in an eventful Friday night game.
Tune into all the action starting at 7:30 p.m. and be sure to keep up with the NESN.com Patriots Live Blog for all your news, notes and analysis.