FOXBORO, Mass. — As it turned out, the Buccaneers weren’t much of a challenge for the Patriots.
In fact, New England was helped out by Tampa Bay’s ineptitude on more than a couple occasions. Josh Freeman made some poor throws, the Buccaneers didn’t seem to trust their kicker and penalties allowed the Patriots to move down the field on a couple scoring drives.
It wasn’t all the Buccaneers’ fault that New England won, though. The Patriots certainly had some key performers in this game. The rookie receivers finally stepped up, New England got some unexpected contributions in the run game and the Patriots’ pass defense made life difficult on Josh Freeman.
Check out the five stars of the game below.
Brandon Bolden: The Patriots couldn’t get much going in the rushing game against the Jets, but Bolden single-handedly pushed New England above four yards per carry in this one. His big plays — a 46-yard run and 17-yard screen pass — sparked field goal scoring drives for the Patriots.
Bolden finished the game with 51 yards on three carries and 49 yards on five catches.
Aqib Talib: The Patriots cornerback shadowed Vincent Jackson for the first half of the game and limited him to three catches for 34 yards. Jackson came out in the second half and Talib finished off the game shutting down Mike Williams.
Talib picked off his third interception of the season on an ill-advised pass from Freeman intended for Jackson.
Kenbrell Thompkins: The rookie receiver (hopefully) erased any perceived need for a veteran receiver to come to New England. He racked up two touchdowns from Tom Brady and caught three passes for 41 yards.
Thompkins and Dobson looked much better than they did in the first two games. There were still some drops, but the sports radio callers will need something new to complain about this week.
Chandler Jones: Jones accumulated two half sacks against the Buccaneers. He now has three sacks on the season. Jones gets pressure no matter where he’s lined up, whether it’s at defensive end or defensive tackle. In this game, he got his pressure from the edge.
Alfonzo Dennard: Dennard made some nice pass breakups as he worked the outside in the first half and the slot in the second half once Kyle Arrington came out. The Patriots’ cornerbacks continue to look strong through three games.
The defense in general continues to impress. They’ll let up yards, but they also make key stops when it matters.