Final, Patriots 23-3: The Patriots are 3-0 for the first time since 2007. These first three wins have been far more 2001 than they are 2007, though.
This game had an early-2000s feeling to it as New England never really seemed to break out, but at the end, they came out victorious. No one piled up game-breaking stats, but a win is a win.
Now the Patriots look forward to Sunday night against the Falcons. That will be by far the team’s most difficult test of the early season.
Fourth quarter, 1:54, Patriots 23-3: The Buccaneers are finally driving down the field as this one is all but wrapped up. The New England faithful have already started filtering out of the stadium and the Patriots chose to eat up the clock with LeGarrette Blount.
Fourth quarter, 7:38, Patriots 23-3: Well, I guess we have to credit the Bucs for not taking much time off the clock on that drive. They used up less than a minute as they went three-and-out.
Kyle Arrington stayed on the sideline for that drive once again. He’s been in on special teams.
Fourth quarter, 8:19, Patriots 23-3: This game is getting out of reach for the Bucs. Without Vincent Jackson, their offense isn’t nearly as explosive or dangerous.
The Patriots marched down the field — with help from Bolden again — and put another three on the scoreboard.
Fourth quarter, 13:03, Patriots 20-3: The Buccaneers go for it on fourth down a lot. The Patriots stopped them again and get the ball on their own 34-yard line.
Kyle Arrington wasn’t in on that drive. Logan Ryan was playing outside with Alfonzo Dennard in the slot. Dennard was targeted on the last two plays of the drive. He made the pass breakup on the first target and got a bit turned around on the second one, which was still an incompletion.
End third quarter, Patriots 20-3: The Buccaneers are getting decent chunks of yards on the ground with Doug Martin, but they’re also eating up the clock down by 17.
Rookies Jamie Collins and Logan Ryan are getting some looks on this drive in nickel packages.
Third quarter, 3:38, Patriots 20-3: Tom Brady still doesn’t look on the top of his game, but the Patriots are continuing to pile up points. A Gostkowski field goal makes his one 20-3 with 3:38 left in the third quarter.
Third quarter, 7:53, Patriots 17-3: Vincent Jackson was on the sideline at the end of that drive. If the Buccaneers don’t have their No. 1 target, they won’t be winning this game.
Third quarter, 9:34, Patriots 17-3: Tom Brady didn’t get a ton of help from his receivers late in that drive, but he uncharacteristically threw a red zone interception straight into the arms of Mark Barron.
The Patriots got that far off a 46-yard run by Brandon
Third quarter, 12:00, Patriots 17-3: Chandler Jones and Tommy Kelly got inside the Tampa Bay offensive line for another sack. Jones has been creating pressure all season.
Jamie Collins has been getting some work in the nickel defense at linebacker.
End first half, Patriots 17-3: It hasn’t been pretty so far, but the Patriots are taking a 17-3 lead into the half. New England was bailed out by some drops and penalties from Tampa Bay, but the offense is still moving the ball better than they have all season.
The defense has allowed a good chunk of yards — 174 to be exact — but they’re making stops when it counts. That includes two fourth-down stops as the Bucs elected to go for it rather than attempt long field goals.
Josh Freeman has been playing OK, but his throw to Vincent Jackson late in the second quarter was not a great decision, as it was picked off by Aqib Talib. New England made Tampa Bay pay by scoring as the quarter ended on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
Second quarter, :47, Patriots 14-3: Let’s hope this puts an end to the Deion Branch/Brandon Lloyd talk.
Kenbrell Thompkins is finally breaking out. He just scored his second touchdown and appears to be gaining trust from Tom Brady. Aaron Dobson is also having a nice game.
The Patriots have taken a 14-3 lead with :47 left in the game.
Second quarter, 2:00, Patriots 7-3: The Patriots are driving again. Brandon Bolden, lined up out wide with Darrelle Revis covering him, stopped running a go route after Brady had let go of the ball. It looked like Bolden could have caught it for a TD as the ball landed a few yards in front of him. Lavonte David bailed Bolden out on the play by committing a penalty, giving the Patriots a first down.
Revis stopped on the route, though, too. So it may not have been a sure-thing TD even if Bolden had continued his route.
Second quarter, 4:20, Patriots 7-3: The defense, once again, stopped the Buccaneers when it mattered. Tampa Bay went for it on fourth-and-one and couldn’t convert on a Doug Martin run. Brandon Spikes came up with the big stop.
On third-and-one, Freeman threw a perfect pass down the sideline to Vincent Jackson. Talib was able to get a hand on it as Jackson dropped the deep pass.
Second quarter, 7:31, Patriots 7-3: Tom Brady had a couple miscues on that drive, but found Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins for key receptions. Thompkins scored his first career NFL touchdown as he caught the ball in space and weaved his way into the end zone.
Stevan Ridley had a couple nice runs, as well, and Brady found Edelman for a couple short passes. All around, a nice drive for the offense.
Second quarter, 12:44, Buccaneers 3-0: The Buccaneers are moving the ball on the Patriots, but New England’s defense is making stops when it matters. The Patriots have the ball on their own 34 after stopping the Bucs on fourth-and-5. Dont’a Hightower did a nice job covering Doug Martin down the field on what could have been a touchdown grab.
End first quarter, Buccaneers 3-0: The Patriots went three and out again. Brady bounced a pass to Thompkins, got sacked, then went for the screen on third-and-18.
Jerod Mayo sacked Josh Freeman on the last play of the first quarter.
First quarter, 1:47, Buccaneers 3-0: Tampa Bay isn’t having much trouble moving the ball on New England. Kyle Arrington and Aqib Talib are getting torched by Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson, respectively.
The Bucs settled for a field goal to go up 3-0. The drive was stalled after Freeman through into double coverage and Tim Wright let a touchdown slip through his hands.
First quarter, 7:48: Anyone expecting to see the Patriots’ offense coming out firing on all cylinders is sadly disappointed. Brady stared down Brandon Bolden on third-and-two, giving Mark Barron plenty of time to break up the pass.
Aaron Dobson had a nice catch to grab a first down on that drive. Darrelle Revis has been lined up all over the field, but he’s been spending most of his time on Thompkins.
First quarter, 10:11: The Buccaneers tried to get on the board early, but couldn’t convert a field goal.
Aqib Talib was shadowing Vincent Jackson all over the field. Mike Williams beat Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard on separate plays. Jerod Mayo made a nice stop on third-and-15, but he was covering Doug Martin in man. That’s a mismatch the Bucs will likely try to exploit.
First quarter, 13:15: The Patriots’ first drive started out promising enough, but Brady got sacked by Lavonte David and Mark Barron on third-and-two to stall the drive.
First quarter, 14:48: The Patriots started out with Brandon Bolden, Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson and Julian Edelman starting. We’ve got a slight delay as Gary Gibson was slow to get off the field after Dan Connolly crushed him on the first offensive play of the game, a screen to Bolden.
First quarter, 15:00: The Bucs won the toss and chose to defer. The Patriots will receive. We’re about to get started here.
12:37 p.m.: Neither Stevan Ridley or LeGarrette Blount is much of a receiving threat out of the backfield, so Brandon Bolden may get some snaps on third down with Shane Vereen and Leon Washington out.
Bolden caught a lot of passes during his Ole Miss career, though he only caught two last season with the Patriots.
Bolden has been bothered by injuries since the spring began, but he looked good during training camp when he was on the field. The Patriots’ running game struggled against the Jets, it will be important to reestablish that part of the offense against Tampa Bay.
12:12 p.m.: Some of the receivers are getting some early work out on the field. Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Julian Edelman are all out on the Gillette Stadium field.
Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett just took the field to Jay Z’s “Public Service Announcement.”
11:30 a.m.: The inactives are in. Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Will Svitek, Leon Washington, Matthew Slater, Steve Beauharnais and Chris Jones are the seven inactives for the Patriots. That means Brandon Bolden is active for the first time this season. Zach Sudfeld is also back.
For the Bucs, Dan Orlovsky, Michael Adams, Gabe Carimi, Tom Crabtree, Luke Stocker, Derek Landri and Steven Means are out.
11:23 a.m.: Ian Rapoport and Mike Silver are reporting that Tom Brady has called and texted Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd to gauge their interest in returning to New England. That doesn’t mean the team is interested in either player coming back, though.
From a team perspective, it makes more sense to see what they have in the rookies. Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce won’t improve unless they’re playing in games.
If anything, this report could further lower the rookies’ confidence. Knowing their quarterback is not happy in their play is not exactly going to help their possibly already damaged egos.
Branch looked like a shell of his former self last season. He knows the offense, but he struggled to get open. Lloyd was much better, but he reportedly hasn’t showed interest in returning.
10:45 a.m.: We’re coming at you live from Gillette Stadium. Some Buccaneers players and staffers are down on the field, but the stands are still completely empty.
A couple Patriots-related reports came out of NFL Network today. Ian Rapoport reported that Rob Gronkowski is unlikely to play today and that it’s his forearm, not his back, that is keeping him off the game field.
Albert Breer of NFLN reports that Danny Amendola’s groin tear is off the bone, which means it’s not a sports hernia. Amendola can’t hurt his groin any worse, which is why he’s been practicing.
Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports the Patriots and Rob Ninkovich agreed to an extension that will keep him in New England through 2016. It appears the Patriots are happy with the combination of Chandler Jones and Ninkovich at defensive end.
8 a.m. ET: Typically, a matchup between 2-0 and 0-2 teams would suggest a blowout. But the Patriots-Buccaneers game might be closer than some would imagine.
Tampa Bay has top-tier players throughout their roster, especially on defense. Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Darrelle Revis highlight the unit, but Adrian Clayborn, Mark Barron, Dashon Goldson and Mason Foster are also high-quality players.
On offense, the Buccaneers feature a dangerous wide receiver and running back, with Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin, respectively. Aqib Talib will likely be responsible for Jackson, while Vince Wilfork will have to step up his game in the middle of the defense to halt Martin.
The game may come down to Tampa Bay signal-caller Josh Freeman, though. If Freeman plays well, the Buccaneers could take this game, but if he’s as inefficient as he’s been the first two weeks of the season, New England could walk all over the Bucs. Freeman has to limit his mistakes. The Patriots’ defense is as smart as they come and they’ll take advantage of any error Freeman makes.
Stay here throughout the afternoon for all the latest updates and analysis. If you’re going to the game, don’t forget to check the new NFL stadium bag policy.