FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — NFL-mania takes over London this week, as the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers jump across the pond to play in the league’s annual International Series.
The Patriots are 4-2 all-time against Tampa Bay and won the last meeting 28-0 in 2005 at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots are 2-1 at home and 2-1 on the road against the Bucs, who are the considered the home team this weekend.
Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Wembley Stadium, London
Patriots 4-2 (1-1 AFC East)
Buccaneers 0-6 (0-1 NFC South)
If given the choice, most players sound like they’d rather play their football in the States. This season’s guinea pigs are the Patriots and Buccaneers, whose weeks are thrown off by longer flights, unusual time changes and different practice schedules.
The Patriots always have Tuesdays off in the regular season to rest their bodies before getting back to practice on Wednesday. This week, though, they held a walkthrough Tuesday, when they also started their game planning for Tampa Bay. The Pats resumed normal practices Wednesday and Thursday before flying to London on Thursday night. They’ll have a light practice at a cricket field Friday before checking out Wembley Stadium for the first time Saturday. They will also stay in London after Sunday night’s game and fly home Monday.
Tampa Bay, which is unfortunate enough to lose a home game out of the ordeal, is flying over Friday.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said he is excited about this opportunity, and while he can’t recall the details of the 575 games he has coached since 1975, he knows he’ll always remember the trip to London, for better or worse. The players are also echoing their interest in heading overseas to take part in the unique opportunity, even if they’d rather fly somewhere like, say, Tampa Bay to play a road game.
“It’d be nice to go play in different countries, but to be honest, I’d rather just stay here,” said Patriots running back Laurence Maroney. “Less traveling, less jetlag, [and] I know my area and my surroundings.”
The NFL is doing this to expand its product, make a little money and explore the opportunity to play more games overseas in the future. With that, the Patriots and Bucs are acting as ambassadors for the league this weekend.
“I’m just trying to coach a team — I’m not trying to solve the world’s problems or tell the league how to run the league and all that,” Belichick said when asked if the NFL should try to globalize its product. “I’m just trying to coach a team. There are a lot of other people that know a lot more about that than I do.”
Patriots Specialists Defense Specialists
Quarterback: Tom Brady
Wide Receiver: Randy Moss
Wide Receiver: Wes Welker
Running Back: Laurence Maroney
Tight End: Ben Watson
Tight End: Chris Baker
Left Tackle: Sebastian Vollmer
Left Guard: Logan Mankins
Center: Dan Koppen
Right Guard: Stephen Neal
Right Tackle: Nick Kaczur
Left Defensive End: Ty Warren
Defensive Tackle: Vince Wilfork
Right Defensive End: Jarvis Green
Left Outside Linebacker: Derrick Burgess
Middle Linebacker: Jerod Mayo
Middle Linebacker: Gary Guyton
Right Outside Linebacker: Adalius Thomas
Left Cornerback: Shawn Springs
Right Cornerback: Leigh Bodden
Strong Safety: Brandon Meriweather
Free Safety: Brandon McGowan
Punter: Chris Hanson
Long Snapper: Jake Ingram
Holder: Chris Hanson
Kick Returner: Laurence Maroney
Punt Returner: Wes Welker Buccaneers
Quarterback: Josh Johnson
Wide Receiver: Michael Clayton
Wide Receiver: Antonio Bryant
Running Back: Cadillac Williams
Fullback: Earnest Graham
Tight End: Kellen Winslow
Left Tackle: Donald Penn
Left Guard: Jeremy Zuttah
Center: Jeff Faine
Right Guard: David Joseph
Right Tackle: Jeremy Trueblood
Defensive Tackle: Ryan Sims
Defensive Tackle: Chris Hovan
Right Defensive End: Stylez White
Weakside Linebacker: Geno Hayes
Middle Linebacker: Barrett Ruud
Strongside Linebacker: Quincy Black
Left Cornerback: Aqib Talib
Right Cornerback: Ronde Barber
Strong Safety: Sabby Piscitelli
Free Safety: Tanard Jackson
Punter: Dirk Johnson
Long Snapper: Andrew Economos
Holder: Dirk Johnson
Kick Returner: Clifton Smith
Punt Returner: Clifton Smith
The Patriots are 32-5 against the NFC since 2001, including a 3-1 mark in the Super Bowl. The Patriots have won 16 consecutive regular-season games against the NFC ever since a 27-17 loss to the Panthers on Sept. 18, 2005.
Quarterback Tom Brady completed 20-of-31 passes for 258 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in his only career game against the Buccaneers, a 28-0 Patriots victory in 2005.
Wide receiver Randy Moss has caught 36 passes for 658 yards and seven touchdowns in nine career games against Tampa Bay.
Moss has 139 career receiving touchdowns, one less than Buffalo Bills wideout Terrell Owens for the second most all-time. Jerry Rice is the all-time leader with 197 career touchdowns.
Moss is 81 receiving yards shy of passing Henry Ellard (13,777) for eighth on the all-time list.
After beating the Titans on Sunday, the Patriots improved to 11-0 all-time in snow games in Foxborough. Eight of those games have happened since January 2002. Prior to Sunday’s game, the Patriots had never played in the snow at home earlier than December.
The Patriots have recorded seven shutouts in the Belichick era, with all of them coming since 2003.
Wes Welker has 259 receptions since 2007, which is 24 more than Seattle’s T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Denver’s Brandon Marshall for the most in the league in that span.
Welker has caught at least six passes in 18 of his last 20 games.
The Patriots became the first team to hold another team to negative passing yards since the merger. They limited the Titans to -7 passing yards.
Running back Kevin Faulk needs two receptions to become the 26th running back in NFL history with 400 catches. Faulk is also 147 rushing yards away from passing Don Calhoun (3,391 yards) for fifth place on the team’s all-time rushing list.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski needs four field goals to take over fourth place on the team’s all-time list.
Safety Brandon Meriweather leads the Patriots with 43 total tackles and 24 solo tackles, according to coaches’ film review.
The Patriots’ defense has recovered six of the seven fumbles it have forced this season. The special teams unit has recovered one of its three forced fumbles.
The Buccaneers are the second consecutive winless team the Patriots have played.
Tampa Bay is ranked 28th in total offense, 31st in total defense and 29th in points allowed per game (28.0).
The Bucs, who have their bye week after they play the Patriots, are 8-5 prior to their bye week since 1996. They have won seven of their last eight games before the bye, including two in a row.
Second-year quarterback Josh Johnson took over the starting job in Week 4 and he has completed 54-of-99 passes for 529 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions this season. He also has 21 rushes and is second on the team with 141 rushing yards (6.7 yards per carry). Johnson has fumbled the ball seven times (lost one) and has been sacked 10 times.
Defensive tackle Chris Hovan recorded his first career sack when his Minnesota Vikings played the Patriots in 2000. He also registered a career-high nine tackles against the Pats in 2002.
Tight end Kellen Winslow has led the team or tied for the team lead in receptions in five of Tampa’s first six games of the season. He is also first on the Bucs with 29 catches, 286 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns.
Linebacker Barrett Ruud has a team-high 86 tackles this season. He has led the team in tackles during each game of the season, including a career-best 20-tackle performance against the Bills in Week 2.
Second-year cornerback Aqib Talib, the 20th overall pick in the 2008 draft, had three interceptions in Week 4 against the Redskins.
Rookie wide receiver Sammie Stroughter has 13 receptions for 151 yards this season. Ten of his catches have gone for first downs, with seven of those coming on third down and one on fourth down.
(From Thursday’s practice report)
Cornerback Darius Butler (ankle) did not practice.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman (forearm) did not practice and is not expected to play.
Left tackle Matt Light (knee) did not practice.
Running back Sammy Morris (knee) did not practice.
Running back Fred Taylor (ankle) did not practice and will not play.
Safety Brandon Meriweather (foot) had limited participation.
Right guard Stephen Neal (not injury related) had limited participation.
Safety James Sanders (shoulder) had limited participation.
Defensive back Shawn Springs (knee) had limited participation.
Quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder) fully participated.
Defensive end Jarvis Green (knee) fully participated.
Right tackle Nick Kaczur (ankle) fully participated.
Linebacker Jerod Mayo (knee) fully participated.
Wide receiver Randy Moss (shoulder) fully participated.
Wide receiver Wes Welker (knee) fully participated.
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (ankle) fully participated.
Running back Clifton Smith (concussion) had limited participation.
Cornerback Aqib Talib (hamstring) had limited participation.
Defensive tackle Chris Hovan (ankle) fully participated.
Wide receiver Michael Clayton (hamstring) fully participated.
Linebacker Barrett Ruud (elbow) fully participated.
Defensive tackle Ryan Simms (hand) fully participated.
In 1984, Raymond Berry is named the Patriots’ ninth head coach of all-time. He replaced Ron Meyer, who was extremely unpopular with the players, and according to some who played for him, Meyer often did more harm than good for the locker room. Berry coached the team through the 1989 season and led the Patriots to a 48-39 record, plus a 3-2 mark in the playoffs. Most notably, he guided the Patriots to their surprising 1985 AFC Championship victory in Miami.
“Like the cereal? Cheerio? How do you say ‘hello’? Kellogg’s? Is it Kellogg’s? Cheerio, Kellogg’s, Frosted Mini Wheats. Is that a word over there?”
–Patriots running back Laurence Maroney, when told the British say “cheerio” to say “goodbye”
Gary Guyton has taken a different path to the Patriots’ starting lineup.
Leave the fun in America.
Sebastian Vollmer fits in just fine.
Clifton Smith accepts Dante Wesley’s apology.
This is a must-read humorous column about the bungling Bucs’ trip to London.
Some of the Bucs discuss their preparations for the possibility of a 2011 lockout.
It’s apparently never too early for a 2010 mock draft — well, at least half of a round. There’s even a Tim Tebow sighting.
“The Miz” wants to smack Eric Mangini to the point where the head coach can’t control basic bodily functions.
Raiders running back Justin Fargas thinks the famous pigeon was actually the late Marquis Cooper.
The only way the Buccaneers have a chance in this game is if the teams decide to play soccer at Wembley Stadium, because they don’t belong on the same football field together. Four of Tampa Bay’s losses have been by double-digits, and there is no reason to believe Sunday’s contest will be any different — unless, of course, the Patriots beat them by triple-digits.
If the Patriots’ defense needs to be cautious of anything, it’s the running game of quarterback Josh Johnson, who can fly across the field and make plays with his feet. He isn’t the most accurate passer — he boasts a 54.5 completion percentage — and he is fumbling the ball at an alarming rate, so if the Patriots stay disciplined, Johnson will eventually beat himself. Johnson will have the natural ability to break out and make some plays, but if the Bucs fall behind by multiple possessions, his running game will be obsolete. He should be more reluctant to succumb to the beating a quarterback takes by leaving the pocket for an irrelevant gain.
On the other side, Tampa Bay’s defense is surrendering points at will, and after the Patriots’ 59-point outburst against Tennessee, the Bucs should be horrified to lose what dignity they have remaining. Linebacker Barrett Ruud and cornerback Aqib Talib are fun players to watch because of their playmaking abilities. It’s just too bad they’re playing by themselves most of the time.
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