New England 19, Tampa Bay 14. That counts as a win for New England; although that was one of the weirdest wins you’ll ever see. Not because of any one play that was weird, but because of so many plays that were weird. Like pretty much every play the Bucs called on offense.

New England came into that game with a defense that had been absolutely carved up by Kansas City, Houston, and Carolina. There were three games worth of film that showed how to beat the Patriots, and for some reason, the Bucs didn’t bother doing any of that.

Dirk Koetter and his crew bought a desk from Ikea, opened up the box, said, “I got this,” threw the instructions out the window and just started ramming pieces together. The bunch formations that confused New England to no end against Carolina? Tampa didn’t really use those. How about stack formations? Nope. Screens? Yeah, not too many of those. As bad as their defense has been all season, and it’s been terrible, Tampa managed to make them look good.

This was Tampa’s chance to show they belonged. To show that they had taken a step forward. At home. Under the lights. Primetime with the defending Super Bowl champs in town. And they threw up all over themselves. That was bad. Not because they lost, but because they pretty much did it to themselves.

The Pats busted out the Color Rush unis for the big game. And New England’s version of color rush was just white pants and white jerseys. Not very colory or rushy.

And it’s not like the Patriots didn’t try to give them opportunities. They did that plenty of times. Starting with the fact that Rob Gronkowski was unavailable last night. And then I thought the Hoodman’s head was going to explode after not one, but two roughing the passer penalties gave the Buccaneers a look at a field goal before the half. But yet again, Tampa couldn’t capitalize as Nick Folk missed it.

Speaking of Nick Folk, that guy had himself a night, didn’t he? It wasn’t his day. It wasn’t his week. He missed three kicks last night and five this week. It’s never good when kickers are trending and Nick Folk was trending number one last night. I’m never looking to take food off a guy’s table, but seriously, Tampa couldn’t have done better than that? I WANT TO HEAR FROM MARTIN GRAMATICA. CONNOR BARTH! GARO YEPREMIAN – REACTION!

Somewhere, Roberto Aguayo was smiling. And shanking kicks in his backyard.

And yet despite all of that, Tampa managed to get the ball back with 1:10 left in the fourth quarter and a chance to win the game with a touchdown. They worked their way down the Patriots 19 for one last shot at stealing a game and Jameis Winston couldn’t capitalize.

I have no idea what Winston was looking at. Or why, when he was facing a three-man rush, he decided to rifle the ball at a receiver who wasn’t looking and hadn’t reached the end zone, but that pretty much sums up Tampa’s night – had a chance and blew it.

Because for a long time, that looked a game of who wanted it less. When the Pats weren’t getting flagged for back-to-back roughing the passer penalties, they were jumping off sides on a punt that gave Tampa a first down. Or they were getting Tom Brady absolutely clobbered in the pocket.

Fellas, I know Tom Brady is in great shape and you all might think he’s virtually indestructible because of his diet, his training regimen, and all that water he drinks to prevent sunburn, but maybe you throw in a block every now and then to make sure he doesn’t get killed? Brady was sacked 15 times last season, he’s been sacked 16 times already. Tampa came in with one sack all season and had three last night.

What I’m saying is, that wasn’t a pretty win for New England no matter how you look at it, but it was a win. It doesn’t solve all of their problems, I’m not even sure it stopped the bleeding, but it didn’t make things worse. This defense still has plenty of issues, issues that would be exploited by better playcalls and a more composed offense. But they went on the road, on a short week, without Gronk, and they got the win. They got plenty of help from Tampa, but a win is a win is a win. And that was a win.


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