TAMPA (USA TODAY) – There were 21 total penalties, two turnovers and a slew of mistakes.
This will be a game, likely, that makes New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick seethe because of his team's sloppiness. But New England fended off a failed fourth-quarter charge by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to prevail 19-14 Thursday night and climb to 3-2.
The Buccaneers had a chance to win the game after driving to the Patriots' 19-yard line with three seconds remaining, but Jameis Winston's pass for tight end O.J. Howard fell incomplete.
After two uncharacteristic losses, the most recent coming at home last week against the Carolina Panthers, the Patriots made enough plays to build a lead on the Buccaneers and then hold it. But this was not a crisp and clean performance that New England has become known for in the Belichick-Tom Brady era.
The 12 enforced infractions against New England went for 108 yards, and four produced first downs for Tampa Bay.
In one span right before halftime, the Buccaneers appeared content to run a few plays to head into intermission down 13-7. But consecutive roughing the passer penalties against New England gifted Tampa Bay a 56-yard field goal attempt.
Fortunately for the Patriots, kicker Nick Folk’s attempt sailed far off to the right. It was the first of his three misses in the contest.
Repeated undisciplined play and mental errors hindered the Patriots and gave the Buccaneers new life, but Tampa Bay simply did not capitalize on the mistakes.
For the first time in more than a season, a defense forced Brady to commit two turnovers. But the Buccaneers scored no points off of them.
Brady completed 30 of 40 passes for 303 yards, one touchdown touchdown and one interception. He also lost a fumble.
Brady’s interception came on his fifth attempt of the game and snapped a streak of 264 consecutive attempts without being picked off, a stretch that went back to Week 14 of last season. That was also the second-longest span of attempts without an interception in Brady’s career.
The Bucs sacked Brady three times Thursday night. It raised the number of total sacks allowed by the Patriots through five games to 16 - one more than Brady took in 12 games last year.
There was one solid positive, however, for the defending Super Bowl champs.
The Patriots defense entered Thursday night ranked dead last in the NFL in total defense (456.8 yards allowed per game). The next closest team, the Indianapolis Colts, had been averaging 60.6 yards per game fewer than New England.
Though New England allowed the Buccaneers to gain 409 total yards Thursday night, the Buccaneers converted just four of their 13 third-down attempts.