Patriots vs. Buccaneers: Highlights, game tracker and more

Tom Brady ties Peyton Manning, Brett Favre for most regular-season wins ever

Patriots vs. Buccaneers: Highlights, game tracker and more

-SPECIAL TEAMS: F - No matter how good P Bryan Anger was, K Nick Folk was bad, missing three more field goals.

After suffering a multitude of defensive breakdowns - especially in the secondary - the Patriots were much more sound in coverage against the Buccaneers in the 19-14 win.

But as history continues to show - and exemplified by Bucs kicker Nick Folk's three missed field goal attempts - you still can't make as many mistakes against New England as Tampa Bay did and have a realistic chance of winning.

Credit the Patriots, who entered the game with the worst pass defense in the National Football League and having allowed 32 points per game, for playing mostly zone coverage. There was an added spark on the defense that simply wasn't there before, but something clicked in them and they finally knew what they needed to do.

Making things more hard for the Pats will be the absence of star tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was declared inactive before the game.

"Yeah, I left points out there", a mournful Folk said after the game. They have won six games. He owns a 116.6 QB rating with 10 touchdowns passes and a 9.0 yards-per-attempt average. Winston, who entered the fourth quarter with only 109 yards passing. That's when Brady found a little footing and drove down the field for a field goal.

Quite frankly, there is no amount of magic water or avocado ice cream that will prevent TB12 from taking that one hit that takes him out of a game, or the season. The biggest mystery of the Patriots' struggling defense this year has been in the secondary, where there is talent - plenty of it. Tampa was unable to convert, though, getting off the field in only four plays, then picking up a stop before having another fruitless drive.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin took a handoff from Jameis Winston, lunged out of the backfield and exploded forward off a block from J.R. Sweezy that propelled him 17 yards. "In that respect, maybe it's better that we do play them on a Thursday night". Danny Amendola hauled in all eight of his targets for 77 yards, continuing to look like the wideout that Brady trusts most so far this season.

Offensive-line breakdowns. The protection in front of Brady hasn't been as solid as it was for extended stretches in 2016. Right before the half Gostkowski would connect on a 23-yard field goal making it 13-7 Patriots.

This team still has some work to do, including some internal issues.

All in all, the defending Super Bowl champions did enough to win in a short week. Said hut, and they snapped the ball.

So far in 2018, the Birds are 2-1 in contests with a margin of seven points or less - one more win than they had all of past year. Gilmore was pointed in the direction of a Bucs receiver all night, did a nice job when he covered stalwart receiver Mike Evans, and he even seemed to realize who he was supposed to be covering on most plays. Its ironic but they could have done better than what they had tonight.

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