If the Bucs employed my two-year-old at kicker, last week’s “run-it-back” defensive gameplan would have failed. Should have failed. The Patriots didn’t have time to fix the fairly large-scale issues on a short week, so they went with “same but try harder” strategy and eeked one out. But that was lucky.
The missed assignments, the wide-open receivers, the lack of a consistent pass rush, the poor tackling (Hightower even went for the up high knockout hit instead of wrapping up), all of these things were still there. Nearly two and ½ months from the beginning of training camp and the Patriots Bend But Don’t Break Defense is broken.
Some of the fixes can come from practiced areas: problems of effort, communication breakdowns, and poor tackling technique. But with the elite play and professionalism that we’ve seen from the players over their careers, it’s my belief that this is becoming a breakdown in play-calling, specifically on 3rd down and specifically in the 4th quarter.
3rd downs in the 4th quarter are the most important plays for any defense, those are the plays that silence opposing crowds, flip fields and end games. And through 5 games, it seems this is the albatross around the Patriots defensive coaching staff’s neck.