It may not have been the easiest, most direct route to midseason success, but the Patriots hit their post-London bye week with an impressive 5-2 record after cruising to victory on Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Heading into the week off, New England finished the first portion of the campaign with an easy 35-7 victory over the Bucs (0-7). Tom Brady once again led the way with 308 yards passing and a trio of touchdowns, including a 54-yard touchdown pass to Sam Aiken and a 35-yarder to Benjamin Watson.
Defensively, New England put forth maybe its best all-around performance for the second week in a row. Brandon Meriweather had a two of the team's three interceptions of Josh Johnson, including a 39-yard touchdown return on the opening possession of the game. The Patriots continued to use a variety of different packages on defense and threw a lot of pressure at Johnson as the unit that was completely overhauled this offseason seems to get more cohesive each week.
Add in the previous week's 59-0 win over Tennessee, and outscoring two opponents by a combined 94-7 tends to send a team to the bye week in a good mood. While Bill Belichick is a big believer in self-scouting during the bye week, something he and his staff will focus on heavily this week, the film and numbers should paint a more positive picture than they did a few weeks ago.
"I'm really happy with what they did today," Belichick said after the blowout of the Bucs at Wembley Stadium. "We've got a little bit of time now to go back and regroup, work on certainly a lot of things we need to work on here going forward. We have a tough game coming up against Miami and we know that the whole second half of the season there are a lot of challenges there from week to week."
The schedule certainly gets much tougher after the break. After two straight weeks against winless opponents, New England is set to open November with an imposing stretch that includes hosting the Miami Dolphins, a Sunday night trip to Indianapolis, playing host to the New York Jets and then back-to-back trips to New Orleans and Miami for Monday and Sunday night games, respectively.
That's a month-plus stretch that could go a long way toward not only deciding New England's fate in the AFC East, but potential AFC playoff seeding as well.
One thing the Patriots clearly have going for them is history. Belichick's team is a virtually certainty to play better football in November and December than it did in the first two months of the season. Based on the way the team came together for its final two games in October, admittedly against winless, lackluster opposition, that should mean plenty of good things ahead for a team favored by many to return to the Super Bowl.
TRENDING: After struggling to hit big plays through five weeks, New England has nine plays of 25 or more yards in its last two games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 57-16 - New England's record after its bye since the 2001 season.
-- T Mark LeVoir was added to New England's active roster off the Physically Unable to Perform list in advance of the matchup with the Bucs. After missing the first six weeks with a back injury, LeVoir saw special teams action against Tampa Bay.
-- WR Brandon Tate was added to New England's active roster off the non-football injury list in advance of the matchup with the Bucs. Tate, a rookie third-round pick out of North Carolina, had missed the first six weeks while recovering from a knee injury suffered during his final season with the Tar Heels last fall. He saw reserve and special teams action in his NFL debut with one carry for 11 yards, two kickoff returns (22.0 avg.) and no catches.
-- WR Julian Edelman (arm), RB Fred Taylor (ankle), CB Terrence Wheatley, RB Sammy Morris (knee), OL Rich Ohrnberger, G Kendall Simmons, LT Matt Light (knee) and DL Ron Brace filled out New England's inactive list against Tampa Bay.
-- S Brandon Meriweather got the Patriots' defense off to a hot start against Tampa Bay, picking off a Josh Johnson pass on each of the first two series of the game. Meriweather took the first pick 39 yards for a touchdown.
-- WR Sam Aiken tied a career-long and registered New England's longest play of the season with a 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the second quarter of the win over Tampa Bay.
-- DT Ty Warren limped off and was carted to the locker room with a leg injury in the game against Tampa Bay in London.
Get Patriots Insider updates on Twitter Follow @PatriotsInsider
Want to find out what other Patriots fans think? Join them on the Message Boards
Buccaneers News -- Forums
Patriots News -- Forums
Hot Topic: Game Balls & Goats Week 7
Patriots-Buccaneers: Official Game Thread Week 7