Doing "Enough" To Get To The Bye

You would think that outscoring opponents 94-7 in back-to-back games would be a display of superiority. But a closer look reveals that the Patriots might not quite as good as their record -- or recent scores -- indicate.

All last week, the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick insisted that their journey to London was a business trip that would be treated like any other road game. The frills inside gorgeous Wembley Stadium aside, as well as a few hiccups along the way, the team managed to achieve its ultimate goal of posting a win.

New England's 35-7 victory over the overmatched but game Tampa Bay Buccaneers at first glance may seem similar to the trouncing of the Titans in snowy Foxborough, Mass., a week earlier.

It wasn't.

In fact, it was nowhere near as perfect as that 59-0 demolition over a heartless club that barely bothered to get off the bus. There were mistakes to be found all over the most famous London pitch, and many of them were of the extreme atypical Patriots variety.

But none of that was of much concern after a long weekend abroad when nothing was quite normal except the end result.

"I thought it was pretty much like a normal game," Belichick answered when asked about the atmosphere and raucous crowd. "The venue is awesome. There was a lot of enthusiasm and energy in the stadium.

"Offensively, we were able to put up some points on the board. Anytime you can score 35 in this league, it should be enough to win."

Tom Brady, who tossed a pair of uncharacteristic interceptions -- particularly the first, which came in the red zone after he scrambled in an attempt to find a double-covered Randy Moss -- agreed with his coach.

"There were flash bulbs going off before the kickoff and it seemed very exciting for the fans," said Brady, who added three more touchdowns to give him a season total of 15. "It was a privilege to get the opportunity to come over here and play."

While a victory was clearly the most important element of the trip, there were a few ugly signs throughout the evening. The two picks were troublesome, but not as much as the 10 sloppy penalties New England committed. The offensive line was involved in most of them, with false starts and holding spoiling a lot of momentum.

Logan Mankins was flagged four times -- including one on a fourth-and-1 when the Patriots were set to try a fake punt with Brian Hoyer keeping it up the middle. Rookie Sebastian Vollmer also had a tough day, getting whistled for three holding penalties while starting in place of Matt Light for the second week in a row.

"There's no excuse for that," Belichick said. "We've got to do a much better job of that. We've played in a lot of loud stadiums that have been deafening. There's no excuse for that. We use a lot of silent counts so the noise isn't an issue. We've got to do a better job of executing that, and that starts with the coaches."

Punter Chris Hanson was also under siege a bit, getting one kick partially blocked that resulted in a 26-yard effort and barely getting off another that traveled just 29 yards. And on a pretty solid day for the defense, the secondary lost track of one of the Bucs' few weapons, wide receiver Antonio Bryant, on consecutive plays. The first came on a third-and-14 in which erratic Bucs quarterback Josh Johnson hit Bryant for 18 yards. On the next play, Bryant beat rookie Darius Butler down the right sideline for a 33-yard touchdown.

Those are the kinds of big plays that drive Belichick crazy, and they marred what was otherwise a terrific performance. But given the distractions of the travel, the attention and the circus atmosphere, the Patriots ultimately accomplished their mission.

"What we did today was good enough," Brady said after the game. "There were plenty of distractions for us coming over here. We were a little sloppy today and can certainly play better than that, and we'll have to play better over the next nine weeks. I was really happy that we were able to go out there and put two touchdowns on the board in the second half. That's what we needed to do."

But there was also plenty for Belichick and his coaches to harp on as New England heads into its bye week. The Patriots have regular work days scheduled for both Wednesday and Thursday in Foxborough. Then the team will take a long weekend before getting back to work next week with an eye on an imposing second-half schedule.

The final game before the break was sloppy but convincing blowout to put the team at 5-2. It's probably the perfect scenario for Belichick -- success to build on while leaving plenty of areas for him to call on his players to improve this week. It's the best of both worlds for a coach with Belichick's eye on both long- and short-term success.

NOTES
--QB Tom Brady threw three more touchdown passes against the Bucs, giving him nine in back-to-back blowouts. Brady also tied Drew Bledsoe for the Patriots' franchise record with his 26th 300-yard effort.
--RB Laurence Maroney had just 13 carries for 43 yards in blowing out the Bucs, although he did find the end zone for the second straight week. At the bye, Maroney leads New England with 61 attempts for 265 yards (4.3 average) with two rushing scores.
--WR Randy Moss had five catches for 69 yards against Tampa Bay, moving past Keenan McCardell (883) for 11th place on the all-time receptions list with 886. Moss leads the Patriots at the bye with 565 yards on 43 receptions (13.1 average) and is tied for the team high with four touchdowns.
--WR Wes Welker caught all 10 balls thrown his way against Tampa Bay for 107 yards and a touchdown, his second consecutive 100-yard effort. Welker leads New England with 46 catches in seven games, to go along with 484 yards while tying for the team lead with four scores.
--S Brandon Meriweather scored his first interception return touchdown with a 39-yard pick-six on the first series against Tampa Bay. Meriweather added a second interception later in the first quarter to become the first Patriot since Asante Samuel in November 2007 to record multiple interceptions in a game. Meriweather is tied for the New England lead with a pair of picks in seven games.
--CB Darius Butler had an interception against Tampa Bay on an end-of-the-half bomb, the second pick of his rookie season. The second-round draft choice is tied with S Brandon Meriweather for the team lead.
--LB Jerod Mayo tied for a game high with eight tackles against the Bucs.
--S Patrick Chung saw the most significant playing time of his rookie season against Tampa Bay, finishing with four tackles and his first career sack.
--DT Mike Wright recorded one of New England's three sacks against Tampa Bay, giving him a team-leading four sacks through seven games.
--DT Ty Warren left Wembley Stadium in a walking boot after getting carted to the locker room in Sunday's win over the Bucs. Warren's status is unknown, but he'll clearly benefit from the team's bye week.


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