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Buccaneers 101 Breakdown: Defense Vs. New England Patriots

August 25th, 2012 at 9:15 AM
By Wolf Heard

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got off to an impressive start against the New England Patriots and outplayed their starters on both sides of the ball. Even though the Patriots had a late second half surge, the Bucs held on to win 30-28 for their second win this preseason. went back over the game and here is what they saw from the defense:

Defensive Line:
Now, that is how you are supposed to play stout defense up front. The Bucs' first-team defensive line was really strong at the point of attack early on, hustled to the ball, and made life difficult for All-Pro quarterback Tom Brady and his running backs. Brady was under duress a lot in the first half and he had no help from his running game because the Bucs kept stuffing ball carriers at the line of scrimmage. New England had six carries that resulted in a loss or no gain in the first half due to the Bucs' tough run defense.

Defensive end Michael Bennett had another solid game and brought down Brady for a strip-sack in the first quarter. Bennett showed good agility off the edge and great pursuit. He finished with three tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble.

Backup end George Johnson also played very well. He batted down a Brady pass at the line of scrimmage, brought down a ball carrier for a loss, and had six total tackles. With Da'Quan Bowers out, Johnson figures to earn significant playing time and he showed why against New England.

Overall, this was by far the best game out of the defensive line this preseason. Even more impressive was the fact that it came against Brady. They flustered him and kept him out of rhythm for most of the night. Now they just have to build on that and carry it over into the regular season.

Adam Hayward got the start at middle linebacker for the banged out Mason Foster and he shined big-time. Hayward looked quicker than normal and was flying to the ball. He finished as the team's second-leading tackler with seven stops and sacked Brady once on a beautiful inside blitz.

Quincy Black made a couple of nice tackles and nearly caused a turnover when he stripped tight end Aaron Hernandez of the ball while making the stop.

Rookie linebacker Lavonte David continued to play well, despite finishing with only two tackles.

Like the defensive line, this was the best we have seen from the linebackers so far. There weren't as many missed tackles as the previous two games and this group was more aggressive in its pursuit when chasing down ball carriers.

Welcome to the NFL Mark Barron. In the first quarter, Barron, who was picked No. 7 overall by Tampa Bay in April's draft, picked off a tipped pass and raced 22 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Barron also played well against the run and was in on three tackles. He seemed more instinctive than last week in his debut.

Ronde Barber was the one who batted the ball into the air for Barron to make the interception. He was solid in coverage, but got little pressure when he blitzed off the edge. Like Barron, Barber finished with three tackles.

Rookie Leonard Johnson got the start as the nickel corner. However, he did little to justify getting the playing time. Johnson was very soft in coverage and allowed too many catches to be made in front of him. He also had a pass interference called on him that continued a Patriots drive. His performance tonight may have cost him a spot on the active roster.

Fellow rookie Keith Tandy had his helmet in on a lot of plays in the second half and finished as the team's leading tackler with eight stops.

Special Teams:
The kicking game was beyond superb against the Patriots. The Bucs trotted kickers Connor Barth and Kai Forbath out onto the field for extremely long field goals and they converted every one. Barth nailed a 56-yarder in the first half, which would've been a career-long had it been a regular season game. Forbath impressed too; hitting from 51- and 55-yards out.

Rookie Michael Smith was solid again on kickoff returns and has likely earned that job for good. He averaged 26 yards on three attempts and had a long of 39 yards.

Jordan Shipley, Preston Parker, and Sammie Stroughter all returned at least one punt. None found any room and Parker coughed up the ball for the second time on a return this preseason. He likely is done on punt returns if he makes the final roster.

Tags: Adam Hayward, Football, Lavonte David, Mark Barron, Michael Bennett, NFL, Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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