Tom Brady’s New England Patriots travel to the Raymond James Stadium for their fixture against Jameis Winston’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this week’s Thursday Night Football.
The reigning, defending Super Bowl champions haven’t had an amazing start to this season and sit 2-2 after last weeks despairing 33-30 loss to Cam Newton’s Panthers.
A last minute field goal lead to another loss for Bill Belichick’s men, who’s other loss came at the hands of the high-flying, undefeated Kansas City Chiefs in the Kickoff game.
Defensively, the Pats have underperformed and are currently giving away 7.2 yards per play, losing 456.8 yards per game in their four games so far – the most conceded by all teams in the NFL.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower told the media on Monday the defence needs to take “accountability” to improve.
He said, “It’s just accountability. It’s all on us and we’ve got to hold each other to a higher standard than that, and that starts today. The time is now. There’s no more ‘next week’, so we have to get going”.
He thinks the Patriots needs to focus on doing the basics right and the major plays will follow, adding “That’s where it starts. The small things matter. Getting that little bit of extra pressure on the quarterback, that extra knock back or extra jam on the line of scrimmage – all the little things matter right now”.
They will be boosted by the fact tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was added to the injury report on Wednesday with a thigh injury, will play in the game according to NFL insider Ian Rappoport.
Despite the poor defence, the offence has been pulling its weight – Brady has 1,399 pass yards so far this season and the offence is ranked first with 423.8 yards per game.
The Buccaneers head into this game with their quarterback Winston having thrown for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in last weeks victory over the winless New York Giants. That makes it consecutive games for the QB with 300+ passing yards.
He’s impressed New England coach Bill Belichick, who this week said of the quarterback, “I think [Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter] has done a great job with him in two years, probably, arguably, as good as any coach has done with any quarterback in the first two years of a career”.
Belichick thinks Winston is well on his way to becoming an elite QB, adding “He’s pretty much already done it in two years. What more do you want him to do?”
Winston himself is ready for the game, but doesn’t know what to say to Tom Brady when he meets him on Thursday.
He told the media, “I’m thinking about ‘what am I going to say to him when I see him and meet him?’. That’s going to be a great moment to see one of the greatest quarterback ever to play the game to line up against you”.
Winston has a lot of respect for Brady and hopes to emulate him adding, “That’s the reason why every off season, every rep I get during the season, I’m trying to be better and better because I know that’s he’s still getting better and better.
“Him and Drew Brees and a couple of the older veterans that are still playing to this day – they’re an inspiration for young guys like myself and the other guys coming into the league”.
On top of the passing stats, the Bucs welcome running back Doug Martin back to the team after his activation from the Reserve/Suspended list, allowing him to compliment the passing game with his ground game.
The Buccaneers host the Patriots on Thursday night – kick off is around 1.25am UK time.