So far, there's not much of a QB controversy in New England--even a backup QB controversy, though that was the headline leading up to this week's game after news of Brady's foot injury broke. Right now, tonight, there's a starter, and then there's fear and sacrifices to the football gods for Brady's health.
The battle for backup QB wound up, if such a thing is possible, with two losers - both Matt Cassel and Kevin O'Connell. Or, rather, one clear loser and one inconclusive - O'Connell at least scored a touchdown.
Cassel's effort to redeem himself for last week's blunders, on the other hand, was a spectacular failure, which culminated in his loss of a high snap for a TB touchdown. Cassel scored no points and turned the ball over twice, if you count his interception on his very first drive in the fourth quarter along with the botched snap. O'Connell turned the ball over once with an INT of his own, and the two of them finished with a combined 118 yards. As a whole, the team netted 174 yards.
Even aside from the quarterback situation, this game was just bad, all around. Sort of like how I knew by halftime of the Super Bowl that the Giants defense was outplaying the Patriots at every turn, tonight I knew there was something off about the team after just the first five or six plays. The Tampa Bay runningbacks were slicing through even our first line of defense like a hot knife through butter, something they would continue doing throughout the night.
But surely, I thought, there would be a few bright spots. I wasn't able to catch the first preseason game, so I was looking forward to sitting down and seeing the new faces, and who would impress. From my Reiss readings so far this year, I was especially interested to see Fernando Bryant, whom Reiss wrote about going stride-for-stride with Randy Moss in full pads during camp. But the only time I really took notice of him was when he walked out to start the game and the NFL Network anchors read his name.
To call this game bad would be a gross understatement. As a matter of fact, I can't think of a single bright spot or encouraging factor, with the possible exception of Gostkowski's 53-yard field goal, which was a pretty nice kick. Otherwise, the Patriots came out disorganized, disheveled and frankly dispirited against Tampa Bay.
How to feel about it I guess depends on how seriously you take the preseason. I was disturbed, but my dad would only remind me, repeatedly, that it's just the preseason. Things are not always what they seem.
But nobody wants to watch their team play a game like that, whether it counts or not. Nobody wants to watch every level of the Tampa Bay quarterback depth chart, including a guy coming back from a ruptured spleen, dismantle our defense. Nobody wants to see our O-line get its butt kicked for the second preseason game and third overall game in a row.
The preseason isn't supposed to really count, but I remember that by the second week of last year's preseason I already had a sense that we had something special in our offense (which, despite the SB, we did.) So far this year, I'm getting an unusual feeling again, but it's in the opposite direction.
And it strikes an ominous note when I think of the quote from Belichick which Jamie highlighted before the game, that "[Playing the Buccaneers] will be good because a lot of things they do have application to other teams we will see during the course of the year in all three phases of the game."
If that's the case, New England had better buckle down. Or else, we in the peanut gallery had better buckle up.