Third-round QB Mike Glennon threw two touchdown passes and sixth-round RB Mike James ran for 81 yards as the Buccaneer reserves turned Friday night's nationally-televised preseason game into a nailbiter in New England.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starters were the focal point during a week of joint practices with the New England Patriots, but it was pair of rookie reserves who shined in Friday night's game, a 25-21 loss.
Most of the Buccaneers' starters made quick exits from Friday's game at Gillette Stadium – the second week of the preseason – and the early action favored the home team. Patriots QB Tom Brady, the subject of intense midweek media coverage due to a what proved to be a minor practice-field injury, completed 11 of 12 passes for 107 yards and one touchdown to lead the home team to an 11-0 lead. However, the Bucs rallied to pull within four points behind the efforts of a pair of rookies, QB Mike Glennon and RB Mike James.
Glennon completed 12 of 22 passes for 121 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, finding WR Kevin Ogletree for a 13-yard score in the second quarter and WR David Douglas for a one-yard TD early in the final period. James led all players with 81 yards on 15 carries, averaging an impressive 5.4 yards per carry.
The Patriots got the ball first and got the ball to midfield on a 16-yard catch by RB Shane Vereen on third-and-four. A personal foul on C Logan Mankins pushed the Patriots back 15 yards, but they gained another first down near the 50-yard line on a four-yard catch by WR Julian Edelman. A false start and a great backfield tackle on another pass to Vereen by rookie DT Akeem Spence made it second-and-16 from the Patriots' 43. The Bucs had good coverage on third down but Brady had enough time to find Amendola over the middle for 13 yards and a first down at the Bucs' 39. After converting a third-and-one moments later, the Patriots struck for the game's first score as Brady hit Amendola in the back middle of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown. The Patriots elected to go for two and made it 8-0 on Brady's pass to rookie TE Zach Sudfield.
The Bucs got a great start to their first drive when second-year RB Michael Smith took the ensuing kickoff out of the end zone for a 63-yard return to New England's 42. However, Brandon Spikes down Freeman for a four-yard sack on first down. Two plays later, Freeman threw to WR Kevin Ogletree on the right sideline but Ogletree couldn't quite haul it in and the Bucs had to punt.
After a fair catch at the New England 12, the Patriots got the ball back over midfield, thanks mostly to consecutive nine and 14-yard catches by Amendola. After LB Najee Good stopped RB LaGarrette Blount for just three yards and LB Adam Hayward stuffed Vereen for no gain on second down, the Bucs put good pressure on Brady on third-and-seven, leading to an incompletion in Amendola's direction and a punt that reached the end zone for a touchback.
Martin left the game after the second play of the ensuing drive after being shaken up, and his replacement, rookie RB Mike James, immediately took a handoff up the middle for 11 yards and a first down. Two plays later, after a four-yard sack by Chandler Jones, Freeman hit James for a gain of four to make it third-and-10. Freeman endured a third sack on the ensuing third down, leading to a second Buccaneer punt on the first play of the second quarter.
The Patriots brought in third-year QB Ryan Mallett to lead the first drive of the second period but Tampa Bay's defense, going almost exclusively with second-teamers, forced a three-and-out. Rookie Mike Glennon came in to lead the next drive for the Buccaneers but was sacked by Rob Ninkovich on his first drop-back, a third-and-10 snap that led to another Michael Koenen punt.
Mallett drove the Patriots' 48-yards for a field goal on the ensuing possession, keyed by a 14-yard pass to TE Michael Hoomanawanui and a 13-yard hookup with Vereen to get the ball to the Bucs' 26. The Bucs' second-string defense held, however, with rookie CB Rashaan Melvin breaking up a third-down pass intended for WR Kenbrick Thompkins. The Patriots settled for Stephen Gostkowski's 39-yard field goal to make it 11-0 with nine minutes left in the half.
WR Eric Page gave the Bucs their second fine kickoff return, a 40-yarder to the Tampa Bay 35, to start the next drive. A five-yard run by RB Peyton Hillis and a 10-yard catch by WR Kevin Ogletree on a quick slant picked up a first down, but a holding penalty on the next play made it first-and-20. Hillis burst up the gut for nine yards on the next play, and two plays later Ogletree made an impressive sideline catch for 13 yards and a first down at the Patriots' 35. James found his way around left end on the next snap for 15 yards, then picked up seven more on a draw play two snaps later to make it third-and-three at the 13. The Bucs picked up the first down and more on the next snap, with Glennon finding Ogletree down the right seam for a 13-yard touchdown to make it 11-7.
New England's next drive began with a 23-yard connection between Mallett and rookie WR Aaron Dobson, producing a first down at the Patriots' 48. A 12-yard catch by Julian Edelman and an 18-yard reception by Vereen made it first-and-10 at the Bucs' 22, and the Patriots scoredon the next play. Rookie TE Zach Sudfeld ran a route up the right seam and initially got his hands on the football, before it was knocked away by LB Najee Goode. However, Sudfeld managed to haul in the deflection as he fell to the end zone turf to make it 18-7 with four minutes left in the first half.
The Bucs' offense got one first down on a hands-to-the-face penalty on the next possession but eventually had to punt it away. Mallett took over at the Pattiots' 25 and produced a quick first down with passes to Dobson and Edelman as the two-minute warning arrived. After the break, Vereen tok a delayed handoff on a veer to the right and picked up 23 yards to the Bucs' 40. On second-and-10 from the 25, Mallett scrambled up the middle to the 17 and the Patriots used their second timeout with 31 seconds remaining in the half. A quick slant in Vereen's direction was incomplete and the Patriots lined up for a 35-yard field goal. However, consecutive holding and false start penalties on New England made it a 50-yard attempt and Gostkowski hit the right upright with his attempt.
That gave the Bucs a first down at their own 40, and Glennon immediately fired a 41-yard pass down the right seam to Underwood to get within field goal range. The Bucs used their second timeout with 10 seconds remaining and, after an incompletion, brought on K Derek Dimke to try a 37-yard field goal. He put it through the uprights to make it 18-10 with three seconds left in the half.
The Bucs got the ball to start the second half and moved the chains with a seven-yard run by Hillis and a seven-yard third-down burst around right end by James. Three plays later, Glennon dropped back on third-and-five and found WR David Douglas on an out from the slot. Douglas made a fine one-handed catch as he slid to the ground to produce a first down a yard across midfield. The drive stalled there, however, and Chas Henry's punt found the end zone for a touchback.
Tebow came in to to start New England's first drive of the second half and immediately took off running for four yards over left guard. LB Dekoda Watson then trapped RB Brandon Bolden for a loss of three on a second-down sweep and DE Da'Quan Bowers pressured Tebow into an incompletion on third down.
The Bucs took over near midfield and got six yards on two runs by James, but Glennon's attempt to hit WR Derek Hagan on the right sideline on third-and-four was intercepted by CB Logan Ryan and returned 53 yards for a touchdown to make it 25-10.
Glennon threw deep to Hagan on first down to start the next drive, picking up 40 yards, but the play was erased by an offensive pass-interference call. The Bucs couldn't climb out of that first-and-20 hole and had to punt, with New England starting again at their own 39. LB Jacob Cutrera caught WR Josh Boyce for a loss of one on first down and a holding penalty put the Patriots into a third-and-21. Tebow's scramble came up 10 yards short and Tampa Bay got the ball back at its 21 after the Patriots' punt.
Hillis got the Bucs moving with runs of three and 17 yards, and two plays later produced another first down at the New England 43 with a run of nine. The Bucs challenged a deep ball downfield to Douglas on the next snap, but the initial ruling that Douglas bobbled the ball before establishing himself inbounds was upheld. However, a nice diving catch by TE Danny Noble on third-and-10 moved the sticks, making it first-and-10 at the Patriots' 34. James then shot up the middle for 16 yards and Hillis added six and five-yard runs to make it first-and-goal at the Patriots' seven early in the fourth quarter. After Hillis pounded for six more up the middle, DL Marcus Forston broke through the line to drop Hillis back at the original line of scrimmage. Glennon hit Douglas at the three on third down and the Bucs chose to go for it on fourth down. A defensive holding call on fourth down gave the Bucs a new set of downs and two plays later Douglas made a fine spinning catch on a fade stop for Tampa Bay's second touchdown. After an encroachment penalty moved the ball to the one-yard line, James dived in over right guard for a two-point conversion to pull the Bucs within seven points with 12 minutes to play.
Two plays into the ensuing drive, Tebow threw high over the middle in the direction of Kenbrick Thompkins and Robinson picked it off at midfield, returning the intercepiton 21 yards to the New England 29. James immediately ripped off a 16-yard catch and a six-yard run to get the ball within the 10, and another two-yard run made it third-and-two at the five-yard line. The Patriots stopped James on his third-down attempt, and Dimke came on to boot a 23-yard field goal to close the gap to 25-21.
Bolden ripped off a 25-yard run around right end to start New England's next drive, getting the ball to midfield, but DE Steven Means planted Bolden for just one yard on the next play and rookie DE William Gholston pressured Tebow into an incompletion on third down. Tampa Bay got the ball back on their nine-yard line after the ensuing punt.
A face-mask penalty put the Bucs in an early hole at their own seven-yard line, but Orlovsky's play-actoin pass to rookie WR Chris Denton picked up 29 yards and created a first down at the 36. After a seven-yard pass from Orlovsky to Wright gave the Bucs a third and one at their own 45, James failed to convert on two consecutive runs, giving the ball to the Pats at the Bucs 45 with 3:59 left.