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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Patriots should provide Bucs better challenge

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Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 06:36 PM
TAMPA -

The more they watched the tape of last week's 25-0, preseason-opening victory against Kansas City, the more disappointed the Buccaneers coaches became. Not with the play of Bucs players, but the Chiefs.

Tampa Bay booked the game against the defending AFC West champs thinking it would be a good test. The Chiefs barely played any of their regulars, though, so the test never came.

Perhaps it will come tonight, when the New England Patriots come to town.

"It's hard to say the Patriots won't be a better measuring stick,'' Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "I mean, it's the Patriots. They're a football team that plays hard and plays fast.

"And you hate to say that it doesn't matter who plays for them, but it really doesn't. They have their Patriot way of doing things. They designed it, and so we look forward to them coming into our house and playing us.''

Gerald McCoy looks forward to the matchup for a couple reasons.

First, it will mark the second-year defensive tackle's first game action since he ripped the biceps in his left arm in a Week 14 game at Washington last season.

Second, it's a chance to face not just one of the best teams in the NFL, but arguably the best quarterback as expectations are running high that three-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady will start the game and play a series or two.

"I'm hoping (Brady) plays, because he just got voted the No. 1 player in the league (in an NFL.com ranking). So, who doesn't want to go against a guy like that? You grow up watching guys like that, even when I was in college, and he's won all those Super Bowls. To have a chance to chase him down, even in a preseason game, that's a dream come true.''

It could prove to be a nightmare. Brady didn't play in the Patriots' preseason opener, a 47-12 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But that's just the point. It's that ability to play mostly second- and third-teamers and still embarrass an opponent that makes the Patriots so good.

"They really keep you on your toes and make you play your best game, because they do a lot of different things schematically on both offense and defense,'' Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said.

"So, we'll see what they do. But even if Brady doesn't play, they may leave their first line in there with their second quarterback, and that's still a great experience for our young players.''

Patriots coach Bill Belichick seems to believe he'll get almost as much out of this game as the Bucs. After watching tape of the Bucs-Chiefs game, he came away "impressed'' with Tampa Bay.

"They're fast and aggressive,'' Belichick said this week during a post-practice news conference. "They have a lot of talented players and they play at a high tempo."

The Bucs will have no choice but to play at a high tempo, Bucs guard Davin Joseph said. The challenges the Patriots provide are good tests for every player, young or old.

"They're very diverse,'' Joseph said. "They have the personnel to play a 3-4 front or a 4-3 front, so we're going to have to be able to adjust to that and be able to communicate, which makes it a good challenge for us all.

"And the other thing is, even in the preseason, you want to be able to see if you can get up for the big games. So, this is a big challenge in that way too, even though it's a game that doesn't really mean much.''

The outcome on the scoreboard doesn't mean much, but Dominik and Morris still have to evaluate talent and determine who their best players are. That's easier to do against an opponent like the Patriots, they said.

"The preseason is a lot about making sure you're doing your job right first, so I was glad to be able to put the Patriots on our preseason schedule,'' Dominik said. "I thought a game against them was something we could use to our advantage.''

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