New England Patriots 35 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7
NFL International Series Wembley Stadium, Sunday 25th October 2009 (Attendance: 84,254)
NFL International Series
Wembley Stadium, Sunday 25th October 2009 (Attendance: 84,254)
Unlike previous years, the sun was shining on Wembley's hallowed, and temporarily gridironed, turf as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played host to the New England Patriots. After the typical NFL pre-match pomp, including flames, flags, anthems, cheerleaders, military personnel, and a quick performance from Calvin Harris, the Wembley crowd gave a rapturous response when the teams took to the field. Judging by the large proportion of blue and white #12 jerseys there were in the crowd, a lot of them were keen to see quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots offense put on another master class like last week's 59-0 victory over the Titans... but New England were already up 7-0 before he even got on the field.
This year promised to be a showcase for one of the sports greatest stars, but, while Brady was certainly successful, it was receiver Wes Welker who seemed to be constantly on the ground announcer's lips, with 10 catches for 107 yards, and plenty of punt returns. With a plethora of picks, punts and penalties, it wasn't quite the NFL at it's most exciting as served up last year by the Saints and Chargers, but, as Tom Brady said afterwards: "It was good enough," and the Buccaneers will return to Tampa still winless.
Tampa's opening drive ended when Brandon Meriweather picked off a short pass from Josh Johnson and ran it in easily for the score. They got the ball back from the kick off, but Meriweather picked off another wayward pass and returned it to midfield at which point Brady finally got to take the ball. After trading punts, the Patriots' offensive unit started clicking, moving the ball down the field with completions to Randy Moss, and ending with a short pass to Welker on the left who followed his blockers into the end zone.
Tampa were forced to punt the ball away again, but got it back as the second quarter opened when, threatening to score a third quick touchdown, the usually safe Brady tossed the ball into the endzone only to be picked off by Tanard Jackson. From the touchback Tampa Bay went three and out, giving the ball back to Brady to try again from the New England 46. The Buccaneers started to get some pressure on Brady in the pocket, but scrambling from would-be tacklers he passed short to Sam Aiken who slipped the tackle and ran half the field for another New England score to make it 21-0.
Tampa's offense failed to move the chains and punted the ball back to the Patriots, and perhaps feeling generous, Brady tried for an ambitious deep pass that would probably have led to another score, only for Aqib Talib to make a great coverage play and get the interception.
Both offenses stalled, and Maurice Stovall managed to get a hand to the New England punt, giving Tampa good field position. Josh Johnson and the Tampa Bay offense finally constructed a drive, and after one incomplete pass Johnson seemed to have found his range, making a crucial pass to Antonio Bryant for first down at 3rd and 14. On the very next down, he found Bryant downfield by the right sideline, who bent backwards to catch the ball over his shoulder as he ran into the endzone. The score would at least prevent a repeat of New England's dominating shut out victory last week. Finally having something to cheer about, the Wembley fans loyally supported their 'home team' and started to make some noise.
Perhaps in response, the Tampa defense stopped Brady's pass attempt to Moss, and helped by a penalty flag (one of many in the night), Wilkerson and White sacked Brady for a 1 yard loss as the half wound down. Using their timeouts to keep the half alive, Tampa took possession again with enough time for 2 passes. The first was complete to Ward at the TB 40 to set up a hail mary pass with 6 seconds on the clock... which was duly intercepted by Darius Butler to close out the half.
New England started with the ball in the second half, and despite a couple of offensive penalties, Brady orchestrated a 12 play drive starting at their own 27, and culminating with a 35 yard pass to Benjamin Watson who had found some space on the right side for another NE touchdown, taking their lead to 28-7.
With the game marred by penalties and a lot of stalled drives, the crowd entertained themselves with a Mexican wave. It wasn't until the 4th quarter that either team managed to put another decent drive together, and unsurprisingly, it was Brady and the Patriots moving the ball down field on the ground and in the air. Inevitably it ended with another score. Over 3 consecutive plays Laurence Maroney ran the ball 13 yards to the 5, then another 4 yards, then ran it in comfortably on the third play off the back of some good offensive-line blocking. With New England up 35-7, fans started to head for the exits to beat the crush at the station.
Tampa went to second-string QB Josh Freeman, and similarly New England brought Brian Hoyer in to lead the offense when they got the ball back. Neither of them sparked their teams to anything of note, and the game wound down with some good defensive plays, but no further scores.