The New England Patriots just keep finding ways to win football games. On Thursday night (Oct. 5), Tom Brady led the Patriots to a 19-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, despite being without All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski. In a game that the Patriots really needed to win, their veteran quarterback stepped up once again, passing for 303 yards on the night.

With this win over the Bucs, the Patriots are now 3-2 on the season and right back in the race for another AFC East title. They still trail the Buffalo Bills (3-1), but two games on the backend of the NFL schedule will give the Patriots an opportunity catch them.

For now, the Patriots can begin preparing for a Week 6 game against the New York Jets, which is also an important contest in the East.

Patriots defense shuts down Jameis Winston

Fans looking at the box score on Friday morning (Oct. 6) or fantasy football owners checking in later this week might be convinced that Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston had a good game. Winston finished with 334 passing yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions. On paper, that might make it seem like a really successful night. The reality, though, was that Winston couldn’t move the ball downfield against the Patriots with sustained success.

The beneficiaries of four first downs by penalties, the Bucs had trouble converting on third down.

The team had a third-down efficiency percentage of just 30 for the night, leading to far too many punts for this game to be placed in the win column. It also didn’t help that the kicking game was horrible, as Nick Folk missed all three of his field goal attempts, stifling the offense as it tried to get back in the game.

Did Tampa Bay miss a golden opportunity?

The Green Bay Packers are banged up and dealing with injuries, the Dallas Cowboys are stumbling, and the Seattle Seahawks started out the season very slowly. This opened up the possibility of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers making it back to the postseason, even if the Atlanta Falcons run away with the NFC South.

Dropping to 2-2, put the Bucs right on the same line as all of these other contending teams, but also further behind the Falcons and Carolina Panthers in the south. An opportunity to pull ahead has been wasted.

For the Patriots, this could be viewed as a statement game, because the team is overcoming even more injuries. There has been a lot of debate among NFL analysts about how much pressure can be placed on Tom Brady at his advanced age for a quarterback, but he continues to prove the “doubters” wrong. If he can get a healthy roster together in time for the 2018 NFL Playoffs, this is again a team that nobody else in the NFL will want to face in the postseason.