Talib answers the call against Bucs
Aqib Talib is on a serious roll. Traded from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Patriots last fall, the sixth-year cornerback made a critical interception late in the first half Sunday against his former team and continued his stellar play.
A week after picking off two passes and forcing a fumble against the Jets, Talib pounced on Josh Freeman’s underthrown pass intended for Vincent Jackson at the right sideline with 11 seconds remaining in the first half. The Pats moved 8 yards in two snaps before Stephen Gostkowski matched his career high with a 53-yard field goal for a 17-3 halftime advantage.
“We had a good idea of the concepts they like to run in two-minute before the end of the half,’’ said Talib, a first-round draft pick in 2008 who struggled through an array of off-field issues in Tampa. “(Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia) called the perfect play for what they like to do and we made the play. They played two games this year. They run basic concepts, so we watched a lot of tape.’’
With Talib flourishing, New England’s defense has yielded only 27 points during the team’s 3-0 getaway. “Being able to put Talib on Jackson and know that he’s going to be able to handle him pretty good is definitely a big thing,’’ Patriots safety Steve Gregory said. “He’s a big addition for our defense.’’
Another ex-Buccaneer, running back LeGarrette Blount, also contributed for the Patriots. Blount finished with a team-high 65 yards on 14 carries, including a 23-yard dash midway through the fourth quarter.
Lindell kicking himself
For the second consecutive game, veteran kicker Rian Lindell was upset with himself after a Tampa Bay loss. Last week, Lindell hooked a 47-yard field goal attempt with just more than a minute to play that could have extended Tampa Bay’s lead against New Orleans to four points. Instead of needing a touchdown, the Saints drove for a winning field goal in a 16-14 triumph.
On Sunday, Lindell’s mistake was a 38-yard attempt that sailed wide right at the end of Tampa Bay’s opening possession, after the Bucs had marched 50 yards. “Between 1 and 4 o’clock, that’s when you prove yourself in this league,’’ said Lindell, who provided Tampa Bay’s only points with a 30-yard kick late in the opening quarter. “I haven’t done that very well in the last couple of weeks. I just pushed it right. Missed kicks are tough. If you hit a field goal, you feel at least we got something out of the drive. Missing one like that is basically like a turnover.’’
Lindell was signed during training camp to compete against Derek Dimke after Connor Barth ruptured his Achilles tendon and Lawrence Tynes was sidelined by a MRSA staph infection. “I want to look at the cause there,’’ Greg Schiano said of Lindell’s miss. “I mean, (kicking field goals) is all (he) does, and I don’t mean that in a light way, because it’s a big ‘all.’ But I think he’s a good kicker and I think he’s going to be our kicker.’’
Bucs defensive tackles Gerald McCoy (left ankle) and Gary Gibson (hip) and wide receivers Vincent Jackson (ribs) and Mike Williams (leg) suffered injuries. Jackson did not play for much of the second half.
Tampa Bay’s offense has scored three touchdowns in three games.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw a pair of scoring passes to rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, extending his streak to 51 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass.
Freeman has completed fewer than half of his pass attempts in each of the first three games.
Safety Mark Barron, who registered a career-high 13 tackles last week against New Orleans, led Tampa Bay with 11 stops Sunday, adding an interception and a quarterback hit.