(The Sports Xchange) - The New England Patriots recaptured their winning defensive formula early in Thursday’s game, then held on to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-14 as the home side were hampered by three missed field-goal attempts by kicker Nick Folk.
New England (3-2), which allowed an NFL-high average of 456.8 yards in its first four games, stifled the Bucs (2-2) through three quarters at Raymond James Stadium.
Tampa Bay rallied within striking distance on Jameis Winston’s red-hot fourth quarter, including an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate with 2:09 remaining.
The Bucs failed on their onside kick, however, and New England drove for a cushion score on Stephen Gostkowski’s 48-yard field goal — his fourth of the game — with 1:10 to play.
Tampa Bay had a final opportunity, driving to the Patriots 19-yard line with three seconds remaining before Winston threw an incompletion near the goal line on the game’s last play.
Folk’s struggles continued as he missed a 31-yard attempt with 5:36 remaining that would have trimmed the deficit to 16-10. He also failed to convert from 56 and 49 yards and has made only one field goal in his last six attempts.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady completed 30-of-40 passes for 303 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Patriots also got field goals of 27, 23 and 45 yards from Gostkowski.
Winston completed 26-of-46 passes for 334 yards but went 14-of-21 for 225 yards in the fourth quarter alone.
New England committed 12 penalties for 108 yards but the Bucs had the game’s costliest misdemeanor.
Trailing 16-7 with third-and-goal from the Patriots three-yard line, Winston scored on a scramble but the play was negated by an illegal-use-of-hands penalty on offensive lineman Evan Smith.
Winston threw an incompletion from the 13, and Tampa Bay opted for Folk, who was wide left on his 31-yard attempt.
Utilising a pair of long scoring drives, New England led 13-7 at halftime.
The Patriots opened the scoring on Gostkowski’s 27-yard field goal, capping a 13-play, 89-yard drive, which began at their two-yard line after a 45-yard punt from the Bucs’ Bryan Anger.
Tampa Bay took a 7-3 lead with 8:26 remaining in the half, getting a one-yard touchdown run from Doug Martin, back in action after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
The Patriots regained their advantage 10-7 on Brady’s five-yard pass to Chris Hogan that completed a nine-play, 75-yard march. Gostkowski then tacked on a 23-yard field goal with 40 seconds remaining in the half.
Editing by John O'Brien