Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer 17d

Tom Brady on clutch WR Danny Amendola: 'He's had such a great year'

TAMPA -- Without the benefit of film review, here's an initial look at which New England Patriots players were up or down during Thursday night's 19-14 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

UP

Danny Amendola -- The No. 3 receiver and top punt returner delivered some clutch plays, totaling eight receptions for 77 yards and three punt returns for 51 yards. Asked about his 40-yard punt return, he smiled, saying it was almost a “house call.” Said quarterback Tom Brady: "Danny played great. He always does. He's had such a great year. I'm so proud of him. He's so tough. He's someone I just love playing with."

Stephen Gostkowski -- He made all four of his field goal attempts (27, 23, 45 and 48 yards), and Buccaneers kicker Nick Folk missed his three attempts. Gostkowski's 48-yarder, which came with 1:14 remaining and gave the Patriots a 19-14 lead, was a clutch kick on fourth-and-3. If Gostkowski had missed it, the Buccaneers would have taken the ball at their 37-yard line and needed only a field goal to win. Coach Bill Belichick debated whether to attempt the field goal and said it was a "tough decision," in part because of the crosswind. "Steve hit a great ball," he said.

Stephon Gilmore/Malcolm Butler/Devin McCourty/Patrick Chung/Duron Harmon -- What a difference a week makes for the starting secondary. McCourty felt that putting Gilmore on Mike Evans, and Butler on DeSean Jackson, helped settle the game plan down. Gilmore added that he is at his best when he has the chance to follow one receiver. The coverage and communication was tighter across the board.

Matt Patricia -- It appeared that the defensive coordinator hadn't slept much in the past few days, but he did what good coaches do: He put his players in the best position to succeed with a smart game plan on a short week of preparation.

DOWN

Brandon Bolden -- A core special-teams player, his neutral-zone infraction penalty on a fourth-and-2 punt in the third quarter gave the Buccaneers a new set of downs. Bolden earlier had an illegal block while playing on the punt-return unit. The Patriots had two other penalties on special teams (Joe Cardona, Nate Ebner). This is a top area to clean up.

Cassius Marsh -- The fourth-year defensive end was flagged for roughing the passer at the end of the second quarter on a Hail Mary play, giving the Buccaneers a chance to kick a 56-yard field goal. In addition, his rush-lane integrity was sometimes compromised when he got too far up the field on quarterback Jameis Winston. Marsh plays with good energy, and there should be good teaching moments on the tape for him in terms of channeling that energy productively and with sound technique.

Deatrich Wise Jr. -- Used in obvious passing situations, the defensive end was penalized for illegal hands to the face on third-and-20 to give the Buccaneers an easy first down. A 2017 fourth-round pick from Arkansas, Wise was also flagged for roughing the passer late in the second quarter when the Buccaneers were setting up a Hail Mary. As with Marsh, there are some good teaching moments in this game for Wise.

Offensive line/pass protection -- Brady took six hits and was sacked three times, which doesn't always fall on the line, although Brady's lost fumble in the third quarter came when linebacker Adarius Glanton wasn't picked up on a stunt by right tackle Marcus Cannon. Everyone up front, it seemed, had some struggles at some point along the way.

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