Early turnover hurts Bucs in Wembley loss to Pats

Oct 26, 2009 - 12:31 AM By CHRIS LEHOURITES AP Sports Writer

WEMBLEY, England(AP) -- The tone was set by an early turnover, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could do little to get back in rhythm.

Bucs quarterback Josh Johnson threw the first of his three interceptions on only the fifth play from scrimmage and Brandon Meriweather returned it for a touchdown that set the pace for the New England Patriots in a 35-7 win Sunday at Wembley Stadium.

The loss is the 11th in a row for the Buccaneers (0-7). St. Louis (0-7) and Tennessee (0-6) are the only other teams still searching for a victory.

"I have to eliminate turnovers," Johnson said. "Turnovers in this league is what changes the game around, because that's all it takes."

The Bucs have a bye next week, so they'll have plenty of time to try to figure out a way to get a win before they host the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 8.

"We need to work on fundamentals - tackling, catching, blocking. Everything," said Sammie Stroughter, the intended receiver on that first interception. "We have to go back to basics."

The Bucs trailed 21-0 in the second quarter before Johnson found Antonio Bryant on a 33-yard touchdown pass. That, combined with a pair of interceptions off errant passes from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, gave the Bucs some hopeful moments.

"The thing was 21-7 for a while," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "The defense came up with some big plays on Tom Brady with two interceptions. Two huge plays."

No play, however, ended up being bigger than that first interception.

"We had a route where he gets to choose if he wants to break it or hook it and he hooked it," Johnson said. "I kind of anticipated that he might break it out because I knew the coverage they were playing so he hooked it and I threw it.

"My fault."

Meriweather was the one who benefited from the miscommunication.

"The quarterback and receiver were on two different pages," he said, "and he just happened to throw it to me."

In the fourth quarter, with the score 28-7, Morris replaced Johnson with rookie Josh Freeman, who made his NFL debut. The Bucs, however, didn't score again. Freeman was 2 of 4 for 16 yards and was sacked twice. Johnson was 9 of 26 for 156 yards.

On the ground, the Buccaneers gained only 89 yards rushing, but Morris still sees a win coming from his team.

"You've seen them get better every single week besides the one setback against the Giants, which I really felt was a setback," Morris said. "You came out today and played a really dominant team against the Patriots, nobody blinked and everybody remained unwavered."

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