TAMPA, Fla. — Thursday night is no place to search for quick fixes. It is merely a night your football team needs to survive, which the struggling Patriots did in large measure because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers not only dressed like tomato cans, but much of the evening played like them.

If anyone was expecting the Patriots to sprint out of their doldrums, it didn’t happen. The Bucs didn’t do much, and the Patriots nearly matched that effort, including ending the first half with back-to-back roughing-the-passer calls that gave Tampa a shot at a 56-yard field goal. (Being the Bucs, they came up wildly short.)

Some may look and correctly say, “Hey, at least the defense didn’t look like they had no idea what they were doing,” but on their last two drives of a 19-14 win at Raymond James Stadium, that defense allowed third-down completions of 10 and 29 yards; a field goal that cut their lead to two; and a 61-yard march through the air that ended on a deflected pass in the end zone.

Saying they were weren’t as bad as they’d been is not the same as saying they were good, or even appreciably better. They were just facing a team that was appreciably worse at offense.

The communication problems that plagued Sunday’s loss to Carolina were minimized, but a good deal of that was from playing less zone initially, thus minimizing the need to communicate as much. Late in the game, when they went back to more zone coverages and two-deep looks, it was too often, “Here they come!”

The Bucs offense is not exactly advanced algebra, but that Patriots defense allowed more than 300 passing yards (334) for the fifth straight game and five more chunk plays of 20 yards or more. But to be fair, the problems were not exclusively defensive.

New England led 13-7 at the half despite its first drive’s ending with an interception, with Tom Brady throwing well behind receiver Chris Hogan. The line also allowed three sacks against a team that had only one all season; the 16 they’ve allowed is one more than they allowed all last year.

Then there were the dozen penalties, including three on special teams. That gives that unit an alarming nine after only five games.

Other than that things were really improved.

The defense didn’t make the glaring errors of the Carolina game – Tampa didn’t attack aerially the way the Panthers did – but there were troubling aspects. On the opening drive of the second half, Tampa quarterback Jameis Winston overthrew DeSean Jackson on third down, but Jackson had beaten Malcolm Butler by a good two yards on a deep go route.

“Their quarterback played far better than I did so they won the game,” Winston said. “When the play is there, you can’t miss opportunities. That’s what happened tonight by me.”

As the fourth quarter was winding down, with the Patriots up 16-7, the defense reverted to its old self, allowing those two costly third down completions. Two plays after Jackson’s 29-yard catch and run, safety Patrick Chung had his back turned – and thus had no idea where the ball was – as tight end Cameron Brate beat him to the post. In an instant, it was 16-14 with just more than two minutes to play.

Had Tampa’s Nick Folk not missed two makeable field goals earlier, New England would be sitting at 2-3.

This is what you most often get on Thursday night. Ragged performances, subpar football and bad games. This is what was developing as the third quarter droned on, as the Patriots’ third special-teams infraction – a fourth-down neutral zone infraction on a punt – gave the Bucs the ball back. They didn’t do much with it, of course, but the result of that foul was that when possession was finally exchanged, Brady’s offense was again backed up to its 6-yard line.

After some fits and starts, Brady got them far enough downfield for Gostkowski to deliver his third field goal of the night, but on their next series, Brady was sacked and fumbled, giving Tampa the ball at its 47. Time was winding down in the third quarter, in a game that should not have been in doubt; the Bucs’ offensive game plan looked like it had been designed not by Dirk Koetter but by his grandfather, whoever that man may be.

To beat the Patriots when you are not the superior team, one needs to be bold. Like the buccaneers of old, not the Buccaneers of Koetter. Down 16-7, they declined to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Patriots 31 and ended up missing a 49-yard kick, then did the same on fourth-and-goal at the 13 with 5:39 to go and again missed the kick, this time from 31.

That’s “Thursday Night Football.” It’s also losing football.

In the end a lack of boldness and those missed field goals cost the Bucs and saved the Patriots from themselves.

On Thursday night, maybe that’s the best you can hope for. But if this is the best it gets, 2017 is going to be a long season.