Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver David Douglas makes a catch in front of New England Patriots strong safety Tavon Wilson in the third quarter of an preseason game on Friday night in Foxborough, Mass.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady quieted concerns about his knee and the Patriots defense got four sacks in a preseason game on Friday night. Now about those penalties.
“We have to tighten that up,” New England coach Belichick said Saturday on a conference call with reporters, a day after New England was flagged 10 times. “In the end it ended up being a very competitive game.”
After leaving practice earlier in the week with an injured knee, Brady put to rest any lingering concerns about his health, completing his first 11 passes of the game and finishing with just one incompletion and a touchdown in the 25-21 win for New England.
Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan returned an interception 53 yards for a touchdown.
After converting on 29 of 35 field goal attempts last year, the eight-year veteran is just 2 of 5 through two preseason games, including a missed 50-yarder that hit the upright Friday.
“I think our overall field goal operation needs to be better, and he’s a part of that, but so is the snapper and so is the holder,” Belichick said. “We’ve had three different snappers and two different holders in camp and in the preseason games.
“As it relates to Steve specifically, I think he’s had a good camp,” he added. “He’s worked hard and he’s in good condition. He’s kicked the ball well and hit the ball very solidly and consistently. . I’m confident that he’s one of the best kickers in the league.”
Another concern, although unaddressed by Belichick, was the poor play of third-string quarterback Tim Tebow, who is fighting just to make the 53-man roster.
Tebow completed one of seven passes for -1 yards and rushed six times for 30 yards. He also threw an interception that sailed well over the head of intended target Kenbrell Thompkins.
“I worry about what I can control, not listening to outside influences,” he said. “It’s my attitude and my effort and getting better every day and just staying focused.”
A couple of rookies certainly stood out.
Ryan, drafted in the third round this year, stepped in front of a pass from Mike Glennon and walked untouched into the end zone midway through the third quarter. One of three players drafted by New England this year out of Rutgers, and nine overall on the roster, Ryan even impressed Belichick.
“I think he’s improved in a lot of areas,” he said. “His technique, his recognition, and of course in the secondary, communication is such a big part of the game. No matter who you’re playing for or what you’re playing, being able to communicate with your teammates back there in the secondary - there’s not much margin for error.
“He’s worked hard, he’s been durable, he’s been out there and gotten a lot of snaps and he continues to improve with those repetitions, so he’s definitely making progress.”
Tight end Zach Sudfeld’s performance also went a long way toward solidifying his spot on the team. With Rob Gronkowski sidelined indefinitely and Aaron Hernandez jailed on a murder charge, the rookie from Nevada caught two passes for 32 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Mallett that he juggled before hauling in while diving to the ground between a pair of Tampa Bay defenders. Sudfeld also caught a two-point conversion pass from Brady following a touchdown on the opening drive.
“It’s been such a great experience. The game today was pretty incredible,” Sudfeld said. “I am a rookie and have a long way to go and a lot to learn and a lot to improve on, but so far it has been a great experience.”
Tampa Bay 21
Tom Brady completed pass after pass, 11 in a row to start the game.
So much for his injured left knee.
Two days after spraining it, the New England star was perfect before throwing an incompletion on his last pass in the Patriots’ 25-21 exhibition victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night.
He also threw his first touchdown to new top wide receiver Danny Amendola on his first series and left after the second.
“Tom’s like a coach out there on the field,” Amendola said. “He knows every intricacy of the offense. He helps young guys out a lot. He’s a leader.”
Brady, who bypassed waiting reporters after Thursday’s joint walkthrough with the Buccaneers (0-2), did it again after his outstanding performance. He left the locker room quickly without holding his usual postgame news conference and the team offered no explanation.
An MRI on his left knee had been negative and he participated fully in the walkthrough.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick shrugged off an opportunity to make his first comments about his reaction to the play Wednesday when left tackle Nate Solder fell back into Brady, knocking him to the ground, after being shoved by defensive end Adrian Clayborn.
“We’re so far past that,” he said. “We’re way beyond that.”
Brady’s nearly perfect performance for the Patriots (2-0) proved that.
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman also started and worked two possessions but had a much rougher time against the team they’ll face in the third game of the regular season. He was sacked three times and completed only two of three passes before rookie Mike Glennon took over.
Amendola, signed as a free agent from St. Louis, caught six passes for 71 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown on the game’s first series. Brady completed all eight of his passes for 72 yards, even adding a 2-point conversion pass to rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld after Amendola’s touchdown.
Then Brady connected on his first three throws on his next possession, reaching 107 yards passing for the night, before missing Amendola on third-and-7.
Brady has played four series in two games, starting with a 31-22 win over Philadelphia, and completed 18 of 20 passes for 172 yards.
Ryan Mallett replaced him and threw a 22-yard touchdown to Sudfeld, a free agent having an outstanding training camp. With Rob Gronkowski sidelined after offseason back surgery and Aaron Hernandez jailed on a murder charge, Sudfeld has an inside track on a roster spot.
Mallett completed 12 of 20 passes for 137 yards against the club that allowed the most yards passing in the NFL last season then gave way to Tim Tebow on the Patriots first series of the third quarter. Tebow continued to struggle, completing one of seven passes for minus-1 yard and an interception.
Tebow also ran six times for 30 yards.
Freeman was under pressure from the start eight days after playing well in a 44-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
He was sacked by Brandon Spikes on Tampa Bay’s first offensive play, then by Chandler Jones and Spikes on the second series. Eight plays for Freeman, three of them sacks.
The Patriots waited until Glennon’s third play to sack him when Rob Ninkovich tackled him for a 6-yard loss. But on the Bucs’ next series, the third-round draft pick from North Carolina State threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Ogletree as they cut the lead to 11-7. Glennon completed 12 of 22 passes for 121 yards and threw another touchdown pass, 1-yard to David Douglas.
New England’s defense made another big play against Glennon when rookie Logan Ryan returned an interception 53 yards for a touchdown with 8:47 left in the third quarter.
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