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NFL Preseason Preview - Tampa Bay (0-1) at New England (1-0)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Tom Brady will continue to try to work in his new offensive weapons this week as the New England Patriots play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in preseason action.
Brady was brilliant during his short stint last Friday despite New England's tumultuous offseason, as the Patriots held on to down the Philadelphia Eagles, 31-22, in the preseason opener for both clubs.
The Patriots are trying to remain an offensive juggernaut despite a lot of roster turnover which included the release of tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was arrested and subsequently charged with first-degree murder in late June.
Brady, who will be without Hernandez and his other top five targets from a year ago until Rob Gronkowski recovers from multiple offseason surgeries, was nonetheless his usual efficient self in Philadelphia, first playing spectator and then surgeon on back-to-back touchdown drives.
Stevan Ridley bursted through the middle for a 62-yard gain on the game's first offensive play and Brady handed it off five more times on the drive from there with Ridley capping things with a 1-yard touchdown run.
After Michael Vick hit DeSean Jackson in stride for a 47-yard scoring pass, Brady went to work again, connecting on 7-of-8 passes, including a 13-yard TD pass to running back Shane Vereen.
Brady finished with an impressive 140.1 passer rating while Ridley piled up 92 rushing yards on just eight carries. LeGarrett Blount was even better for the Pats, biting his old college coach Chip Kelly with 101 yards on 11 carries, including a brilliant zig-zagging 51-yard TD run. New England finished the game with an imposing 248 rushing yards on 31 attempts.
"We're a better football team now than we were before," said Brady. "And we've got to be a better football team at the end of next week than we are now. It's a building process. We've got a long way to go but it was fun to get out there and play the first real game in seven months."
The Patriots received a bit of a scare on Wednesday when Brady was forced to leave a joint practice with Tampa Bay with a knee injury after left tackle Nate Solder was pushed into him during a pass play during full team drills.
The injury has been described by some reports as a knee sprain, but others have called it was nothing more than a bruise, and Brady wants to play against the Bucs.
Tampa Bay faced the Super Bowl champion Ravens in its preseason opener and the starters left with a 3-0 lead but the reserves faltered as Baltimore took a rather easy 44-16 victory.
"It felt very good to be out there," said Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David. "Everybody was hyped up and ready. It was great to be in that atmosphere, getting ourselves ready for the season."
Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon amassed 169 passing yards in his Bucs debut, but completed just 11-of-23 passes and was intercepted once. Josh Freeman operated Tampa Bay's first two series and threw for 34 yards on 4-of-7 passing while leading the Bucs to a Derek Dimke field goal on one of the drives.
Rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks started for the Bucs and led the team with five tackles.
"It wasn't too big for him and he challenged guys," said Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano said when talking about Banks.
The Patriots and Buccaneers will meet in the preseason for the third straight season and for the 11th preseason overall. New England is just 2-8 all-time against Tampa Bay in preseason play.
08/15 09:49:58 ET