The New England Patriots were able to withstand a late charge from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers en route to a 25-21 victory on Friday.
Coming into this game the two teams spent the week practicing against one another for the 2nd straight year.
The first-string offenses only played in two drives at the beginning of the game.
However, despite the limited playing time for the starters there are still plenty of things to take away from the 2nd game of the preseason for Patriots and Bucs fans.
Tom Brady's knee is just fine.
On Wednesday, Tom Brady was forced to leave practice when Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn bull rushed Patriots left tackle Nate Solder into Brady, sending Brady to ground clutching his left knee worrying Patriots nation.
However, on Friday, those fears were all for naught as Brady not only played, but was sensational. Brady completed 11 of 12 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. The Buccaneers' secondary, even without All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, is much improved from a season ago and did a good job of covering the Patriots' receivers. Brady would not be denied and his accuracy was pinpoint on Friday and looks more than ready to start the season.
Who needs Wes Welker when you have Danny Amendola?
Coming into the season, the biggest worry for the Patriots is who is going to catch the perfect passes thrown by Brady. Adding to this worry is the long recovery of tight end Rob Gronkowski from mutiple forearm injuries and offseason back surgery.
Gronkowski's injury combined with the release of fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez and wide receiver Wes Welker's decision to walk in free agency is the reason that there is trepidation over who will be the main receiver target.
Wide receiver Danny Amendola was signed in March to a five-year, $28.5 million deal with the goal of replacing Welker's production. If Friday's performance is any indication, the Brady-to-Amendola connection should have no problem meeting or possibly exceeding the Brady-to-Welker connection. In just two drives, Amendola caught 6 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Amendola did a great job of turning a 5-yard completion into a 10 or 15-yard gain. The key for Amendola over the course of this season is going to be his ability to stay healthy. In the last two seasons, Amendola has only appeared in 11 games and has to find a way to stay on the field this year.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive line needs to heal up fast.
The pass protection for the Buccaneers on Friday was terrible. The Buccaneers' offensive line allowed four sacks and struggled to generate any sort of push against the Patriots' defensive line. Adding to the problem was the lack of an eligible fullback, which forced the Buccaneers to use tight ends in the backfield.
The Buccaneers' offensive line continues to struggle with injuries as All-Pro guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks did not play. Joseph is still recovering from knee surgery that sidelined him for all of last season. While Nicks is still healing up from a toe injury that saw him miss the final nine games of last season. However, both Joseph and Nicks are expected to be ready to play in the season opener, giving the Buccaneers one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
The battle for the No. 2 tailback spot behind Doug Martin remains muddled.
Starting tailback Doug Martin only had one carry for four yards before exiting the game with an apparent head injury in the 1st quarter. The injury gave backups Mike James and Peyton Hillis additional repititions. At 5'10" Mike James has a similar stature to Martin and did an excellent job taking over. James had 15 carries for 81 yards,while also doing a great job in pass protection and receiving.
On one play in the 1st quarter, James had an excellent blitz pickup against Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower. James also caught three passes for 23 yards and looked very comfortable with the screen passing game. Hillis also had a nice game on the ground, rushing for 73 yards on 18 carries. Hillis is the bigger back in the offense and can present a nice change of pace from Martin.
Bucs rookie quarterback Mike Glennon makes Dan Orlovsky expendable.
The 3rd round pick out of North Carolina State had a nice game for the Buccaneers. Glennon completed 12 of 22 passes for 121 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Glennon had some truly beautiful throws including a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kevin Ogletree in the between safety who was coming over the top and the corner who was underneath.
Glennon also did a nice job of feeling the pressure and stepping up into the pocket, which was something he struggled with back at minicamp. However, Glennon is a rookie and as a rookie he is prone to mistakes. In the 3rd quarter, Glennon attempted a short throw to the opposite sideline. The throw was late and it was intecepted by Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan and returned 53 yards for a touchdown.