The New England Patriots fans who were worried about the pass rush this season can breathe a big sigh of relief. With the first team defense playing most of the first half, the Patriots hassled, hurried, and sacked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks and pushed the rest of the offense all over the field on the way to a 31-14 pre-season road win that wasn't as close at the score would indicate.
Tom Brady (11-19-118, 2 TDs 0 INT) and the first team offense had an influence on the outcome as well, getting out to an easy 28-0 lead by halftime. Nate Solder, the first round draft selection, started in place of the injured Matt Light at left tackle and showed why he was taken with that prime pick as he protected Brady's blind side. Brady, who rode the bench for the first pre-season game, looked every bit the reigning Most Valuable Player in the National Football League while playing against a Buccaneers team that went 10-6 last year.
"We expect to go out there and score," Brady said in his post game press conference. "We had six drives and four (all in the red zone) ended in touchdowns. It was fun. It had been a while since we had a chance to be out there."
But it was the defense that was the big story of the night. Head Coach Bill Belichick showed different defensive alignments and served notice that he now has the personnel to use many talented players in a variety of formations. Defensive end Andre Carter, acquired as a free agent during the first week of camp, was sensational in the 4-3 along with fellow end Eric Moore rushing quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson. That left a blitzing Jerod Mayo able to do what he does best and the linebacker recorded two sacks, five quarterback hurries and five tackles.
The Patriots will break training camp on Saturday and head to the Motor City to take on the Detroit Lions next week in the third of four pre-season games.
Patriots Notes: Running back Danny Woodhead got clocked covering a punt in the second half and nearly collapsed. He looked as thought he were out on his feet, even trying to head to the Tampa Bay sideline, but told reporters in the locker room after the game that he was fine. Belichick said that Woodhead "seemed alright", but the doctors will watch him and determine that….. Defensive back Bret Locket (thigh) was carted off the field and did not return to the game and linebacker Dane Fletcher (thumb) did not either, but there was no update on their condition on August 19.
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