FOXBORO – Going into the season there was no denying the Patriots offense would be different than the offenses of the past. 87 percent of last years completions are no longer with the team, and going into Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers they were without star wide receiver Danny Amendola for a second straight week dealing with a groin injury.
Sunday against the Bucs the Patriots rolled out Julian Edelman and three rookie wideouts in Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. Not exactly a star-studded offense, but the one constant that remains is quarterback Tom Brady.
“Yeah, he’s the best,” said Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis, who faced Brady for six seasons when he was with the Jets. “I think what they do is hard play action to suck the linebackers up and he threw it right over the top of them. He did that a lot. He sells the play action very well and he got us a couple of times on those routes.”
A perfect example came close to halftime on the second Patriots touchdown of the day. With 47 seconds left in the half and the ball on the Bucs 5-yard line, Brady’s picturesque, play-action fake fooled the linebackers and secondary just enough so that Thompkins was able to sneak past them and Brady found him for his second touchdown of the game, giving the Patriots a 14-3 lead at the time. Thompkins became the first Patriots rookie since Rob Gronkowski in 2010 to catch two touchdown passes in a game.
“That’s a play we work on every day in practice,” Thompkins said. “To go out there, for me to be open, and to have Tom [Brady] trust me to throw me the ball felt good.”
After struggling to get on the same page for the first two weeks, Brady and the rookies took a step in the right direction in Sunday’s 23-3 win. Dobson and Thompkins combined for 10 catches, 93 yards and two touchdowns on 17 targets. This after completing passes on 9 of 21 targets between the two in the first two games.
“They’re doing a great job,” Brady said. “They’ve worked really hard to understand what we’re trying to do on a weekly basis and it changes a lot with our offense. It’s not like we do the same thing week to week all the time – we try and attack teams in different ways. Today we definitely made some adjustments throughout the first quarter, second quarter, and we did a good job adjusting and really trying to understand what we need to do to put drives together.”
Even though there are some miscommunications at times, at the end of the day the Patriots have three rookies playing significant snaps so there are bound to be mistakes. The encouraging sign is the group is working hard week-to-week and with games like Sunday they are proving they can improve each week, not to mention with Brady leading the charge the growing pains don’t get as exposed as much as they could.
“Yeah, they are a little different,” Revis said. “They don’t have the veteran experience at the receiving corps, but they played well today and they are improving — they are looking alright.”