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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Defense not much of an obstacle for Pats

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Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 06:47 PM
TAMPA -

TAMPA Tampa Bay's young defense, so dominant in the preseason opener, found itself schooled by Professor Brady Thursday night.

Six days after limiting the Chiefs to 137 yards and six first downs, the Bucs offered little resistance against iconic quarterback Tom Brady and the precise Patriots in a 31-14 setback.

New England scored touchdowns on its first three possessions as the reigning league MVP, who didn't play last week against Jacksonville, consistently exploited the Bucs behind airtight protection.

The Pats rolled up 17 first downs in opening up a 28-0 halftime lead, converting on 5-of-7 third-down opportunities and averaging 6.9 yards per carry while keeping Tampa Bay's tentative defenders off balance.

Rookie middle linebacker Mason Foster, who recovered a fumble in his pro debut at Kansas City, was victimized several times by a New England attack that set a franchise preseason scoring record in last week's 47-12 rout of the Jags.

On Brady's first of two scoring passes, second-year tight end Aaron Hernandez found a seam behind Foster on a 16-yard slant as Brady had ample time to step up in the pocket.

Foster was promptly flagged for unnecessary roughness over the middle on New England's next possession when he appeared to lead with his elbow to the helmet of intended receiver Chad Ochocinco.

Second-year defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, sidelined for the preseason opener with a strained rotator cuff, suffered through a forgettable 2011 debut.

Two plays before Brady's touchdown pass to Hernandez, McCoy took a poor pursuit angle against Danny Woodhead, who started off right tackle and cut back for a 29-yard gain before safety Sean Jones pushed him out of bounds.

"Things didn't go the way we planned as far as the score and how the tempo was going,'' said McCoy. "Personally, it felt great. It felt great to get back out there with my family, with those guys. I love them.''

Six minutes later, it was Jones who couldn't keep Ochocinco in front of him as Brady lofted an 8-yard scoring pass on third-and-4.

Bucs reserve cornerback Elbert Mack provided one of the few bright spots for a battered unit when he picked off a pass by rookie Ryan Mallett and returned the interception 69 yards for a score early in the third quarter.

While Brady was posting a 111.3 passer rating, Tampa Bay punted on its first six possessions.

"We can't hang our defense out to dry by leaving them out on the field,'' said Bucs guard Davin Joseph.

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