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Ryan Mallett throws pick-six, Pats still lead

08.18.11 at 10:03 pm ET
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If the two quarters between the Patriots and Buccaneers were about New England veterans scoring, the third was certainly about Pats’ rookies turning the ball over. At any rate, the Pats still hold a 31-7 lead.

Third-round quarterback Ryan Mallett displayed an ability to put more touch on the ball and it led to a touchdown, but unfortunately it was a 69-yard interception return for Elbert Mack. With nowhere to go but up following an ugly play in which he didn’t face substantial pressure, Mallett began looking more like quarterback who outperformed Blaine Gabbert in the preseason opener. Mallett later quarterbacked a drive that ended with a 44-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkwoski. He is 9-of-12 for 71 yards and the interception after starting the second half for the Pats.

Running back Stevan Ridley, the Patriots’ other third-round pick in April’s draft, had his first fumble of the season, as he coughed it up on a fourth-and-1 play. The ball was recovered by Bucs’ linebacker Adam Hayward.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer, who threw just one pass in the first half, came back in the game late in the third quarter and nearly threw an interception of his own. Hoyer was looking for Matthew Slater but saw his pass go just off the fingertips of Tampa cornerback D.J. Johnson.

Nate Solder is done for the night, with Steve Venari sliding in at left tackle.

Bret Lockett leaves with injury, Pats still ahead at halftime

08.18.11 at 9:09 pm ET
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The Patriots shouldn’t have much to complain about in Tampa, as they lead the Bucs, 28-0, at halftime. The Pats have touchdowns Aaron Hernandez, Chad Ochocinco and a pair of rushing scores from BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The Buccaneers missed a 47-yard field goal with one second remaining in the half.

Thus far, Tom Brady is 11-of-19 for 118 yards on the night with a pair of passing touchdowns, while Brian Hoyer completed the only pass he threw. Rookie Nate Solder has been in at left tackle for all of the Patriots’ offensive drives. He was beaten late in the second quarter, leading to a sack of Brady deep in the Patriots’ end.

There were a couple of scary plays for the Patriots in the second quarter. After a play in which Brady was pressured and both he and Nate Solder went down in odd fashion, the Patriots were forced to punt for the first time (they punted a second time late in the second quarter). It was on that play that safety Bret Lockett appeared to go down with a groin or thigh injury. Should the injury keep him out significant time, the Patriots may end up regretting not retaining another UCLA safety in Jarrad Page. Rookie Sergio Brown, an undrafted safety out of Notre Dame, looked good in the second quarter.

The Pats have done a good job of mixing up their defensive tackles, as they’ve featured the likes of Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor and Gerard Warren in the middle of their 4-3 defense.

The second quarter saw the second sack of the night for Jerod Mayo. The fourth-year linebacker has seemed to thrive in the 4-3 thus far, an indication that big things could be ahead for a player coming off his first All-Pro and Pro Bowl season. Andre Carter has shown great burst as a pass-rusher, and he pressured Josh Johnson into throwing a pass that was nearly intercepted by Rob Ninkovich.

Green-Ellis has gotten the majority of the carries for the Patriots, but it’s Danny Woodhead who leads the Pats with 63 yards on the ground on just five carries. Green-Ellis has 42 yards, while Sammy Morris has one carry for three yards.

Wes Welker leads the Patriots with 56 receiving yards on five catches. Hernandez has 42 yards on three catches (all in the first quarter), while Ochocinco has two catches for 14 yards. Both Green-Ellis and rookie tight end Will Yeatman each have one catch.

Read More: 2011 training camp,

Chad Ochocinco scores as Patriots lead Bucs after first quarter

08.18.11 at 8:18 pm ET
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The Buccaneers shut out the Chiefs last week, but they’re realizing a different fate thus far this week. After one quarter in Tampa, the Pats lead the Bucs, 21-0.

After forcing a three-and-out on the first drive of the game, the Patriots’ offense and Aaron Hernandez got off to a much better start than they did last week. After a 28-yard scamper from Danny Woodhead, the Pats came out in a three tight-end set and Tom Brady hit Hernandez for a 17-yard touchdown.

Hernandez had fumbled on the first offensive play of the preseason opener as part of a two-fumble night for the second-year tight end. He was much better in the first quarter in Tampa, catching all there passes thrown his way for 42 receiving yards.

Chad Ochocinco made his preseason debut with the Pats, scoring an easy touchdown in the back of the end zone after he and Brady failed to connect on their first two passes. Buccaneers rookie Mason Foster made helmet-to-helmet contact with Ochocinco as the veteran receiver went to reel in a pass from Brady, resulting in a 59-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.

Bill Belichick took Brady out for the beginning of the Pats’ third offensive drive, though Brady came back in later in the drive after Brian Hoyer started it. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who did not play last week, ran up the middle late in the quarter to set up a first-and-goal. He ran it in on the following play to give the Pats a three-touchdown league.

Defensively, the Patriots and their rotating defensive tackles swelled out anything Josh Freeman and the Tampa offense attempted. Linebacker Jerod Mayo picked up the first sack of the night for the Patriots.

Read More: 2011 training camp,

Patriots-Buccaneers Live Blog

08.18.11 at 7:28 pm ET
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WEEI.com Patriots-Bucs Live Blog

Setting the stage: Patriots-Buccaneers

08.18.11 at 5:28 pm ET
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For the second straight week, the Patriots take on a Florida team as their preseason schedule takes them to Raymond James Stadium to battle Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tonight is expected to be the post-lockout debut of Tom Brady and his new target Chad Ochocinco. They took several reps on Tuesday and in the walk-through on Wednesday before leaving for Tampa.

Both dressed in full uniform last week but did not play as the Patriots blew out the Jacksonville Jaguars in the preseason opener. Wes Welker is also expected to see action on the offensive side of the ball.

Brady listened to the play calling and communication between offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and back-up quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett.

That worked out pretty well as the Patriots piled up 47 points, the most in franchise preseason history, two more than the 45 they dropped on the Redskins on Sept. 4, 1977.

Surprisingly, the Patriots are just 1-7 all time in preseason showdowns with the Buccaneers, with their lone win coming in their first meeting on Aug. 15, 1981 at the old Tampa Stadium, now a parking lot next door to this evening’s venue.

Last Thursday at Gillette, the Patriots started Hoyer, who completed 15 of 21 passes for 171 yards and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Price in the first half. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 training camp, Albert Haynesworth, Brian Hoyer, Chad Ochocinco

Patriots reportedly set to work out another wide receiver

08.18.11 at 4:44 pm ET
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Fresh off the news that the Patriots had T.J. Houshmandzadeh in for a workout last week, it was reported Thursday that wide receiver Mark Clayton will work out for the Patriots on Friday, according to Aaron Wilson of Scout.com.

Clayton, 29, is a former  first-round pick of the Ravens out of from Oklahoma who was traded to the Rams last year. In his career, he has 257 catches and 3,422 yards and 14 touchdowns. Wilson quotes a league source as saying Clayton has made a sound recovery from tearing his patellar tendon in his right knee last year and is on the verge of being ready to play again.

Read More: Mark Clayton, T.J. Houshmandzadeh,

Veteran center Dan Koppen offers his take on the state of the Patriots’ offensive line

08.18.11 at 1:01 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” You want an assessment of the Patriots’€™ offensive line? Go to the most important cog in the machine, center Dan Koppen.

While Matt Light has him beat when it comes to seniority ‘€” by roughly two seasons ‘€” no lineman is more respected by his peers than the Boston College product. A fixture in the middle since he took over for an injured Damien Woody at center early in his rookie season back of 2003, Koppen has been every bit as durable as any other center in the league: Since the start of the 2003 season, the Patriots have played 128 regular-season games, and Koppen has started 119 of them.

With Koppen as the fulcrum of the o-line, the New England offense has finished in the top 10 in total offense seven times in his eight NFL seasons. The 6-foot-2, 296-pounder earned his first career Pro Bowl selection in 2007 and was named to the AP All-Pro Second Team, becoming the third center in Patriots history to earn all-star honors. And in 2008, Koppen started every game at center as part of an offensive line that supported the best rushing season for the Patriots in more than 20 years in terms of rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and average yards per carry.

The current group was honored on Tuesday with the presentation of the Madden Protectors Award, an award that ‘€œrecognizes the accomplishments of the highest performing offensive line unit and their best-in-class ability to provide consistent, powerful protection,’€ according to the press release. The Patriots were selected based on a combination of analysis by John Madden and fan voting.

Since 2003, Koppen has been able to count on seeing many of them same guys to his left. On that side, it’€™s been  Light (left tackle) and Logan Mankins (left guard) on fairly constant basis since 2005, save for Mankins’€™ holdout last season over his contract situation. Both recently signed new deals.

‘€œIt’€™s great to have those guys back,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œThe type of player Logan and Matt are, what they’€™ve done for this team they’€™re such good guys, and to have them in the locker room and have them as good friends. It’€™s really good to see them come back.’€

Comparatively, the right side is fairly young: Sebastian Vollmer (right tackle) settled into his spot as a full-time starter at the beginning of the 2010 season. Meanwhile, Dan Connolly (right guard) has flip-flopped over the course of his brief career, moving from one guard spot to another when Mankins was out last season and also providing backup for former starting right guard Stephen Neal, who retired at the end of last season.

‘€œThose are guys that really have progressed,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œConnolly is one of those guys who have come in our system and has really made strides. He’€™s got a lot of playing time last year and played well for us. And Sea Bass is just one of those guys where he just comes out and works every day. With his size and ability, he’€™s tough to beat.’€

As for Koppen, he’€™s entering his ninth season in the NFL, and has learned a few things about getting through training camp.

‘€œCamp is camp ‘€” [it’€™s all about] coming out here and starting over and trying to get better and get comfortable with the guys around and come together as a group,’€ he said. ‘€œPut your head down and go. Just do what the coaches ask and do it as hard as you can. if you mess up, learn from it and come back and do it better the next play.’€

Koppen says the new practice schedule ‘€” less hitting, no two-a-days ‘€” is a ‘€œdouble-edged sword’€ for players.

‘€œYou might have less two-a-days,’€ he said, ‘€œbut that one practice you’€™re out here for, it’€™s a doozy, so you have to have your mind right and be ready to go the whole way through. It’€™s a long practice, so you have to be mentally ready, mentally into it.’€

Read More: 2011 training camp, Damien Woody, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen
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