|Setting the stage: Patriots-Buccaneers||08.18.11 at 5:28 pm ET|
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.
Then Mallett took over after Hoyer built a 19-9 halftime lead and engineered four second-half TD drives, resulting in a 35-point laugher.
Two other Patriots rookies, both running backs, had productive games for the Patriots. Stevan Ridley from LSU ran 16 times for 64 yards and caught seven passes for 47 yards. Richard Medlin, a rookie free agent from Fayetteville, had two two-yard touchdown runs.
“We really looked at a lot of young players, got them in there and let them play. That was the goal,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
Among the Patriots sitting out the game who were part of last year’s 14-2 team that lost its only playoff game were last season’s NFL MVP Brady, receivers Welker and Deion Branch and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. Two newcomers, wide receiver Ochocinco and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, also were held out.
Haynesworth is not expected to play tonight but Wilfork is, marking his first game action since the Yahoo! story came out implicating him in the University of Miami scandal between 2002-2010.
On Wednesday, Wilfork responded by tweeting through his @wilfork75 account: I am aware of the report that has claims that involve me while at the U… While the NCAA and the U conduct their investigations @Mrs75 and I believe that it is not appropriate for us to comment.Thanks for your continued support and confidence in me.
As for the Bucs last week, they manhandled the defending AFC West champion Chiefs on the road, 25-0.
Josh Freeman put points on the board three of the four series he played, finishing nine of 13 passing for 73 yards with a touchdown rushing. Like the Patriots, backup quarterback Josh Johnson was very effective, completing seven of 12 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown while also running for 57 yards.
Tampa Bay steamrolled the Chiefs for 353 yards, while their D held Kansas City to just 137 – including just 51 yards through the air.
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