By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady showed midseason form in his preseason debut.
After sitting out New England's preseason opener in Week 1, the reigning NFL MVP tossed a pair of touchdowns and completed 11 of 19 passes in the New England Patriots' 31-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.
Brady threw for 118 yards in one half of work, and connected on scoring strikes from 16 yards to Aaron Hernandez, and 8 yards out to Chad Ochocinco, who also both made their debuts.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis also got in on the act, rushing 11 times for 51 yards and two touchdowns.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick called this a big week for his team in regards to position battles and roster spots. It included three straight days of full-pad practices, creating what some players characterized as a regular-season atmosphere.
The pace seemed to be there as Brady and the rest of the first unit played all six offensive series of the first half, failing to score on only two. They scored on four of their first five drives.
Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris had a tough time finding any fault with his team's effort in a 25-0 rout at Kansas City last week. But this week was more than a small reversal of fortune.
Third-year quarterback Josh Freeman, who was Brady-like against the Chiefs, misfired on his first three passes of the night to set a bad tone the Bucs never got over.
He was done after five series, connecting on 5 of 10 passes for just 33 yards. The Buccaneers had more than that in penalty yards in the first half. They were whistled 10 times for 85 yards, as New England built a 28-0 halftime lead.
Freeman was also sacked twice by the Patriots, who held Tampa Bay to just 73 total yards and four first downs in the opening half. Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo got credit for both sacks, to go along with five tackles.
The Buccaneers didn't get on the board until early in the third quarter when cornerback Elbert Mack intercepted Ryan Mallett and returned it 69 yards for the score.
Their lone offensive score came early in the third quarter when third-string running back Allen Bradford capped a 12-play, 84-yard drive with 2-yard touchdown run. They were just two of the Bucs' 64 yards rushing.
But, by then it was seemed clear to the already thinning Raymond James Stadium crowd that it was not Tampa Bay's night and that their team still has a lot of work to do before the regular season.
Tampa Bay (1-1) will host Miami next Saturday night. New England (2-0) will travel to play at Detroit.
Notes: Patriots DB Bret Lockett was carted off in the second quarter (thigh bruise) and didn't return. LB Dane Fletcher also didn't return after injuring a thumb. ... Tampa Bay WR Arrelious Benn, TE Luke Stocker, CBs Myron Lewis and Aquib Talib, DTs Roy Miller and Brian Price and S Ahmad Black were inactive.
Copyright 2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.