FOXBOROUGH — All eyes were on the Patriots’ offensive chemistry with Tom Brady and the team’s young wide receivers taking center stage on Sunday.
This time, they didn’t disappoint.
Kenbrell Thompkins caught three passes for 41 yards and two touchdowns, Aaron Dobson caught seven passes for 52 yards, and Brady (25 of 36 for 225 yards, 2 TDs, 1 interception, 92.9 QB rating) got through four quarters of football without blowing his top.
“Well, hopefully it stays that way,” Brady said of his body language. “I thought the guys did a great job – we had a good week of practice and I think it ultimately showed up. It was a good win. It was fun to be out there, fun to see us play a little bit better, so it’s nice to be 3-0.”
Of course, Thompkins and Dobson are still rookies, so Sunday’s effort against the Buccaneers — a 23-3 win for New England — didn’t come without its hiccups. Dobson and Thompkins each logged a drop. And despite catching two touchdowns, Thompkins was targeted a seven times with little reward. Some of those missed connections were on Brady and others were the result of a good Buccaneers defense.
“Yeah, 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 up a lot with our offense. It’s not like we do the same thing week to week all the time; we try to 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.”
Brady has tried to impress upon these young receivers the urgency of the NFL grind. That showed up this week as the team had an extended opportunity to practice following its nationally televised game against the New York Jets on Sept.12. They had 10 days in between games, and took advantage of an extra practice session on Monday.
“That week of practice definitely helped us,” Dobson said. “I feel like we definitely got on the same page with each other and it showed on the field.”
The improved fortunes of the two young receivers also meant the team’s efficiency was vastly better week over week. The Patriots went 6 of 15 on third down Sunday and 2 of 5 in the red zone after going 4 of 18 on third downs against the Jets and 0 for 3 in the red zone. Four of Dobson’s receptions Sunday were for first downs on third or fourth down. Thompkins was just money in the red zone.
“I thought we played a good game overall, from the passing game to the running game,” said Thompkins. “We’ve been preaching all week about [having] no negative plays and I thought we did a good job with positive plays. From watching the film and everything, we knew that it was going to be a split safety team and a zone team so we had been preaching all week in practice to get open and run great routes against great cornerbacks like Darrelle Revis and those guys, and get the timing down with the quarterback.”