Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano acknowledged that the start of Friday night's 25-21 preseason loss to the New England Patriots "was a little bit of a downer."
In fact the whole first quarter, played mostly by the first units of both teams, was a textbook look at Tom Brady doing almost everything he wanted. Referring twice to the Patriots' quarterback as a "first-ballot Hall of Famer," Schiano said it was best not to read too much into the experience.
"I thought we played more physical than we did in week one," he said, "but there's just a whole — what did I say, truckload last week? There's a boatload this week that we have to get corrected. That's what preseason is about. Hopefully, as we start getting closer to regular season, we get all our guys back and hit this thing running."
Brady completed all eight of his passes on the game-opening touchdown drive, including a 26-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola, and three more on New England's next drive before finally throwing one incomplete pass. The Bucs never touched him.
Meanwhile the Patriots sacked Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman three of the first six times he dropped back to pass.
"We had a couple of issues going on, some communication things," Schiano explained. "Our (headphone) device wasn't working great. It was a perfect storm, that first drive, but that happens in games and you have to be able to overcome all those things and find a way to get them stopped. We had two third downs we didn't execute well on."
Although running back Doug Martin left the game in the first quarter after getting kicked in the head on pass protection, Schiano said early indications are that the Bucs sustained no serious injuries in their four-day visit to New England.
"I thought we got a lot out of last week, for a lot of reasons," he said. "No. 1 obviously was going against a quality football team that's well coached. No. 2, getting out of the heat, that was big for us, to let our guys recover a little bit. And then the thing I really liked is we were kind of sequestered, alone by ourselves, so we had a chance to build some team chemistry."
The Bucs played again without starting guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph, cornerback Darrelle Revis or veteran kicker Lawrence Tynes.
The regulars will get their most action of the preseason next Saturday at Miami, Schiano said, but that doesn't necessarily mean the preseason debuts of either Nicks or Joseph.
"That's a day-to-day (decision)," he said. "We have a plan, but we're willing to tweak that plan based on what we think is best with one goal in mind — to start the season with our best players on the field."
Friday night's bright spots, according to Schiano, included some hard running by Peyton Hillis (73 yards on 18 carries) and rookie Mike James (81 yards on 15 carries), a 63-yard kickoff return by Mike Smith, the play of right tackle Demar Dotson and the place-kicking of rookie Derek Dimke, which has been "darned-near perfect."
The offense, Schiano said, "wasn't very sharp," but it doesn't have to be sharp yet.
"Let's see how we do," he said. "I'm not concerned because I believe in the guys that are there and some things have happened that didn't allow us to do what we're capable of doing. You can't judge anything by its intentions, you have to judge it by the actions and the results. Am I concerned? No. I believe these guys are going to do it the way we expect."