FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Tom Brady's knee passed its first big test, his arm was as good as ever and his brain impressed his new top wide receiver.
"Tom's like a coach out there on the field," Danny Amendola said. "He knows every intricacy of the offense."
Brady completed his first 11 passes, six of them to Amendola, then missed on his last one in the New England Patriots' 25-21 exhibition win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night.
Just two days earlier, it seemed as if Brady might not play in the game — or in several of them — when he departed practice with a left knee injury. But an MRI was negative and it turned out to be just a sprain.
"We're so far past that," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the injury. "We're way beyond that."
Here are five things we learned from the Patriots' victory over the Buccaneers:
1. BRADY STILL HAS IT: The two-time league MVP completed 11 of 12 passes for 107 yards just 13 days after his 36th birthday. He connected on all eight of his passes in his first series against Tampa Bay's first-string defense, capped by a 26-yard touchdown to Amendola. Then he tossed a 2-point conversion to rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld.
He completed three more passes on his other series then failed on a third-down throw to Amendola. It was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect night.
"When you watch the way that guy practices, his being 11 for 11 doesn't surprise me," Bucs defensive end Da'Quan Bowers said. "He likes to get things done the right way."
Brady left without talking to waiting reporters.
2. TEBOW STILL DOESN'T HAVE IT: Patriots third-string quarterback Tim Tebow had a bad throwing night, completing just one of seven passes. He would have gained more yards passing if they were all incomplete since the one that was caught resulted in a 1-yard loss.
And he overthrew a ball that was intercepted. But he did run six times for 30 yards, second-most for the Patriots. In his other game, he completed 4 of 12 passes for 55 yards.
"It was definitely something I shouldn't have thrown," he said of Mason Robinson's interception that led to a field goal that made it 25-21. "You want to do your best and play to the best of your ability and have it all go right, and sometimes it doesn't. You just have to keep going."
3. THE BUCS CAN RUN: Tampa Bay had a strong ground game even though leading rusher Doug Martin left early with an apparent minor injury.
"He got hit in the head but he cleared really quickly," coach Greg Schiano said. "I saw him at halftime and he was fine. He was going to play one more play."
Martin ran just once for 4 yards, but Mike James added 81 yards on 15 carries and Peyton Hillis picked up 73 on 18.
"We just found our holes and tried to make our money where we could," James said.
4. TAMPA BAY'S PASS PROTECTION NEEDS WORK: The Bucs allowed four sacks against the Patriots, all in the first half. But their pass protection should improve once guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph return. Nicks missed the last nine games last year and two exhibition games this year with a toe injury. Joseph missed all last season following knee surgery and remains sidelined.
But both are expected back for the season opener.
"We didn't play as well as we wanted," offensive tackle Donald Penn said. "They have a good defense over there.
5. PATRIOTS HAVE TIGHT END HELP: Rob Gronkowski is sidelined following back surgery. Aaron Hernandez is in jail after pleading not guilty to murder. But Sudfeld is giving Patriots fans hope that the tight end problem may not be so serious.
The undrafted free agent from Nevada built on his outstanding camp by catching a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Mallett and a 2-point conversion pass from Brady.
"I am a rookie and have a long way to go and a lot to learn and a lot to improve on," Sudfeld said, "but so far it has been a great experience."
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