Patriots' rookie receivers start to catch on in win over Bucs
FOXBOROUGH (AP) -- Tom Brady's rookie receivers are starting to catch on.
And the New England Patriots are 3-0 for the first time in six seasons.
After slow starts to their NFL careers, Kenbrell Thompkins caught two touchdown passes and Aaron Dobson had seven receptions as the Patriots beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-3 on Sunday.
"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."
That effort didn't pay off in the first two games when Thompkins and Dobson, who missed the opener with a hamstring injury, combined for just nine catches and several drops.
But on Sunday, Thompkins, an undrafted free agent, scored on plays of 16 and 5 yards in the first half.
And Dobson, a second-round draft pick, led the Patriots with his seven catches and 52 yards receiving.
"I feel good. 3-0. You can't ask for anything better," Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "We know our offense, sooner or later, they're going to start clicking."
On his fourth possession, Brady completed passes of 15 and 6 yards to Dobson then got the ball to the Bucs 16 on a 4-yard completion to Julian Edelman.
Then Thompkins caught a pass over the middle and ran it in for his 16-yard touchdown, the first of his career.
"That's a play that we work on every day in practice," Thompkins said. "For me to be open and to have Tom trust me to throw me the ball felt good."
The Patriots led 17-3 at halftime as the Buccaneers (0-3) wasted several opportunities.
They turned the ball over twice on downs, Rian Lindell missed a 38-yard field goal attempt before making a 30-yarder and Josh Freeman threw an interception to former Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib with 11 seconds left in the first half.
Three plays later, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 53-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
"We did some things at times offensively, but then were unable to finish drives," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "You're not going to win in this league that way."
The Patriots (3-0) have allowed just 34 points this season but haven't played a top quarterback.
They faced rookies EJ Manuel of the Buffalo Bills and Geno Smith of the New York Jets before going against Freeman, who entered the game with a completion rate of 45.3 percent, the worst in the NFL.
He had another bad game Sunday, completing 19 of 41 passes for 236 yards. But Schiano said Freeman still gives the Bucs the best chance of winning.
"It's a rough start, obviously, but we played three quality football teams," Freeman said.
The Patriots held Doug Martin to 88 yards on 20 runs one week after he gained 144.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.