FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – No need to fret about Tom Brady’s knee. Opponents have plenty to worry about his nearly perfect arm.
Two days after spraining his left knee, the New England star completed his first 11 passes before missing his last one and threw his first touchdown to new top wide receiver Danny Amendola.
He played the first two series, then rested as the Patriots went on to a 25-21 exhibition victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night.
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman also started and worked two possessions but had a much rougher time against the team they’ll face in the third game of the regular season. He was sacked three times and completed only two of three passes before rookie Mike Glennon took over.
Brady left Wednesday’s joint practice with Tampa Bay (0-2) after he was knocked down by his own left tackle, Nate Solder, who was shoved backward by defensive end Adrian Clayborn.
An MRI on his left knee was negative and he participated fully in the teams’ walkthrough Thursday. Then he picked apart the Bucs’ starting defense on his first possession and a group sprinkled with backups on his second.
Amendola, signed as a free agent from St. Louis, caught six passes for 71 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown on the game’s first series. Brady completed all eight of his passes on the drive for 72 yards, even adding a two-point conversion pass to rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld after Amendola’s touchdown.
Then Brady connected on his first three throws on his next possession, reaching 107 yards passing for the night, before missing Amendola on third-and-7.
Brady has played four series in two games, starting with a 31-22 win over Philadelphia, and has completed 18 of 20 passes for 172 yards.
Ryan Mallett replaced him and threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Sudfeld, a free agent having an outstanding training camp. With Rob Gronkowski sidelined after offseason back surgery and Aaron Hernandez jailed on a murder charge, Sudfeld has an inside track on a roster spot.
Mallett completed 12 of 20 passes for 137 yards against the club that allowed the most yards passing in the NFL last season, then gave way to Tim Tebow on the Patriots’ first series of the third quarter. Tebow continued to struggle, completing one of seven passes for minus-1 yard and an interception. He ran six times for 30 yards.
Freeman was under siege from the start eight days after playing well in a 44-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
He was sacked by Brandon Spikes on Tampa Bay’s first offensive play, then by Chandler Jones and Spikes on the second series. Eight plays for Freeman, three of them sacks.
The Patriots waited until Glennon’s third play to sack him when Rob Ninkovich tackled him for a 6-yard loss. But on the Bucs next series, the third-round draft pick from North Carolina State threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Ogletree as they cut the lead to 11-7. He completed 12 of 22 passes for 121 yards and threw another touchdown pass, 1 yard to David Douglas.
New England’s defense made another big play against Glennon when rookie Logan Ryan returned an interception 53 yards for a touchdown with 8:47 left in the third quarter.
With the Patriots leading 25-18, Tebow’s overthrown pass was intercepted by Mason Robinson. The Bucs scored on Derek Dimke’s second field goal, a 23-yarder.
NOTES: Among the Bucs recovering from injuries who didn’t play were cornerback Darrelle Revis, placekicker Lawrence Tynes and offensive guard Carl Nicks. … Patriots defensive backs Devin McCourty and Alfonzo Dennard also sat out as they come back from injuries. … Gostkowski put the Patriots ahead 11-0 with a 39-yard field goal but missed a 50-yarder after two penalties pushed the Patriots back 15 yards.