FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Practice.
Allen Iverson mocked it. “Practice? We’re talking about practice?”
The New England Patriots welcomed it.
The Patriots’ offense, though still not as high-powered as its most recent editions, was much more efficient Sunday afternoon in beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-3 at Gillette Stadium. Buoyed by a three-headed running attack (Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount), the Patriots were able to sustain several clock-killing drives that took some pressure off Tom Brady and his kiddie corps of receivers.
Brady, who completed 25 of 36 passes for 225 yards, actually had something going with two of the rookies, completing seven passes to Aaron Dobson and three — two for touchdowns — to Kenbrell Thompkins.
There were no sideline meltdowns by Brady this week. His body language in the victory over the Jets on Sept. 12 was the subject of more ink and airwaves than it deserved.
“I think the guys did a great job,” said Brady, who has thrown a touchdown pass in 51 consecutive games, second all-time in NFL history. “We had a good week of practice and I think it ultimately showed up.”
The Patriots were unable to get into a regular practice routine after their season-opening win against Buffalo on Sept. 8 because they had a game against the Jets just four days later. So they put in their game plan and had walk-throughs.
Brady had no time to work on his timing with his receivers, and it showed against the Jets with one of the worst performances we’ve seen him have in a long time. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw for fewer than 200 yards.
But it’s not just Brady and the receivers who needed the practice.
“At this point in the season, we need to practice,” said safety Devin McCourty. “We went right after our first game into rooms to watch film. We’ve got to get better, no matter if it’s a rookie or two-year vet or five-year vet.
“At this point of the season, it’s all about getting better, to get ready for the long haul. It was good just to get back on the practice field and prepare for this week.”
Practice, Brady has said, is where the trust develops between a quarterback and his receivers. Sunday wasn’t perfect by any means, but the offense looked must more trustworthy. Brady threw 10 balls at Dobson, and they connected seven times for 52 yards.
They were especially effective on the Patriots’ first scoring drive. Facing third-and-4 at the Patriots 40, Brady hit Dobson for a 15-yard completion. Then on fourth-and-2 from the Bucs 36, they hooked up for a 6-yard gain.
“It definitely helped us having a week to practice,” said Dobson. “I feel we definitely got on the same page and it showed out there.”
Brady finished off that drive with a 16-yard scoring pass to Thompkins, who ran untouched through the Tampa Bay zone, caught the ball at about the 12, turned upfield and raced in for the score.
The next time the Patriots got the ball, Brady started the drive with a 9-yard completion to Dobson. Later, he threw deep to Dobson, who drew a 28-yard pass interference penalty against Tampa’s Johnthan Banks.
Brady finished that drive with another scoring pass to Thompkins, this one from 5 yards.
“We’re trying to get better,” said Dobson. “That’s what we’re trying to do, just trying to keep elevating and improving every week. We’re not trying to backtrack. We want to keep the level up and keep improving.”
It’s not easy, not with everyone watching your every move, not with Brady throwing you the ball. He expects you to catch it, and the 70,000 or so people in the stadium expect you to catch it, too.
Dobson said you can’t think about it.
“You’ve just got to go out there and have fun,” he said. “We’ve been playing this game since we were little kids. You’ve got to just go out there and have fun.”
Without singling anybody out, Bill Belichick had praise for just about everybody, mentioning almost every phase or situational team the Patriots use.
And he made it clear throughout his press conference why the Patriots won.
“We had a good, solid week of work and I think it showed up on the field,” he said. “So it’s not just Sundays. It’s all that goes into it.
“I thought the players really did a good job this week and I’m happy that we had some of the success that we had as a team.”
Next up is a much more powerful opponent in the Atlanta Falcons.
You know what that means.
“We’ve got seven days toward the Atlanta Falcons,” said wide receiver Julian Edelman. “We’re looking forward to getting better this week and doing it again.”
Time to practice.
Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: