TAMPA — Raheem Morris dodged questions about his team's lack of preparation for Thursday's preseason game against New England about as well as quarterback Josh Freeman evaded the Patriots' pass rush.
Which is to say, he struck them head on.
Morris said Friday that the Bucs knew the Patriot Way would be to use elaborate schemes while he preferred to dummy down the game plan with a vanilla approach to better evaluate players.
The result was an eye-widening 31-14 loss in which Tampa Bay's starting offense and defense were completely outplayed in the first half.
Tampa Bay had one first down, 1 yard rushing and 33 yards passing behind Freeman, who was sacked twice before leaving with about five minutes left in the half. Defensively, the Bucs were no match for the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, who threw for two touchdowns and led four scoring drives on the Patriots' first five possessions to build a 28-0 lead.
Because preseason approaches have particularly varied among teams this year because of the lockout, Morris didn't seem to sweat it.
"(The Patriots) took a different approach to the game with how we played and how they played," he said Friday.
"I wouldn't say I'm disappointed that we weren't able to pick up a certain look or scheme because we did not give it to (the Bucs players) that way. We just wanted to … follow our rules, see who could pick up the rules, see who could do it, see who could communicate and see who could play on their feet. And that's kind of how we want to judge those guys. Usually, that's how you get the better players on your football team.
"A lot of people ask questions: Why don't you game-plan for guys like the Patriots? It's because I want to see what you can do without me giving it to you. Then I want to see this week what you can do while I'm giving it to you and you're adjusting."
Morris said the Bucs will do more game-planning in the next few days in preparation for their game Aug. 27 against the Dolphins. Typically, starters play nearly three quarters in the third preseason game.
Thursday's game was a role reversal from a week ago at Kansas City, when the Bucs' approach was to get off to a fast start and the Chiefs treated their 25-0 loss as a reason to avoid injuring starters.
Not that Brady should've taken a knee because the Bucs weren't up to the job Thursday.
"I just know (the Patriots) prepared a little differently just based on film evaluation and talking to people and things of that nature," Morris said. "For us, it's more about our guys picking things up in the heat of the moment and letting that player come out in order to find out who's going to make our football team.
"If I give them all the answers to the test, you can get a bad player, and he can show up and play decent enough to make your football team. If I don't give all these guys answers to the test … they have an equal … chance to compete and find out who knows what we do and how we want to do it the best."
The Bucs lost one-on-one battles in the trenches, had too many penalties and generally took turns making mistakes, Morris said. That said, the Bucs altered their practice schedule to include workouts today and Sunday.
Did Thursday's performance provide doubts for Morris?
"Not as much as … if we would've prepared for every Patriot blitz and done all our walkthroughs," he said. "Some of it was on the quarterback for not telling the back who to (block). … I was not as disappointed as … if you would've come out in Week 1 and that happened."
Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected]