TAMPA — The Bucs were not ready for the Patriots or Tom Brady.
Not the way the three-time Super Bowl winner quick-pitched their young defense during Thursday's 31-14 Tampa Bay loss before 49,313 at Raymond James Stadium.
Brady threw two touchdown passes and led scoring drives on four of New England's first five series.
But things were moving so fast and furious, Bucs defensive end Gerald McCoy said, it was like trying to play tag on a freeway.
"(The Patriots) come out, huddle, turn around, snap, huddle," the second-year player said. " 'Oh, there's the (middle linebacker).' Snap. I'm like, 'Dang! Hey, um, Mr. Brady, can we line up?'
"When we turned around one time, I turned back around and my hand was going to the ground. (Brady) was like, 'Hut!' I said, 'Nooooooooooo!' "
Thursday's performance wasn't what the Bucs expected from themselves, especially considering their 25-0 win at Kansas City in the preseason opener six days earlier.
But as McCoy said, it might have been what the Bucs needed.
"Last week gave us a false sense of security," he said. "We're good. We beat Kansas City. We're good. … No, we're not.
"You got a seasoned team that's won Super Bowls with this quarterback. Three of them. A Super Bowl-caliber team year in and year out. They had … the No. 1 player in the league at the most important position. We needed that, because we've got another guy up in Indianapolis who's going to come in here on a Monday (Colts QB Peyton Manning), and we're going to need that."
Trying to find a positive glimmer the Bucs can take from the game on either side of the ball is like mining for a diamond in the mud.
On the other hand, there's no shortage of dirt.
LeGarrette Blount couldn't run. Josh Freeman couldn't pass. The offensive line couldn't block. The defensive line couldn't stop the run or pressure the pocket. The secondary couldn't cover. Even reliable Connor Barth missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt as the first half mercifully ended with the Patriots leading 28-0.
By the time Freeman left the game with 5:42 remaining in the first half, the gap between the Bucs and the Patriots might have been as wide as the statistics. The Bucs were outgained 213-17 and outrushed 117-1. They allowed 11 first downs and produced one. And for bad measure, they had eight penalties for 65 yards.
The Bucs yielded scoring drives of 64, 61, 53 and 60 yards. Brady, a spectator in a 47-12 win at Jacksonville last week, performed bloodless laser surgery.
He went 11-of-19 for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Both touchdown passes came ridiculously easy. Aaron Hernandez, a former Florida tight end, appeared to run right past rookie middle linebacker Mason Foster for a 16-yarder. On the next drive, Chad Ochocinco got behind safety Sean Jones for an 8-yarder.
Meanwhile, Freeman didn't have enough protection from the offensive line to step into many throws. He finished 5-of-10 for 33 yards and was sacked twice for 17 yards.
"This isn't something you're going to question your abilities, question what you're doing as a team," Freeman said. "But at the same time, it's something that says, 'Hey, we've got to find a way to come out and be more sharp on the opening drive.'
"We wanted to get something going. But obviously, there's a big picture in mind. This game is not going to count for or against us in any way, shape or form."
To a man, Bucs players believed the Patriots did a lot more game planning than normal for a preseason game. Not that it mattered. Foster played into the third quarter, finishing with one tackle and an illegal hit on Ochocinco.
"Mason Foster, he needed to see Tom Brady," McCoy said. "He didn't need to see … (Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko). Now he knows the preseason is a glorified scrimmage. .
(First-round draft pick and defensive end Adrian Clayborn) came to me and said, 'Oh, my God. It was so fast!' I said, 'I know. That's what I've been trying to tell you. When the bullets start flying, that's the way it's going to look. So we needed that."