FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Maybe the Bucs defense still didn't understand the rules. Perhaps coach Greg Schiano overreacted and his players thought the proper etiquette was not to hit the quarterback or contest passes.
After three days of practice and the close call to Tom Brady on Wednesday, suffice to say the Boston knee party was fresh in their minds.
Whatever the reason, the Bucs played a lot like they practiced, which is to say they offered little resistance against the Patriots quarterbacks and receivers during Friday's 25-21 loss at Gillette Stadium.
Brady, who sustained a sprained left knee two days earlier after tripping on left tackle Nate Solder following a bull-rush by Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn, showed no ill effects. He connected on his first 11 passes, including eight for 72 yards during the opening drive that ended with a touchdown.
Hoping to see improvement in a pass defense that was the worst in the NFL last season, the Bucs allowed 315 total yards in the first half, including 244 through the air. It's worth noting that tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David came out of the game after only a few plays.
"Whoever goes in the game has got to make the stop, and we didn't do it," Schiano said.
"Overall, we didn't come out playing very well to start the game. I thought guys continued to fight, and we missed a few things as well. But we've got to play better than we did in the first quarter."
Meanwhile, the Patriots took turns teeing off on quarterback Josh Freeman, who had his second straight uninspiring performance of the preseason.
Playing without guard Carl Nicks, who was held out for precautionary reasons while recovering from a toe injury, Freeman went 2-of-3 for 8 yards and was sacked three times.
"I have to find a way to get the ball out quicker," Freeman said.
"At times, you're trying to take shots downfield. Unfortunately, the thing with that is you commit so many guys to protection that you don't have underneath routes."
In two preseason games, Freeman is 6-of-10 for 42 yards and has been sacked four times.
"We didn't protect the passer very well," Schiano said. "Three sacks in two series, it's going to be hard to overcome that.
"You can't throw it if you're getting sacked. I thought the one play (a 4-yard completion) he stepped up nicely in the pocket and did what he had to do to keep the play going, and I thought threw a good ball. How do you judge a guy on an eight-play or six-play performance? We'll see. Next week, he'll play more, and we'll get a better picture. I think he's practiced well."
Rookie Mike Glennon, playing against the Patriots' second-team defense, led the Bucs to 18 points, throwing touchdowns to Kevin Ogletree and David Douglas.
But Glennon also telegraphed a pass to Derek Hagan that was intercepted and returned 53 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Logan Ryan. Hagan was partially at fault for not running a crisp out-route.
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Glennon finished 12-of-21 for 122 yards, a touchdown and the interception.
While Schiano has been stingy in his use of some starters on defense, it's worth noting the first unit has produced only one sack in two games; on a delayed blitz by David against Baltimore.
One thing that stood out Friday is the Bucs will have a tough decision to make at running back behind starter Doug Martin (who left the game in the first half after taking a knee to the head but said he did not sustain a concussion).
With Brian Leonard not playing, Peyton Hillis (18 rushes, 73 yards) and rookie Mike James (15 rushes, 81 yards) ran effectively.
Brady finished 11-of-12 for 107 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Mallett went 12-of-20 for 137 yards, including a juggling touchdown catch by tight end Zach Sudfeld after linebacker Najee Goode stripped the ball.
"Disappointed with mistakes," Schiano said. "Had we done our job and we got whooped, that happens. But (Brady) didn't have anything with us making a mistake. That's the problem."
Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud @tampabay.com and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.