FOXBORO -- It was the type of play that Tom Brady and Kenbrell Thompkins would have been much less likely to execute at this time last year.
Their 15-yard hook-up for New England's first touchdown in Friday night's preseason game with the Eagles required both to see Philadelphia's defense through one set of eyes and react with the kind of timing that has taken a full season together to develop.
"That was a great play by KT to make that catch in traffic," Brady told WEEI on Monday morning. "[The corner] had his hands on him trying to jam at the line of scrimmage, and we were on the same page. He adjusted to that back-shoulder throw and made a great catch."
Working out of the shotgun on the left hash mark, Brady had Thompkins to his left outside of the numbers with Eagles corner Curtis Marsh up on the line of scrimmage in coverage.
One of the ways in which Thompkins has separated himself among Patriots receivers this preseason -- aside from the week-long stretch of incredible diving catches he made to open camp -- is that he has done a very good job of getting free releases off the line of scrimmage. Perhaps defensive backs are simply trying to be more cautious of picking up illegal contact penalties this summer while defending Thompkins, but the second-year receiver out of Cincinnati is quick at the line and decisive in his moves, frequently allowing him to get into his route unencumbered.
That's exactly what Thompkins did against Marsh here. He eluded Marsh at the line and chose to go straight up the field as Marsh maintains inside leverage, leaving Thompkins to work in a slimmer area of the field along the sideline. As Thompkins gets to the 10-yard line, Brady releases the ball having already recognized the coverage. Brady knows that if the ball is placed correctly, and if the timing is right with Thompkins, there will be little Marsh can do to defend it.
A full season with Brady under his belt, Thompkins knew what to expect. As he drifted toward the end zone he opened his hips to the middle of the field to find the ball on his back shoulder. He completed the catch as he fell into the end zone for Brady's first touchdown pass of the preseason.
"We've thrown enough balls to one another at this point that based on his body language, based on the technique of the DB, he has a decent idea of what I'm thinking," Brady said of Thompkins. "That's where the quarterback-receiver relationship really comes into play: anticipation. When we can really be on the same page like that, it's really hard for a defense to be able to stop those types of plays because he doesn't know if I'm throwing the fade to the back pylon, he doesn't know if I'm throwing the back-shoulder. When KT and I are on the same page, it's much more difficult to stop. He made a great catch in traffic that was a really big play for our team to get going the other night. We're gonna need a lot more of those over the course of the season, but that was a great place to start."