Brady leads Pats to 31-14 rout of Bucs

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Brady leads Pats to 31-14 rout of Bucs

By Jimmy Toscano
CSNNE.com

TAMPA BAY - Unlike last week, the stars came out to play for the Patriots Thursday night.

But just like last week, the Pats crushed the opponent early and often.

Summary and statistics

The Patriots, led by Tom Brady, scored three touchdowns on their first three possessions in the first quarter, and led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28-0 at halftime, en route to their 31-14 win.

And it wasn't even that close.

With the Bucs receiving first, the Pats defense took it to Josh Freeman and the Bucs offensive line -- and they took it to them hard.

It was Jerod Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Kyle Love, and Andre Carter putting tons of pressure on Freeman at the start, and the Bucs punted after three downs and just one yard.

Consider that foreshadowing.

That one-yard drive would be the Bucs' longest drive of the entire first quarter. The Pats defense literally pushed the Bucs backwards on their next three drives (negative-three, negative-seven, and negative-nine yards).

Finally, Tampa Bay got some positive yardage early on in the second quarter -- five yards -- before they punted again.

All in all the Bucs punted six times in six possessions in the first half, accumulating a total of just 35 yards.

The Pats, on the other hand, almost doubled Tampa's total first half yardage on their first drive.

Brady found a wide open Aaron Hernandez streaking to the end zone for the 16-yard TD, after a well-executed 64-yard drive started by Brady to Welker, and continued by a Danny Woodhead 29-yard run.

But that wouldn't be it for Brady and the starters. On the very next drive, Brady, rarely under much pressure, threw the ball six times, connecting on four, and hitting Chad Ochocinco on the third pass attempt between the two on an eight-yard TD.

With the Pats up 14-0, the hurt was just setting in.

A pair of BenJarvus Green-Ellis touchdowns would make it 28-0 at the half, and with the majority of the starters pulled for the second half, it was a job well done for the Pats in Tampa Bay.

Brady ended the night 11-for-19 for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Welker had 5receptions for 56 yards, Hernandez 3 catches for 42 yards and touchdown, and Ochocinco 2 receptions for 14 yards and a touchdown.

Steven Ridley led all rushers with 84 yards on 14 carries, while Green-Ellis added 51 yards on 11 carries.

As expected, Ryan Mallett took over for Brady to start the second half, and the results weren't great for the rookie QB out of Arkansas.

On his opening drive, an under-pressure Mallett lobbed a ball that ended up right in the hands of Buccaneers cornerback Elbert Mack. Mack took the ball to the house to get the Buccaneers on the board with 12.12 left to play in the third quarter.

On the night, Mallett went 9-for-14 for 71 yards and one interception in five drives with the Pats. They scored a field goal during his time as QB.

It wasn't until 9:34 left in the fourth quarter when the Bucs offense scored on a two-yard run by Allen Bradford that capped off a 12-play 84-yard drive.

Danny Woodhead rushed for 63 yards on five carries, but was hit hard covering a punt in the fourth quarter, and left the game with what appeared to be concussion symptoms.

The Patriots will play the Lions in Detroit next Saturday.

Secretary of Navy: Cardona 'may have to leave the Patriots' to serve

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Secretary of Navy: Cardona 'may have to leave the Patriots' to serve

United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus joined the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday to discuss new Ravens draftee Keenan Reynolds, a record-setting quarterback during his career at the Naval Academy. In so doing, Mabus hit on the uncertain status of Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona. 

"Right now we do have a process," Mabus said. "It hasn't got up to me yet to [decide on whether or not Reynolds will be eligible to play], but there are a lot of paths to both play and to serve. 

"We've got Joe Cardona, long snapper for the Patriots. He played . . . last year for the Patriots while he was on active duty because he was able to work them both out. Now he's been assigned to a ship, and he's going to report to that ship. He may have to leave the Patriots for a year or so to go fulfill that roll."

The playing status for individuals like Reynolds and Cardona is always somewhat uncertain given their commitment. Last season, Cardona was able to serve by working at the Naval Preparatory Academy during his time away from the Patriots facilities. Once his rookie season ended, he headed back to the Newport, Rhode Island-based school to work full-time and help mentor students there. 

Cardona was scheduled to make his way to Norfolk, Virginia later in the offseason and live there for about two months to participate in the Navy's Basic Division Officer Course, or "BDOC," which was required before he could report to his ship as a Surface Warfare Officer. From there, he was scheduled to travel to Bath, Maine, to work on the USS Zumwalt. 

"I'll get to work there and figure out a schedule that doesn't interfere with either of my jobs," Cardona said back in January following New England's loss to Denver in the AFC title game, "and hopefully be back on the field next year."

Cardona has long maintained that his job as an active member of the Navy is his top priority. Should his duties on the USS Zumwalt interfere with his long-snapping work with the Patriots, he could realistically sit out for the season. 

The Patriots signed veteran long-snapper Christian Yount earlier this offseason in a move that reminded those following the team that Cardona is not guaranteed to be available for 2016. Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich has long-snapped in the past and typically serves as the team's emergency snapper. 

Cardona was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft and played in all 16 regular-season games and two postseason games for the Patriots last season. 

Caserio: Wasn't the plan to aquire 2017 4th-rounder for Deflategate

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Caserio: Wasn't the plan to aquire 2017 4th-rounder for Deflategate

When the Patriots walked away from last weekend's draft, they did so with an extra fourth round pick to be used in 2017. That was especially noteworthy given that the Patriots will be docked a fourth-rounder next year as part of the Deflategate punishment handed down to the team by the league. 

But when Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio joined Sirius XM's "Move the Chains" program this week, he said they weren't dead-set on grabbing an extra fourth-rounder for next year. 

"Not necessarily," Caserio explained. "When you get into the draft, you're not really sure how it's going to unfold. You go into the process, you get yourselves prepared to pick whenever you're going to pick."

The Patriots traded down twice and up once during the three-day draft process. On Day 2, they traded the No. 61 overall pick to the Saints in exchange for picks No. 78 and No. 112, which turned into North Carolina State guard Joe Thuney and Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell, respectively.

On Day 3, Caserio and Bill Belichick made two more deals. First, they dealt two sixth-rounders (No. 196 and No. 204) and a seventh-rounder (No. 250) to Miami for the Dolphins' fifth-rounder (No. 147). Then the No. 147 overall selection was flipped to the Seahawks, along with No. 243, in exchange for No. 225 and a fourth-rounder in 2017. The Patriots eventually spent No. 225 on Arizona State receiver Devin Lucien.

"I don't think anybody had a master plan, like, 'This is how it's going to go,' " Caserio said. "I think you look at the draft, and you kind of assess where you are relative to the players you're going to pick. If you feel it makes sense to make a trade, then you go ahead and do it. If you don't, then you go ahead and pick.

"Like, we were prepared to pick there with that fifth-round pick [at No. 147] that we ended up moving. But the way it worked out, like, I don't any of us would've said going to the draft, like, 'This is how we think it's going to go.' "

The league's punishment for Deflategate states that the Patriots will lose the higher of their two selections in the fourth round for next year so it's unclear as to whether it will be their own fourth-rounder or Seattle's that will be erased. Either way, at least now they are scheduled to pick in the fourth round in 2017, whereas before the Seahawks deal they were not.