FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady and his young receivers made significant progress and the New England Patriots dominated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-3 Sunday at Gillette Stadium to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 2007.
Brady threw two touchdowns to Kenbrell Thompkins and hit Aaron Dobson seven times as the Patriots topped the Buccaneers. The rookie wide receivers and Brady weren't perfect. There were still dropped passes, wrong routes run and missed throws, but Brady went 25-for-36 for 225 yards, two touchdowns and an interception (in the Tampa end zone).
Thompkins, who scored his first two career touchdowns, caught three passes for 41 yards and veteran Julian Edelman made seven catches for 44 yards.
Running back Brandon Bolden, playing for the first time this season after recovering from a knee injury, ripped off a 46-yard run in the third quarter, finished with 51 yards rushing and caught five passes for 49 yards. Fellow running back LeGarrette Blount was featured in the fourth quarter, finishing with a team-high 65 rushing yards.
The Buccaneers scored first -- a 30-yard Rian Lindell field goal -- before the Patriots surged ahead on Thompkins' two second-quarter scores.
The Buccaneers, who believe they have two No. 1-caliber wide receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, didn't have a counter for the Patriots and the rift became head coach Greg Schiano and quarterback Josh Freeman might have widened. In the third quarter, backup quarterback Mike Glennon began warming up on the sideline but he didn't enter the game. Both Jackson and Williams were felled by injuries.
Aqib Talib, playing against his old team, intercepted Freeman with 17 seconds left in the first half, setting up a 53-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal as time expired. A second-effort run after a catch by tight end Michael Hoomanawanui set up Gostkowski 46-yard field goal in the third quarter and Gostkowski also kicked a 33-yarder.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski (arm, back) and wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin) were still out for New England, although Gronkwoski may play next week at Atlanta. Amendola could be out longer.
The Bucs, who lost heartbreakers in each of their first two games, have lost eight of their last nine dating back to last season.
Freeman, who came in 31st in the league in passing (Brady was 21st) did some good things early but then fell apart. He finished 19-for-41 236 yards and the one pick. Running back Doug Martin ran for 88 yards.
Jackson, the team's top receiver, caught three passes for 34 yards before leaving with a rib injury.
NOTES: Brady's first TD pass to Thompkins gave Brady 51 straight games with a touchdown pass, three games shy of owning that NFL record. ... Dashon Goldson, whose one-game suspension was turned into a $100,000 fine, played and wasn't a factor. ... ESPNBoston reported the Patriots signed DE Rob Ninkovich to a contract extension through 2016. ... Reports were floating that had Brady, hungry for receivers, text messaging former receivers Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd. ... The win was Bill Belichick's 208th, leaving him two shy of passing Chuck Noll into fifth place on the all-time NFL list. ... Due to the relationship between Belichick and Schiano, these teams practiced together at the Patriots practice facility for three days and also played a preseason game. ... Gostkowski's 53-yarder at the end of the first half was his eighth career kick of 50 yards or more, tying Adam Vinatieri's club record. ... The Bucs host Arizona next Sunday. ... The Patriots are 3-0 for the eight time. ... New England has outscored Tampa Bay 86-10 in their last three meetings.