TAMPA — From his first snap to his last snap, Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman found himself up close and personal with the FieldTurf on Friday night at Gillette Stadium.
Freeman was dropped three times in his two series against the Patriots during a 25-21 preseason setback, but Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano defended his team’s physicality Saturday.
“I thought we played more physical than we did in Week 1,’’ Schiano said, referring to a 44-16 loss to Baltimore in the exhibition opener. “What we didn’t win were some 1-on-1 battles. I didn’t leave that game saying we got out-physicaled. There was a lot of good hitting going on that had a regular-season feel to it. Overall, I thought it was two teams hitting each other hard.’’
While the pocket collapsed all around Freeman, Tom Brady capitalized on clean sight lines in completing his first 11 passes.
“He’s a great quarterback, but we’d like to be able to do our job,’’ Schiano said. “If we do our defense right, maybe he still does that, but you don’t give yourself a chance when you don’t execute on the first drive. There were also some communication things ... our device wasn’t working great. It was a perfect storm in that first drive.’’
New England rolled up eight first downs in the opening quarter, compared to one for the Bucs, who played without recuperating Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph (knee) and Carl Nicks (toe) for the second consecutive week.
“They ran a couple of pressures and we got some matchups on our backs early,’’ Freeman said.
“We just have to find a way to overcome that. We’ve got to find a way to get everyone involved. I’m excited about this coming week. (The starters) are going to get a majority of the game, and that will get us back in the groove.’’
Schiano said he was uncertain whether Nicks, Joseph or CB Darrelle Revis, recovering from October knee surgery, would suit up Saturday night at Miami.
Schiano said it appears the Bucs came out of the New England game relatively healthy.
RB Doug Martin took a knee to the helmet late in the first quarter, but Schiano said he was fine on the plane ride home from Foxborough, Mass.
WR Tiquan Underwood (knee), CB Anthony Gaitor (hip) and S Keith Tandy (shoulder) also were forced to leave the game.
“I think it’s all minor stuff,’’ Schiano said. “But you never know. Initially, (trainer) Todd (Toriscelli) was not overly concerned.’’
An off night
Pass protection was a major issue for Tampa Bay’s offensive line early in the game — and RT Demar Dotson was no exception. Still, Schiano made it clear Dotson remains ahead of Gabe Carimi on the depth chart.
Carimi , who played for Bucs offensive line coach Bob Bostad at Wisconsin, was acquired from the Bears in a trade two months ago.
“Demar Dotson is having a very good camp,’’ Schiano said. “He’s our starting right tackle. Gabe Carimi is learning the system and getting better each day. Demar didn’t play his best game (Friday) night, but he’s ailing a little (leg) and he’s pushing through that.’’
Schiano said the kicking competition between veteran Lawrence Tynes and 23-year-old Derek Dimke should heat up again beginning Monday, when Tynes returns from a toe injury that has sidelined him for much of camp. ... Schiano singled out special teams and the running game as two highlight areas from Friday’s loss. ... The Bucs snapped the ball 41 times in the second half, compared to only 19 for New England.