FOXBOROUGH — None the worse for wear after tweaking his left knee in Wednesday’s joint practice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom Brady came out and completed his first 11 passes in the Patriots’ 25-21 preseason victory Friday night at Gillette Stadium.
After playing just two series and completing 11 of 12 for 107 yards and a touchdown, Brady set the bar high for those who followed in the team’s second exhibition game.
Ryan Mallet seemed to cement his role as the backup, completing 12 of 20 passes for 137 yards and one TD, but the same could not be said of Tim Tebow, the iconic third-string quarterback, who fell woefully off the mark.
Tebow again struggled with his command of the offense and his passing accuracy when he attempted seven passes and completed just one for minus-1 yard. He was intercepted by Mason Robinson on a badly overthrown pass over the middle intended for Kenbrell Thompkins.
The crowd grew restless as Tebow’s command of the offense was glaringly lacking. The Patriots went punt, punt, interception, punt on the first four series he directed.
Although he was graceful under the firing line of his postgame media inquisition, Tebow seemed to reach his point of frustration.
“Yeah, I think any competitor does,’’ he admitted. “You want to try and score every time you get the ball. You want to make every throw. You want to get your team into the right call every play. It’s the competitor in you to do your best and play to the best of your ability and have it all go right.
“Sometimes it doesn’t. You just have to keep going.’’
Certainly, his sub-par performance gave Tebow’s detractors even more ammunition. They no doubt will intensify their pressure on the Patriots to cut their losses and release Tebow.
How does he block it all out?
“Just worry about what I can control,’’ he said. “Not listening to the outside influences and worrying about what I can’t control. It’s my attitude and my effort and getting better every day and just staying focused.’’
At some point, however, Tebow is going to have to prove — to himself and those who have given him this opportunity — that he can indeed be an NFL quarterback. But Friday’s performance provided little evidence of that.
Asked how he rated his performance, Tebow said, “There were some things I did well and other things have got to get better and improve. I’ll just look at the film.’’
When he does, Tebow will no doubt recognize he has a long way to go before he can play the position the way the Patriots demand their quarterbacks to play.
Coach Bill Belichick needs his quarterbacks to beat the opposition with their heads and their arms, not just their legs. Tebow had six carries for 30 yards, including a long gain of 12 yards to the Buccaneers 13.
Asked what he needed to do better in the next couple of weeks, Tebow said, “I think in every phase. Just learning the offense and understanding the offensive decision-making, timing, all those areas.
“Just trying to be consistent in every area.’’
After getting the Patriots inside the red area, Tebow was forced to suffer one final indignation when he took a 5-yard delay-of-game penalty coming out of the two-minute warning, then was asked twice to take a knee to ice the game.
Tebow chuckled when asked if he would’ve loved to have taken one last shot at the end zone.
“I think any competitor would,’’ he said. “But you also try to show good sportsmanship.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.