INDIANAPOLIS – Tom Brady made a succinct, strong statement in his brief preseason debut.
He's not rusty at all.
Five days after ending a planned, 11-day training camp break, Brady went 6 of 8 for 44 yards in the no-huddle offense and led the Buccaneers to a field goal on his first and only drive before watching the Indianapolis Colts' backups rally for a 27-10 victory on Saturday night.
“I’ve played a lot of football in my day — a lot of practices, a lot of games, and a lot of seasons," Brady said. "I’m ready to go.”
In his first interview since returning to practice Monday, Brady did not elaborate on why he needed time off. He used a profanity while saying there are many things he must deal with at age 45.
Still, football remains front and center for the seven-time Super Bowl champ and three-time MVP.
First-year coach Todd Bowles wanted to give Brady about 10 snaps. As usual, Brady surpassed expectations by running an 11-play, 66-yard drive almost flawlessly. He even converted a fourth down on the series, which had just one hiccup: settling for a 30-yard field goal.
It wasn’t just Brady under the microscope in this preseason finale.
Receivers Mike Evans and Julio Jones and running back Leonard Fournette all played, though they, like Brady, watched the final 55 minutes from the sideline.
“If you go up-tempo in the preseason, teams are less likely to pressure you,” Bowles said. "You’re able to get everybody involved early. We wanted everybody to get a good feel for the game and get in sync.”
Indy played most of its starters about one quarter and Matt Ryan, the 2016 MVP with Atlanta, led the Colts to the go-ahead score — a 1-yard TD run by Deon Jackson — on his final series before taking a seat in his first home appearance at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Good finish to the preseason,” Indy coach Frank Reich said. “We wanted to come in here and accomplish some things. We saw some things we wanted to see, got guys out.”
Tampa Bay retook the lead on Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s 1-yard TD run.
Without Brady, though, the Bucs didn't stay in front.
Phillip Lindsay’s 2-yard run gave Indy a 14-10 halftime lead and Sam Ehlinger’s nifty 45-yard TD run on the second play of the second half helped the Colts pull away as Brady and Ryan started contemplating the more challenging and meaningful matchups that now loom.
“I’ve known Tom for a long time and I’m always impressed with his consistency, his dedication to take care of himself, it’s amazing,” Ryan said. “He’s throwing it as good as he ever has and to me that’s incredibly impressive.”
Tampa Bay's biggest concern heading into the regular season will be protecting the 45-year-old Brady after the offensive line took two more hits Saturday.
Center Robert Hainsey (left ankle) and guard Nick Leverett (shoulder) left early and did not return. Bowles said both would have X-rays in the next two days but declined to speculate how much time, if any, they might miss.
Hainsey started Saturday in place of injured Pro Bowler Ryan Jensen, who was carted off the practice field on the second day of training camp. The Bucs also need replacements for recently retired Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet and guard Aaron Stinnie, who has a season-ending knee injury.
Backup safety Armani Watts looked as if he might win a spot on the Colts' 53-man roster — until injuring his right ankle on Saturday's opening kickoff. Watts was eventually carted off the field and did not return.
“It’s an ankle injury that’s going to keep him out for the year,” Reich said. “He’s going to have to have a procedure done. I don’t want to confirm all the details but it was a pretty significant injury.”
Buccaneers: While Evans didn't catch a pass, Jones had one reception for 20 yards. Fournette had two carries for 13 yards and one catch for 2 yards. ... Vaughn had nine carries for 36 yards. ... Blaine Gabbert was 5 of 7 for 46 yards.
Colts: Ryan was 5 of 7 for 59 yards and was sacked once. Backup Nick Foles finished 3 of 5 for 24 yards. ... Michael Pittman Jr. caught three passes for 29 yards. ... Indy's top two running backs, Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines, did not play.
Buccaneers: Open the regular season at Dallas on Sept. 11.
Colts: Visit Houston on Sept. 11.
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