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Kenbrell Thompkins steps up for receiver-needy Patriots in victory over Buccaneers

Tom Brady threw two touchdowns to rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins in a 23-3 win.Tom Brady threw two touchdowns to rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins in a 23-3 win. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady reportedly reached out to former Patriots receivers Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd, perhaps to gauge their interest in returning to New England. Brady may be feeling a lot less desperate after Sunday's 23-3 over Tampa Bay, which featured a pair of touchdown catches from rookie and preseason star Kenbrell Thompkins.

The Patriots were unable to crack the Bucs' defense until Thompkins' first score, midway through the second quarter. Brady and company actually heard some boos from the Foxboro crowd prior to that, as they failed to generate any offense early on the heels of an ugly Week 2 win over the Jets.

Thompkins finally delivered a little life when he somehow found himself matched up with Tampa Bay DE Adrian Clayborn on a crossing pattern. Brady hit an open Thompkins, who then juked Dashon Goldson to get into the end zone. The Patriots' QB then ran up and hugged his receiver, giving him an enthusiastic pat on the helmet.

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Thompkins added his second score just moments later, on a 2nd-and-goal from the 5. He had just one other catch, a 20-yarder, though Brady targeted him nine times. The TD grabs were critical, though, in helping New England move to 3-0.

Brady also received a much steadier performance from another rookie receiver, Aaron Dobson, who had three drops in that water-logged win over the Jets. Dobson finished with a game-high seven grabs, including a pair of catches to set up Thompkins' first TD.

"I think they've been working hard," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of his young receivers. "They've given us good effort every week."

The Patriots' schedule kicks up a notch starting next week, when they head to Atlanta. After that, it's a trip to Cincinnati and a home game against New Orleans. They expect to have tight end Rob Gronkowski back in the lineup for the game versus the Falcons, and receiver Danny Amendola should return at some point in the near future, too.

So things may finally be looking up again for the Patriots' passing attack, following a couple weeks of frustration.

An undrafted rookie, Thompkins really came out of nowhere this preseason to stand out as a possible key to the offense. Thompkins caught 15 balls in the preseason (eight in Week 3 at Detroit) and thrived during training camp. But his results -- six catches for 89 yards -- had been only average in Weeks 1 and 2. That he was able to find the end zone twice against a stingy Tampa Bay defense should do wonders for his confidence and, more importantly, Brady's faith in him.

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