FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — It wasn’t perfect. But for the New England Patriots, it was better than last season.

The Patriots opened the preseason with a 27-25 win over the Eagles on Thursday in a performance that was ragged at times — especially in the second half, after the starters were long gone – but at least means the Patriots won’t go 0-4 in the preseason like they did in 2008.

The big story for the Patriots was the return of star quarterback Tom Brady after he missed virtually the entire 2008 season after injuring his knee in the first game of the regular season.

At times, Brady looked like his old Pro Bowl self.

Coach Bill Belichick went into the game hoping to see Brady in the Pats’ two-minute, no-huddle offense, and he got his wish late in the second quarter on a 75-yard drive. It was vintage Brady, as he found the open man in a series of rapid-fire deliveries, finishing the drive with his second touchdown pass of the game to tight end Chris Baker.

Brady was 10 of 15 for 100 yards and an interception, an underthrown long ball to Randy Moss. It was the most Brady had played in a game since the Patriots lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl in February 2008.

“Tom did some things well,” said Belichick in a conference call Friday after reviewing game films. “He moved the team, got us in the end zone, delivered the ball on time accurately, for the most part. There are some things we can tighten up on … It was a good start, something he can build on.”

Belichick said on the first touchdown, Brady found Baker in man coverage after the tight end created some separation from his defender. On the second, the Pats’ offensive line picked up the blitz, allowing the pattern to develop and Brady to find Baker in the end zone.

Andrew Walter, picked up recently from the Oakland Raiders, took over for Brady at the end of the first half and second-year man Kevin O’Connell finished the game.

With starting wide receiver Wes Welker sitting out, rookie receiver Julian Edelman from Penn State put on a show. After a penalty gave him a second chance, Edelman returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, the first punt returned for a touchdown by the Pats since Troy Brown did it in the last game of the 2001 season. Edelman also returned a kickoff 24 yards and caught five passes for 37 yards.

“Julian’s good with the ball in his hands,” Belichick said. “He’s done that all throughout camp.”

Several other rookies had good games. Second-round draft pick Patrick Chung blocked a 44-yard field goal attempt by David Akers in the second quarter. Rookie defensive lineman Myron Pryor from Kentucky had two tackles and a sack as New England put some pressure on Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb in the first half.

“He’s learning a lot,” Belichick said of Pryor. “His techniques and fundamentals are good.”

Belichick pointed to the running game, a strength in 2008, as an area the Patriots need to improve. Twice the Pats failed to gain a first down in short-yardage situations in the third quarter and they finished the game with only 95 yards rushing.

“It (running game) wasn’t as consistent as it needs to be,” he said.

All in all, Belichick seemed satisfied, especially with his team suffering no major injuries.

“Looking at the film, there were a lot of positive things in all areas,” he said. “There are a lot of things we need a lot of work in.”

After taking Saturday off, the Patriots will return to training camp Sunday in preparation for their game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium on Thursday.

“We’ll put the same focus and emphasis on training camp and try to gain ground on the foundation we made against the Eagles,” Belichick said.


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