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Belichick says Patriots still need to polish their game

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- If the third preseason game is like many feel, a test to see where a team's at for the regular season, then the talent-rich New England Patriots look ready to go.

Just not in the eyes of coach Bill Belichick.

Tom Brady completed 17 of 21 passes for 167 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, leading the Patriots (1-2) on three scoring drives in their best offensive showing of the preseason during a 24-7 win over Carolina on Friday night.

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The three-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Belichick, however, says the good statistics and what looked like well executed plays still need some polishing.

"First of all, I don't think anybody's ready to go," Belichick said in a conference call to reporters Saturday afternoon. "Everybody's getting better, everybody needs to continue to get better and everybody's got a long way to go. Coaching staff. Players. Our whole operation.

"We made a lot of strides in three weeks, but I don't think we're where we eventually need to be," he said. "I wouldn't put anybody in that category."

Laurence Maroney, playing his first game since offseason shoulder surgery, carried the ball on New England's first seven plays and finished with 15 attempts for 58 yards. Overall, the team ran its initial nine plays.

"To work on our running game," Belichick said. "If you want to work on the running game, you've got to call running plays. I don't know any other way to do it."V When asked if the team wanted to test Maroney, Belichick said: "We ran the ball throughout the whole game. It didn't matter who the back was in there. We wanted to put some emphasis on the running game so we did that by calling more running plays."

The Patriots' backs had 36 carries for 148 yards. Heath Evans also had 58 yards, on seven rushes, including a 2-yard touchdown. "Some of it was better and some of it, there's certainly room for improvement," Belichick said.

Maroney is expected to carry the rushing attack this season after the team released Corey Dillon during the off-season.

"After I got my little jitterbugs out of the way, everything started coming back to me," Maroney said after the game.

Brady, meanwhile, looked like his usual sharp self despite flying to Los Angeles Wednesday where his ex-girlfriend, actress Bridget Moynahan, gave birth to their son.

Brady's touchdown passes came on a 6-yarder to Marcellus Rivers and 8 yards to Heath Evans as New England opened a 17-7 lead. The QB played midway into the third quarter.

"The bottom line there's still a lot of things that need work on," the coach said. "Some of the things that went well statistically or looked like they were executed well in the game, still have to be cleaned up. We'll look at the tape and get ourselves cleaned up, the difference from some big plays and some not so big plays."

The Patriots host the New York Giants in their final preseason game Thursday.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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