Tom Brady threw for a touchdown, Fred Taylor ran for a score and the Patriots cruised past Atlanta 28-10 in a preseason game Thursday night.
Welker, who had 346 catches over the past three years, played for the first time since tearing up his left knee in January during the regular-season finale. Brady got him involved right away, completing passes of 6 and 14 yards on the second and third plays against the Falcons (1-1).
New England (2-0) scored on two of its three possessions with the first-team offense. Taylor had a 28-yard run, and Brady passed 4 yards to Aaron Hernandez for a touchdown.
Atlanta has plenty of weapons on offense, but upgrading the defense is considered the key to challenging Super Bowl champion New Orleans in the NFC South.
This wasn't exactly a fair test. Cornerback Dunta Robinson, the team's big free-agent acquisition, missed his second preseason game in a row with an ailing hamstring. Two other potential starters, cornerback Brian Wilson and tackle Peria Jerry, also sat out.
Still, the Patriots had no trouble moving the ball against those who did play for the Falcons. Brady went 10 of 12 for 85 yards, though he did fumble on a hit by Kroy Biermann. New England recovered, and Brady got another shot when Chevis Jackson was penalized for knocking down Stephen Gostkowski on a 41-yard field goal attempt that was wide right.
Gostkowski apparently worked on his acting skills during the offseason. Jackson dove for the block and came up short of the kicker, who then fell over the Atlanta player while he was sprawled on the Georgia Dome turf. Falcons coach Mike Smith screamed in protest, but Brady and the offense trotted back on the field.