From the moment the NFL schedule came out with the Buccaneers playing at New England, to the rainy night that concluded with, of course, a victory at Gillette Stadium, Tom Brady knew this would be very different.
He admitted to getting emotional about facing the Patriots on Sunday night in “a great stadium for me.” He mentioned the “Patriots-type weather” and the supportive crowd — for the home team, not for the visiting quarterback. He even recognized how annoying “the foghorn” that rallies the New England defense can be.
Oh yeah, he also cherished a 19-17 victory that was anything but vintage Brady, but was good enough.
“These are people I shared my life with and I’m grateful for everything they contributed to my life,” Brady said. “I feel like I always will be a part of the community.
“It was just emotional moments thinking about coming up here and playing. It’s a tough football environment. The crowd was into it.”
The seven-time Super Bowl champion, six with the Patriots, struggled in the rainy conditions much of the evening. He was booed — often.
Being Brady, he also won.
Brady took Tampa Bay on a 45-yard drive aided by a 31-yard pass interference penalty, and Ryan Succop made a 48-yard field goal for a 19-17 victory. While most of the game was not a classic for the 44-year-old quarterback, the march to victory seemed fitting in a place Brady has won 135 of 158 games.
“That was pretty cool,” Brady said. “It’s been my home for 20 years. I have the best memories. My kids were born here. It’s just a great town, a great city, a great area. I love it up here. I have so many people I have relationships with, but this was about this team coming up here to win. This wasn’t about one player. This was about our entire team going on the road beating a good team.”
Brady threw for 269 yards, but the Bucs (3-1) scored only one touchdown, on an 8-yard run by Ronald Jones. With the game in the balance, he watched from an unfamiliar sideline as Nick Folk had a 56-yard field goal hit the left upright in the final minute for New England.
Brady then hugged dozens of his former teammates and coaches at midfield — a quick one with Bill Belichick — as the rain intensified and Gillette Stadium emptied in silence.
“My football journey took me somewhere else,” Brady noted, the ball with which he set the NFL career passing yardage record at his side at a crowded news conference.
Even when the Buccaneers quarterback got that record on a 28-yard completion to Mike Evans in the first quarter, there was a mixture of cheers and applause along with the jeers. Brady, 44, reached 80,359 yards through the air and then called a timeout before the next play — though no announcement had been made about setting the mark. That came during the timeout.
Succop’s first of four field goals came a few plays later — after Brady misfired on a couple of throws — and gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead. By halftime in a steady rain, Brady looked ordinary in the highly charged atmosphere, and defending champion Tampa Bay trailed 7-6. Brady was 15 for 27 for 182 yards, with a few pinpoint completions and just as many overthrows.
Despite soaring expectations and hype, this was no classic. Indeed, when Brady was sacked by Matt Judon in the second quarter, the crowd went wild.
Brady completed two passes on the Buccaneers first drive before they stalled and punted. He stoically headed to the sideline — on the opposite side of the field from where he usually settled as a Patriot — with little reaction to the fans’ jeers. It was that way most of the game.
He took the Bucs into scoring range on their next possession, however, surpassing the passing record of Drew Brees, too.
“A quarterback doesn’t throw and catch the ball,” he said with a smile. “Passing yards have to be caught. I hope everyone who caught passes from me will have a smile on their face.”
Brady now has beaten all 32 NFL teams, equaling an achievement by Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Brees.
During warmups, to chants of “BRADY, BRADY, BRADY!” in a half-filled Gillette Stadium, he knew exactly where he was, of course. He did his customary “Let’s Go,” fist pump after jogging the entire sideline. The crowd responded with its cheer as Brady hugged New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels before heading to the other end of the field to warm up.
Belichick came out midway through pregame warmups, but did not approach Brady. They met after the game.
Earlier, there was a lengthy and seemingly warm embrace between Brady and Robert Kraft, with the quarterback towering over the Patriots owner outside the visitor’s locker room.
Brady, who left New England in 2020 after leading the Patriots to those six Super Bowl titles, then won another in his first season with Tampa Bay, even appeared comfortable heading to a dressing room he was totally unfamiliar with.
Not that anything should have seemed close to normal for the most anticipated match of the early NFL season. Brady’s mediocre first half in the wet conditions added to the unusual scene.
The final score was far more typical of Brady in New England.
— The Canadian Press