From the moment the NFL schedule came out with the Buccaneers playing in New England, to the rainy night that ended with, of course, a win at Gillette Stadium, Tom Brady knew this would be very different.
He admitted to being excited to face the Patriots Sunday night in “a great stadium for me.” He mentioned the “Patriots-like weather” and the supportive crowd, for the home team, not the visiting quarterback. He even acknowledged how upsetting “the foghorn” can be that rallies the New England defense.
Oh yeah, he also appreciated a 19-17 win that was anything but a classic Brady, but it was good enough.
“These are people that I shared my life with and I am grateful for all that they contributed to my life,” Brady said. “I feel like I will always be part of the community.
“It was an emotional time thinking about coming here and playing. It’s a difficult football environment. The crowd was interested.”
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The seven-time Super Bowl champion, six with the Patriots, fought in the rainy conditions much of the night. He was booed, often.
Being Brady, he also won.
Brady took Tampa Bay on a 45-yard drive with the help of a 31-yard pass interference penalty, and Ryan Succop scored 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 to fit in with a spot where Brady won 135 of 158 games.
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“That was great,” Brady said. “It has been my home for 20 years. I have the best memories. My children were born here. It is just a great city, a great city, a great area. I love being here. I have many people that I have relationships with, but it was about It was about this team coming here to win. It wasn’t about one player. It was about our whole team going out on the road beating a good team. “
Brady threw for 269 yards, but the Bucs (3-1) scored just one touchdown, on an 8-yard run by Ronald Jones. With the game on the line, he watched from an unfamiliar sideline as Nick Folk had a 56-yard field goal off the left post in the last minute for New England.
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Brady then hugged dozens of his former teammates and coaches in midfield, a quick one with Bill Belichick, as the rain intensified and Gillette Stadium quietly emptied.
“My football journey took me elsewhere,” noted Brady, the ball with which he set the NFL record for passing yards by his side at a packed press conference.
Even when the Buccaneers quarterback set that record with a 28-yard complete pass off Mike Evans in the first quarter, there was a mixture of cheers and applause along with the boos. The 44-year-old Brady reached 80,359 yards through the air and then called for a timeout before the next play, although no announcement had been made about the establishment of the mark. That happened during the waiting time.
Succop’s first of four field goals came a few plays later, after Brady missed a pair of shots, giving Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead. By halftime in steady rain, Brady looked normal in the highly charged atmosphere, and defending champion Tampa Bay trailed 7-6. Brady was 15 of 27 for 182 yards, with some completions and as many shots.
Despite rising expectations and hype, this was not a classic. In fact, when Brady was caught by Matt Judon in the second quarter, the crowd went wild.
Brady completed two passes on the Buccaneers’ first drive before they stopped and cleared. He stoically made his way to the sideline, on the opposite side of the field from where he usually established himself as a Patriot, with little reaction to taunting from fans. It was like that for most of the game.
However, he led the Bucs to scoring range on his next possession, also beating Drew Brees’ passing record.
“A quarterback doesn’t throw and catch the ball,” he said with a smile. “You have to catch the passing yards. I hope everyone who catches my passes has a smile on their face.”
Brady has now beaten all 32 NFL teams, matching an achievement by Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Brees.
During warm-ups, with chants of “BRADY, BRADY, BRADY!” in a half-full Gillette Stadium, he knew exactly where he was, of course. He did his usual “Let’s Go,” pumping fists after running the entire sideline. The crowd responded with cheers as Brady hugged New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels before heading to the other end of the field to warm up.
Belichick came out in the middle of the pregame warm-ups, but didn’t get close to Brady. They met after the game.
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Earlier, there was a long, seemingly warm hug 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 seemed comfortable heading into a locker room he was unfamiliar with.
Not that anything should have seemed close to normal for the most anticipated game of the NFL opening season. Brady’s mediocre first half in rainy conditions added to the unusual scene.
The final score was much more typical of Brady in New England.
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