In a game that was closer and a lot lower scoring than most pundits (including our own here at WDAE), The Tampa Bay Buccaneers squeaked by the New England Patriots 19-17, in Tom Brady's highly anticipated and celebrated return to the Boston area.
Mac Jones had the chance to be the hero that Brady was over 20 years in New England, having the ball with under two minutes to go, and a chance to drive downfield for a winning score against Brady's new team. But Nick Folk doinked a 57-yard field goal attempt off the left upright to seal the win for the Buccaneers.
After a Dan Bailey 27-yard field goal put the Patriots up 17-16, Brady and the Buccaneers got the ball back with 4:34 left, and the Gillette Stadium crowd in a frenzy, but also nervous with the knowledge they've seen Brady come back so many times in the past.
And on their first play, Brady took a shot downfield, noticing a mismatch with linebacker Kyle Van Noy covering Leonard Fournette down the right sideline. The 31-yard pass interference penalty brought the ball past midfield, but a PI call against Mike Evans two plays later gave the Bucs a 2nd and 17. Evans atoned with an 11-yard catch, and on 3rd-and-6, Brady and Antonio Brown hooked up for an eight-yard completion. The drive stalled there, and Ryan Succop knocked through a 48-yard field goal to give the Bucs a 19-17 lead at the two-minute warning.
The Buccaneers dominated most of the first half, outgaining New England by 98 yards, and should have been in control early, with two drives deep into New England territory that only resulted in three points on a 29-yard field goal from Ryan Succop. He later missed a 35-yarder on Tampa Bay's third drive.
The Patriots capitalized on that miss, driving for the go-ahead score on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Mac Jones to Hunter Henry, capping an 11-play, 74-yard drive.
With that score, New England captured some momentum, Patriots defensive end Matthew Judon sacking Brady for an eight-yard loss on first down from the Buccaneer 37, and with fans in a frenzy, Tampa Bay could not muster much more after the sack, punting away to the Patriots with 4:54 left in the first half.
The Bucs then lost starting cornerback Carlton Davis to an apparent quad injury on a punt by the Patriots at the two-minute warning, an injury that the depleted Tampa Bay secondary does not need at this point in the season. On that drive, Brady led the Bucs down the field, and left them in position for a 44-yard field goal by Ryan Succop with 13 seconds left, cutting the Patriots' lead to 1 at the half.
Tampa Bay retook the lead on their third drive of the third quarter on an eight-yard run by Ronald Jones, following Ali Marpet on the right side for the score. But in what has been a concerning issue for the Buccaneer defense, the Patriots followed right back with a hurry-up offense, gaining chunks of yardage on screen passes and also taking advantage of the large cushion in zone coverage given by cornerback Pierre Desir, who subbed in after Davis' injury.
And on the first play of the fourth quarter, New England got the lead back on a one-yard toss from Jones to Jonnu Smith. Then it was Brady's, and Tampa Bay's turn for a drive of their own, taking a 16-14 lead on a 27-yard Succop field goal after a 15-play 68-yard drive.
In a foregone conclusion, Tom Brady broke Drew Brees' all-time passing yardage record with a 28-yard completion to Mike Evans with 6:10 left in the first quarter. The game wasn't stopped, and there was no kind of celebration, owing to the delayed official scoring of the play that confused even Al Michaels, play-by-play announcer for NBC Sports.
Next Sunday, the Buccaneers finally will play their first 1 pm game, hosting the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium. Pregame coverage starts on 95.3 WDAE at 11 a.m. with Tom Krasniqi and Michael Clayton with Countdown to Kickoff right up until game time.
Cover Photo: Getty Images