FOXBORO, Mass. — Playing as a visitor at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night wasn’t the only big change for Tom Brady.
Being Brady, he also won.
Brady aided by a 31-yard pass interference penalty on a 45-yard drive to Tampa Bay, and Ryan Sukop scored a 48-yard field goal for the 19-17 victory. While most games weren’t classic for the 44-year-old quarterback, the march to victory seemed fitting in a place where Brady has won 135 of 158 games.
Brady threw for 269 yards, but the Bucs (3-1) scored only one touchdown by Ronald Jones for 8 yards. With the game in balance, he watched from an unfamiliar edge as Nick Folk hit a 56-yard field goal for New England straight to the left in the final minute.
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 emptied into silence.
Despite the rising expectations and hype, this was no classic. There weren’t a lot of personal characteristics for the returning hero. In fact, when Brady was dismissed by Matt Juden in the second quarter, the crowd went into a tizzy.
Even when the Buccaneers quarterback set the record for yards in a career when he completed a 28-yard knock off Mike Evans in the first quarter, there was a mix of cheers and applause. 44-year-old Brady rushed 80,359 yards through the air and then called a timeout before the next game – although no announcement was made about the mark setting. He came during the timeout.
Ryan Sukop’s field goal gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead after a few plays – after Brady misfired a couple of throws. By halftime in incessant rain, Brady looked normal in a highly charged environment, and defending champions Tampa Bay trailed 7-6. Brady was 15 at 27 for 182 yards, with some pinpoint completions and as many overthrows.
After a friendly greeting to the quarterback during the pregame warmup, fans were in no mood to welcome him when the game resumed.
Brady completed two passes on the Buccaneers’ first drive, before stalling and punts. He moved firmly to the side – on the opposite side of the field from where he usually settled as the Patriots – with little reaction to the mockery of fans. This was the case in most games.
He took the Bucs into the scoring range in his next possession, however, also surpassing Drew Brees’ passing record.
During the warmup, to the slogans of “Brady, Brady, Brady” at the half-filled Gillette Stadium, he knew where he was, of course. He did his customary “Let’s Go,” fist pump after jogging the entire sideline. The crowd reacted with enthusiasm as Brady hugged New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel before warming up at the other end of the field.
Belichick came out in the middle of the pregame warm-up but did not approach Brady.
Before that, Brady and Robert Kraft had a long and heated embrace, with the quarterback holding onto 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, is comfortable even going into a dressing room. appeared, of which he was completely unfamiliar.
Not that the most anticipated match of the early NFL season should have been anything close to normal. Brady’s average first half in wet conditions added to the unusual scene.
In the parking lot, hundreds of fans wore No. 12 Patriots jerseys, and Buccaneers Brady kits were also rife. Josh Nelson of Burrillville, Rhode Island, went with the split look.
“He’s a classy guy. I’ve always been a fan of Tom Brady,” said Nelson, who has been a season ticket holder for more than seven years. “Memories of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, We Don’t Have That Success can forget.”
Asked why he was wearing the New England/Tampa Bay jersey, Nelson laughed and replied “I found it.”
Devon Podze, 20, of West Hartford, Connecticut, who attends the University of Maryland and drives for the hero’s comeback, was rocking a new Books No. 12 jersey, while her 13-year-old sister, Teigen, stuck with the traditional Patriot shirt. The whole family was divided over who would win – 3-2 in favor of the hosts – but everyone noted that they expected a grand reception for Brady.
Before kickoff, that is. And they were right.
“It works really well with going to Tampa,” Devon said, noting the family’s NFC team has been the Books. “And then winning the Super Bowl.”
Knowing that Brady was a lock to break Breeze’s NFL record for yard passing, he said he would get “absolutely a standing ovation” when he did.
Her sister Riley said: “She set up most of those yards here.”
Yet when it did the reaction was overwhelming.
Another fan disguised as Books, Brody Swanson of Mapleton, Utah, came to the game—and is not a fan of either team. His favorite are raiders. But he bought a Brady jersey on Saturday to be part of “history.”
Elena Roundy, also of Mapleton, said that “everybody was buying Brady jerseys” at the Patriots store, and that she often attended the games she played.
“You can’t boo a legend,” she said.
Well, this night at Foxborough, they could.
Two fans who were willing to pay big bucks for tickets, but were lucky not to have to pay four points, expected a “crazy” atmosphere throughout the night.
CJ Dalton of Rindge, New Hampshire, said he would be on his feet for Brady until kickoff.
“It’s all Patriots once the game starts,” he said.
AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower contributed.
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