FOXBOROUGH- Many expected this game to be an instant classic before the game was ever played and it lived up to the high expectations and pregame hype.
Sunday night was labeled ‘The Return’ as Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback Tom Brady returned to his old stomping grounds at Gillette Stadium, where the former Patriot had made many memories and celebrated many championship banners being raised. Instead of coming out of the home locker room, Brady this time would come out of the tunnel as a visiting opponent.
In almost regular Brady fashion, he would calmly lead his team down for a game-winning kick and also get a bit of luck at the end. Ryan Succop hit what would be the go-ahead 48-yard field goal and Nick Folk for New England missed on a potential game-winning 56-yard attempt, lifting Tampa Bay to a thrilling 19-17 win Sunday night. The Buccaneers improve to 3-1 and face the 1-3 Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon Oct. 10.
Though it was a homecoming of sorts for Brady, he was cheered and booed when he came out on the field right for Tampa Bay’s first offensive drive. That and a driving rainstorm at times definitely affected the playing conditions for both teams, but seemed to specifically hamper what is usually a very potent Tampa Bay offensive attack.
It was the first game the Buccaneers had to play without the services of tight end Rob Gronkowski and it definitely showed a drop-off in red-zone efficiency. Tampa Bay made several trips inside of the New England 20-yard line and came away with field-goal tries. Only once was Tampa Bay able to come away with a touchdown and that was from Ronald Jones in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay’s primary tailback on the night would be Leonard Fournette, who had himself a big day on the ground and in the pass-catching aspect of the game. Fournette rushed for a game-high 91 yards, which was 90 more than what England rushed for all game long. The Patriots were held to -1 yards on the night, but they would rely much more on the right arm of rookie quarterback Mac Jones. Jones threw for a game-high 275 yards on 31 completions, finding receivers mostly underneath the entire night.
In typical Brady fashion as he had done so many times in his career with New England, he got the ball in position to kick a game-winning field goal but also had to endure watching if the Patriots could do the same to him. Jones led New England down the field in the final minutes and when faced with a 4th and 3 situation, the Patriots opted for the long attempt from 56 yards away. Folk’s kick bounced off the right crossbar and fell harmlessly down onto the turf, securing Tampa Bay’s third win on the season.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.