By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports staff writer
NEW ORLEANS- In what was one of the most highly anticipated new arrivals to a team since Michael Jordan made his return in 2001 with the Washington Wizards, Tom Brady made his debut with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon.
Like Jordan, however, both 6-time champions will go down in the record books with losses to their name. Brady didn’t have the kind of game many were looking for, as the former New England Patriot threw two interceptions and two touchdowns as the Buccaneers fell 34-23 to the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Tampa Bay will play another NFC South rival, the Carolina Panthers, at home next Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Panthers (0-1) fell 34-30 to the Las Vegas Raiders in their home opener. The Atlanta Falcons also lost on Sunday, falling 38-25 to the Seattle Seahawks at home. Saints go into the week with some possession of first place in the NFC South.
Everything seemed to go smoothly in the Buccaneers’ opening drive of the game, as Tampa Bay went down the field 57 yards ending with a two-yard sneak score from Brady giving them an early 7-0 lead. The Saints marched down early in the second quarter, with Drew Brees connecting with newly re-signed Alvin Kamara on a 12-yard scoring pass. Tied up at 7-7 all, everything started to spiral out of control from there for Tampa Bay (0-1).
New Orleans’ next touchdown would be set up by Brady’s first of two picks he had on the day. Tampa Bay went into halftime trailing 17-7, which might have been 17-10 if not for a blocked Ryan Succop field goal attempt. When it looked like Brady’s turnover issues might have been done, Saints’ cornerback Janoris Jenkins took a pass back to the house and gave New Orleans’ a commanding 24-7 lead.
For the rest of the contest, Tampa Bay (0-1) would be playing from behind and despite getting the game to 24-17 at one point, the Buccaneers were not able to find the equalizing score they desperately needed. Brady would end his debut finishing 23-of-36 for 239 yards, with three total touchdowns. His favorite target on the day would be Chris Godwin, who had six catches for 79 yards.
The Tom Brady debut wasn’t exactly what fans envisioned it might be, but the team has gone through an off-season of major additions and are still trying to work out all the kinks. Many will want to see that happen a lot sooner rather than later. The defense seemed to keep up their end of the bargain, as Todd Bowles’ unit held Brees to 271 total yards of offense.
The problem was lack of turnovers being forced or sacks on Brees, with only one on the afternoon. Tampa Bay was one of the top teams in the NFL in 2019 in forcing turnovers. Now Bruce Arians and crew will have to get back to the drawing board quickly as Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers come into town and had a solid showing versus the Raiders.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.