FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – If they came to see vintage Tom Brady, that’s not what the much-anticipated return to Gillette Stadium turned out to be.
Except at the end.
Brady, dogged by misfires and unfinished drives throughout the game, showed the old faithful that for good measure he can still lead his team to a game-winning drive in crunchtime.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers survived a major scare – and Brady a major embarrassment – by pulling out a 19-17 victory against the New England Patriots on Sunday night.
“Pretty surreal,” Brady said in his postgame interview on NBC of the experience. “It’s an amazing organization they have and so many great guys that have been friends for a long. What a great game. They have a really good football team and made us earn it. We didn’t do much in the red (zone). Our guys really fought it out.”
What blowout? Projections that Brady might hang 50 on his former teammates in his return to his old stomping grounds proved to be way off-base.
Instead, Bill Belichick & Co. made TB12 sweat. Majorly.
The Patriots (1-3) came with gadget plays, exotic blites and a minimal-mistake performance from rookie quarterback Mac Jones to push the Bucs (3-1) to the edge.
Sure, Brady became the NFL’s all-time leader for passing yards (surpassing Drew Brees’ record) and became just the fourth quarterback ever to notch victories against all 32 NFL teams. But he was nearly upstaged by a rookie and had his least-efficient game of the season. For just the second time since he joined the Bucs in 2020 as a free agent, Brady didn’t throw a touchdown.
But he won. Again. The Bucs took their final lead on Ryan Succop’s 48-yard field goal with 1:57 on the clock, capping a 7-play, 45-yard drive.
Brady finished with 269 passing yards (24 of 38) and a passer rating of 70.8.
The was sealed, though, when a 56-yard field goal try by Nick Folk hit the left upright and was no good with 56 seconds to play.
Whew. What a way for Brady to register his 156th victory at Gillette Stadium.
“This has been my home for 20 years,” Brady said. “I have the best memories. … But this was about our this team coming up here to win. This wasn’t about one player. This was about our entire team to go on the road and beat a good team, which we did today.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.