FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Playing at Gillette Stadium as a visitor wasn’t the only big change for Tom Brady on Sunday night.
The seven-time Super Bowl champion, six times with the Patriots, fought in the rainy conditions for most of the evening. He was booed – often.
As Brady, he also won.
Brady captured Tampa Bay on a 45-yard drive backed by a 31-yard pass interference penalty, and Ryan Succop scored a 48-yard field goal for a 19-17 win. While most of the game wasn’t a classic for the 44-year-old quarterback, the march to victory seemed appropriate in a place where Brady won 135 out of 158 games. “That was pretty cool,” said Brady. “It has been my home for 20 years. I have the best memories. My children were born here. It’s just a great city, a great city, a great area. I love it up here. I have so many people that I have relationships with but this was about this team coming here to win. It wasn’t about a player. It was about our entire team taking to the streets and beating a good team. “
Brady threw for 269 yards, but the Bucs (3-1) scored just one touchdown on an 8-yard run by Ronald Jones. With the game balanced, he watched from an unfamiliar sideline as Nick Folk hit a 56-yard field goal against the left-right side in the last minute for New England.
Brady then hugged dozens of his former teammates and coaches in midfield – one quicker with Bill Belichick – as the rain picked up and Gillette Stadium silently emptied.
Despite rising expectations and hype, this wasn’t a classic. There weren’t many personal highlights for the returning hero. When Brady was fired by Matt Judon in the second quarter, the crowd went wild. Even when the Buccaneers quarterback set the record in the first quarter for yards lost to Mike Evans in a 28-yard graduation career, there was a mixture of cheers and applause in addition to the mockery. Brady, 44, reached 80,359 meters through the air.
Brady, who left New England in 2020 after leading the Patriots to those six Super Bowl titles and then winning another in his first season with Tampa Bay, even seemed comfortable getting into a locker room went with whom he was completely unfamiliar.
Not that anything should seem anywhere near normal for the most anticipated game of the early NFL season. Brady’s mediocre first half in the wet conditions added to the unusual scene.
Hundreds of fans wore the # 12 Patriots jerseys in the parking lots, and there were also a few Buccaneers Brady jerseys. Josh Nelson of Burrillville, Rhode Island went for the split look.
“He’s a great guy. I’ve always been a fan of Tom Brady, ”said Nelson, who has been a season ticket holder for over seven years. “The memories of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, we cannot forget this success.”
When asked why he was wearing the New England / Tampa Bay jersey, Nelson laughed and replied, “I was looking for it.”
Devon Poduje, 20, of West Hartford, Connecticut, who attended the University of Maryland and pulled up for the return of the hero, rocked a new Bucs No. 12 jersey while her 13-year-old sister Tiegan in the traditional Patriots shirt. The entire family was split over who would win – 3-2 in favor of the hosts – but they all realized they were expecting a rousing reception for Brady.
That means before kick-off. And they were right.
“That worked really well when he went to Tampa,” said Devon, noting that the family’s NFC team were the Bucs. “And then to win the Super Bowl.”
Knowing Brady was banned from breaking Brees’ NFL record for yards, she said he would get an “absolute standing ovation” for doing so.
Her sister Riley added, “He laid out most of these yards here.”
But the response when it happened was overwhelming.
Another fan in Buc’s guise, Brody Swanson from Mapleton, Utah, had flown in for the game – and is not a fan of either team. His favorites are the raiders. But he bought the Brady jersey on Saturday to be part of “history”.
Elaina Roundy, also from Mapleton, noted that “everyone bought Brady jerseys from the Patriots’ store” and that she often flew to games he was playing.
“You can’t boo a legend,” she said.
Well, tonight in Foxborough they could.