By: Michelle Sabin
Sports Talk Florida
In the most highly anticipated regular season game, Quarterback Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took on the New England Patriots. Brady returned to play under the lights of the Gillette Stadium, for the first time in his career, from the visitor’s sideline.
It was an exciting game full of drama to the very end. The Buccaneers were able to escape with a 19-17 win after the Patriots missed a field goal in the pouring rain. Head Coach Bruce Arians said, “that was a hell of a good birthday present when that ball bounced off that upright. Thank you, Lord.”
Tampa Bay entered the game with several inactive starters, including former Patriot and Brady’s favorite tight end Rob Gronkowski who suffered a rib injury last week. The Bucs were also without linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and cornerback Jamel Dean.
In the first half of the game, Tampa Bay suffered another loss when cornerback Carlton Davis went down on a punt return with a quad injury. He was unable to return, which meant all three starting cornerbacks were on the sideline.
The Patriots took advantage of the weakened secondary, as Quarterback Mac Jones completed 31 of 40 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns. New England also utilized receiver Jakobi Meyers who completed two passes on trick plays for another 45 yards.
Despite the setbacks, the Bucs secondary did come away with several big plays and turnovers. On the opening drive of the game, rookie linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka landed his first career sack for a 6 yard loss.
In the second quarter, Shaquil “Shaq attack” Barrett brought down Jones again for a loss. Tryon and William Gholston had back-to-back sacks in the third quarter forcing the Patriots to turnover on downs.
Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. also had a big night with a forced fumble recovered by Richard Sherman, and an interception. In the first quarter, Mac Jones was under pressure from Devin White and threw a pass intended for Nelson Agholor. Cornerback Ross Cockrell got his hand on the ball to tip it to Winfield Jr. for the interception.
Unfortunately, the Buccaneers offense couldn’t capitalize on the turnover. Brady threw a deep pass to Antonio Brown for 29-yards, but it was followed by incomplete passes to Leonard Fournette and Mike Evans. Kicker Ryan Succop then missed his 36-yard field goal attempt.
It appeared the weather conditions and heavy rain had a big impact on the Bucs offense particularly in the red zone. Brady couldn’t connect with his receivers and the only Buccaneers touchdown came in the fourth quarter on an 8-yard run by Ronald Jones. Ultimately, kicker Succop was the leading scorer completing 4 of 5 field goal attempts.
Brady completed 269 passing yards on Sunday night, but the most significant were in the first quarter. On a 28-yard pass to Mike Evans, Brady broke the NFL record for most career passing yards. He surpassed retired Quarterback Drew Brees (80,358), and Brady currently sits at 80,574 total yards.
He said, “I just think it’s an amazing statistic and that so many people can share in it with me. Quarterback doesn’t throw and catch. Quarterback can just throw it. Passing yards have to be caught. I just hope that everybody who caught passes from me over the years just had a smile on their face tonight knowing that they contributed to a really cool record.”
The receivers on the Bucs offense can certainly share in that record. This includes Brady’s top targeted receivers on Sunday night, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown with 75 and 63 receiving yards, respectively.
Due to the unfavorable weather, the Buccaneers were also able to take advantage of running back Leonard Fournette who led with 91 yards rushing. Fournette said, “We didn’t expect it to rain as much . . .Everybody switched their cleats and gloves. And since it was rain, we knew it was going to be a ground game.”
In the end, it was an all out battle between the Buccaneers and the Patriots for four quarters. But it came down to one kick. With 2:02 on the clock, Succop made a 48-yard field goal to give the Bucs the lead 19-17.
The Patriots got the ball back, and Tampa Bay’s defense was able to hold them to a field goal attempt. With less than a minute left in the game, Patriots kicker Nick Folk (formerly a Buccaneers kicker) lined up for the 56-yard field goal attempt.
The ball hit the left upright and was no good. Tampa Bay escaped with the win and will return home 3-1.
The Buccaneers play the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James on Sunday.
The videos used in this story were provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Youtube channel.