FOXBOROUGH, Mass -- Tom Brady may have been wearing a different uniform, but the former Patriots quarterback was still able to keep up his winning ways at Gillette Stadium. In his first game back in New England since leaving the organization in the spring of 2020, Brady was able to help his Buccaneers leave town with a 19-17 victory. However, Sunday's version of Brady wasn't the quarterback we've seen through the previous three weeks of the regular season, who was averaging 362.3 yards per game through the air. If anything, Brady's performance against his former team was so-so.
And that's what makes it all the more maddening for Bill Belichick's club, who now know what the rest of the NFL had to deal with for the two decades while he was calling Gillette Stadium home. Even when you get a good punch in on Brady or if you get him when he's not on the top of his game, the seven-time champion can still pull a rabbit out of his hat in the form of a win.
Overall, the Patriots defense was able to find success against their former quarterback, who also seemed to come out of the gate a bit too juiced up for his homecoming as a number of his initial throws sailed ahead of his intended receivers.
New England held the defending Super Bowl champions to just six points in the first half and had them on their heels coming out of halftime, forcing back-to-back three-and-outs. In all, the Patriots only allowed one touchdown and four field goals against one of the more talented offenses that the NFL has to offer. As for Brady specifically, he completed just 22 of his 43 throws for 269 yards and no touchdowns.
By any measure, that's a heck of a night. Well, expect the scoreboard.
Despite being knocked off his game, Brady -- as he's made famous throughout his future Hall of Fame career -- was still able to find a way to win. In the face of the Patriots offense coming alive with Mac Jones completing 19 straight passes and helping the club jump out to a 17-16 lead with just over four minutes in regulation, Brady was able to answer by moving the ball 45 yards down the field to set up what proved to be a game-winning 48-yard field goal. At that point, the Buccaneers defense kept the Patriots at an arms length and forced them into a deep field goal try through the rain that came up short.
"He wasn't going to make any mistakes that cost us the game," Arians said of Brady's performance. "When we had to have field goals, he got us down the field."
That's why an aggressive approach in certain instances in the loss could have been the difference for New England in what proved to be a two-point game. One example came in the closing minutes of the first half when the Patriots elected to punt instead of going for a fourth-and-2 attempt or try a field goal. Rather than push for points, they gave the ball back to Brady, who quickly moved up the field to tack on three points before the break, which was a precursor to his fourth-quarter comeback drive.
Again, the Patriots more than any other franchise in the NFL are quite familiar with Brady, but they experienced firsthand that if you keep him within spitting distance of the win, he'll more often than not take it.
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