You may have heard already, but Tom Brady will face the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick for the first time Sunday night. After 20 seasons with the Patriots, Brady will be on the opposite sideline as a member of the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. It promises to be a surreal scene, as Patriots fans will choose to either cheer or boo their six-time Super Bowl champion.
Brady isn't the first iconic player to face his former team, though. Here are 11 other notable first-time games between NFL greats and their former teams. Some players had notable success in their first game against their former employer, while others were unable to get the better of their old team.
Ken Stabler vs. the Raiders
- 1980 wild-card round: Raiders 27, Oilers 7
- Stabler: 15 of 26 passing, 243 yards, two interceptions, seven sacks taken
Stabler faced his former team in the playoffs after leading the Oilers to an 11-5 record during his first season in Houston. Four years after helping lead the Raiders to the franchise's first Super Bowl, Stabler was swallowed up by Oakland's black hole. He was mostly victimized by Raiders cornerback Lester Hayes, who recorded two sacks and a pick-six that sealed the Raiders' first playoff win since 1977. Houston lost despite outgaining Oakland's offense and receiving 91 yards and a touchdown from running back Earl Campbell.
Lester Hayes pick 6 vs the #Oilers in the 1980 #AFC Wild Card.— Old Time Football 🏈 (@Ol_TimeFootball) January 22, 2021
He had 2 INT’s in the #Raiders 27-7 win.#Raiders pic.twitter.com/8hJX5IVhgp
The Raiders went on to become the first wild-card team to win the Super Bowl. Stabler played one more season in Houston before finishing his career with the Saints. He was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.
Eric Dickerson vs. the Rams
- Week 2 of the 1989 season: Rams 31, Colts 17
- Dickerson: 21 carries, 116 yards, 1 touchdown; 5 catches, 45 yards
One of the greatest players in Rams' history, Dickerson was traded to the Colts over a contract dispute during the 1987 season. Dickerson led the league in rushing in 1988, a year after helping the Colts make the playoffs for the first time since moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis. But by the time he faced his former team in 1989, Dickerson wished he was on the opposite sideline, he would admit years later. The Rams were led that day by receiver Henry Ellard, who caught 12 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns.
Los Angeles advanced to that year's NFC title game, where they were routed by the defending champion 49ers. Dickerson had two injury-marred seasons in Indianapolis before finishing his career with the Raiders and Falcons. He received a Super Bowl ring from the Rams after they defeated the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. Dickerson was inducted into the Colts' Ring of Honor in 2013.
September 10, 1989: Playing in just his 91st career game, #Colts RB Eric Dickerson became the fastest player to reach 10,000 RUSH YDS in NFL history, shattering Jim Brown's record of 98 GP. Dickerson still holds the NFL record to this day— Pro Sports Outlook (@PSO_Sports) September 10, 2021
Marcus Allen vs. the Raiders
- Week 5 of the 1993 season: Chiefs 24, Raiders 9
- Allen: 17 carries, 24 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch for 8 yards
The Super Bowl XVIII MVP resurfaced in Kansas City after a messy divorce from the Raiders. While his first game against his former team was not very good from a statistical standpoint, it was the start of a dominant run for Allen against his former team. During his five years in Kansas City, Allen went 9-1 against his former team. In Week 13 of the '93 season, Allen rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown while helping the Chiefs defeat the Raiders in his first game back in Los Angeles. Allen won Comeback Player of the Year during his first season in Kansas City. In the 1994 season finale, Allen rushed for 132 yards in helping Kansas City defeat the Raiders during their final game at the Los Angeles Colosseum.
The Raiders made the playoffs during their first season without Allen but won just 28 games over the next four seasons, bottoming out with a 4-12 mark in 1997. Conversely, Allen and the Chiefs made the playoffs four times during his five seasons in Kansas City that included a trip to the AFC Championship Game in 1993. Allen set a then-NFL record for career rushing touchdowns in 1995. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2012, Allen returned to Oakland to light the ceremonial torch in honor of late Raiders owner Al Davis.
For any of you who recently joined Chiefs Kingdom, this is MARCUS ALLEN, and ugh...he was pretty good 😝 pic.twitter.com/Ieax1aUiMs— CHIEFS HIGHLIGHTS (@ChiefsHighlight) March 25, 2020
Joe Montana vs. the 49ers
- Week 2 of the 1994 season: Chiefs 24, 49ers 17
- Montana: 19 of 31 passing, 203 yards, 2 TDs, 101.9 rating
Montana almost faced his old team in the previous year's Super Bowl, but the 49ers and Chiefs both came up short in the conference championship round. Eight months later, Montana finally got a chance to play against the team he helped lead to four Super Bowl titles during the 1980s. After the 49ers took the lead in the second quarter, three consecutive scores by the Chiefs -- which was jumpstarted by Derrick Thomas' safety of 49ers quarterback Steve Young -- lifted the home team to a seven-point win. Marcus Allen led the Chiefs with 114 all-purpose yards that included his third-quarter touchdown run. Kansas City's defense "held" Jerry Rice to 78 yards on five catches.
Joe Montana Kansas City Chiefs Vs Steve Young 49ers!! #SuperBowlLIV #SBLIV #LIVeItMiami #goniners pic.twitter.com/qitEGbbWh0— Kevin (@SfKittle) February 1, 2020
While he came up short that day, Young rebounded to win his second league MVP award. He also led the 49ers to the franchise's fifth Super Bowl win. Ironically, Young set a still-standing Super Bowl record for touchdown passes (six), breaking a record formally held by Montana. Montana led the Chiefs back to the playoffs before retiring that offseason. Both quarterbacks were inducted into Canton, Ohio in their first year of eligibility.
Deion Sanders vs. the Falcons
- Week 7 of the 1994 season: 49ers 42, Falcons 3
- Sanders: 93-yard interception return for a TD
After establishing himself as the NFL's premier cornerback with the Falcons, Sanders chose to sign with the 49ers over New Orleans, Miami, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Atlanta. Sanders helped turn the 49ers into the NFC's second-best team into the league's top team in 1994. He won Defensive Player of the Year that season after returning three of his six interceptions for touchdowns. One of those pick-sixes took place in Atlanta against his former teammates. Sanders had some choice words for his former teammates before performing his patented dance that drew the ire of Falcons fans.
Sanders played for two other teams during his Hall of Fame career. In 1995, he helped the Cowboys win their fifth Super Bowl and third title in a four-year span.
49ers-Falcons week 7, 1994: @DeionSanders returns to Atlanta for the first time and picks off Jeff George & returns it for a 93-yard TD! He stared down the Falcons sideline on his way to the end zone! 👀👀 pic.twitter.com/heGprcGzBE— Four Verts 🏈 (@FourVerticals_) April 23, 2019
Reggie White vs. the Eagles
- Week 3 of the 1994 season: Eagles 13, Packers 7
- White: 2.5 tackles
White's return to Philadelphia was significant in that he was the face of the NFL's first real free agency period. After a decorated run with the Eagles that saw him win earn two Defensive Player of the Year awards, White inked a four-year, $17 million deal with the Packers during the 1993 offseason. White earned his ninth Pro Bowl selection that year after tallying eight sacks for the playoff-bound Packers. His old teammates got the better of him during his first visit back to Veterans Stadium, though, as Packers quarterback Brett Favre was sacked six times and intercepted twice.
1994 the return of Reggie White to #Philly and the Vet.#FlyEaglesFly #setthetrends #aatbirds pic.twitter.com/k8IZ1ek2mw— All About The Birds (@AATBirds) June 2, 2021
Philadelphia missed the playoffs with a 7-9 record in 1994, while the Packers made the playoffs in each of White's six seasons in Green Bay. His three sacks in Super Bowl XXXI helped the Packers win their first Vince Lombardi Trophy in 29 years. White was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Jerome Bettis vs. the Rams
- Week 10 of the 1996 season: Steelers 42, Rams 6
- Bettis: 19 carries, 129 yards, 2 TDs
Bettis enjoyed a memorable first two seasons in Los Angeles before a coaching change ultimately led to him being traded to the Steelers during the 1996 offseason. Bettis' career was immediately revitalized in Pittsburgh, where he earned All-Pro honors while leading the Steelers to a division title. Bettis took no mercy on his former teammates in Week 10. He had two touchdowns that included a 50-yard run that erased prior questions about his ability to make big plays. Bettis would have rushed for more yards had coach Bill Cowher not decided to take him out with the Steelers enjoying a hefty second-half lead.
This day in #PGHistory: Playing the team that traded him - Jerome Bettis rushes for 129 yards and 2 TDs to help defeat the Rams 42-6. (1996) pic.twitter.com/2zHFP1jMSl— Pittsburgh Clothing Company (@PGHClothingCo) November 3, 2017
Bettis enjoyed a successful 10-year run in Pittsburgh that included a Super Bowl win in his final game. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015. The Rams eventually found Bettis' successor when they acquired Marshall Faulk from the Colts in 1999. Faulk was part of the Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf" offense that led St. Louis to the franchise's first Super Bowl title at the end of the '99 season.
Jerry Rice vs. the 49ers
- Week 9 of the 2002 season: 49ers 23, Raiders 20
- Rice: 6 catches, 74 yards
The NFL's greatest receiver was still chugging along at age 40. Two years after leaving the 49ers, Rice earned his first Pro Bowl selection since 1998 by catching 92 passes for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns. The season ended with Rice catching his record eighth touchdown pass in Super Bowl competition. However, his team did come up short in his only game against his former team. Terrell Owens, who caught a league-record 20 passes in Rice's final home game in San Francisco, caught 12 passes for 191 yards in the 49ers' win over the Raiders. Both receivers are enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Following the 2000 season, Jerry Rice was released by the San Francisco 49ers.— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) June 16, 2020
After just one day on the market, Rice inked a deal with the Raiders and instantly became one of the most memorable NFL legends to move on to a new franchise.
Emmitt Smith vs. the Cowboys
- Week 5 of the 2003 season: Cowboys 24, Cardinals 7
- Smith: 6 carries, -1 yards; 2 catches, 2 yards
The NFL's all-time rushing leader received a warm welcome from Cowboys fans when Smith trotted out for the opening coin toss. Smith's former teammates were less hospitable, however, as Smith suffered a shoulder injury that would sideline him for the next six games. The game was the start of a miserable 2003 season for Smith, who averaged just 2.84 yards per carry in 10 games. He finished his career on a much better note, however, rushing for 937 yards and nine touchdowns before retiring after the 2004 season.
The Cowboys made the playoffs in 2003 before stumbling to a 6-10 mark in 2004. Smith was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. Smith was inducted with former teammates Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2005.
Brett Favre vs. the Packers
- Week 8 of the 2009 season: Vikings 38, Packers 26
- Favre: 17 of 28 passing, 244 yards, 4 TDs
In one of the most-anticipated regular season games in league history, Favre was victorious in his first game at Lambeau Field as the opposing quarterback. While Aaron Rodgers countered with three second-half touchdown passes, he couldn't keep pace with his predecessor, whose fourth and final touchdown pass with 3:48 left put the game away. While Rodgers threw for more yards, he took six sacks while getting only 38 rushing yards from his running backs. Conversely, Favre wasn't sacked once while receiving 97 yards on the ground from Adrian Peterson.
Bonus Footage - Game 7 of 2009. Pam Oliver asked Brett Favre about the emotion of the win in a return to GB. Favre never removes his helmet, as though he is reminding the packers who he is with now. #vikings pic.twitter.com/CeoYbxgipt— VikeFans (@VikeFans) April 27, 2020
Minnesota swept the season series from Green Bay, who made the playoffs for the first time during the Rodgers era. The Vikings saw their storybook season end in heartbreak fashion against the Saints in the NFC Championship Game. Minnesota never found its footing in 2010, as the Packers swept the series en route to the franchise's fourth Super Bowl win. Rodgers captured Super Bowl MVP honors, while Favre retired after 20 seasons and a record 297 consecutive starts. Favre was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, a year after he entered the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.
Brett Favre had 1 of the best seasons of his career in 2009 with the #Vikings:— Pro Sports Outlook (@PSO_Sports) September 28, 2021
- 12-4 record
- 11th & final Pro Bowl
- NFC title game (final playoff GP)
- Career-low 7 INT (only year under 13)
- Highest CMP%
- Highest PASS RTG
- 1st QB to beat every teampic.twitter.com/dZZnwsp7DF
Peyton Manning vs. the Colts
- Week 7 of the 2013 season: Colts 39, Broncos 33
- Manning: 29 of 49 passing, 386 yards, 3 TDs 1 INT, 96.1 rating
Manning roared out of the gates in Denver, leading the Broncos to a 6-0 start. But after receiving a warm reception in Indianapolis, Manning was unable to get a win in "the house that Peyton built." While he helped rally the Broncos back from a 36-17 deficit, Manning's interception midway through the fourth quarter set up the Colts' final points that gave Indianapolis a 39-30 lead with about six minutes left. Indianapolis sealed the win when it recovered the Broncos' onside kick with 17 seconds left. While he threw for 158 more yards than Andrew Luck, Manning was sacked four times that included a second-quarter safety by Robert Mathis. Luck was sacked just twice while completing 21 of his 38 passes for 228 yards and four total touchdowns.
In Peyton Manning's first game against the @Colts, he threw for 386 yards & 3 TDs.— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) October 25, 2019
But it was Andrew Luck (228 yards, 3 pass TDs, 1 rush TD) who got the win to spoil Peyton's return to Indy. #Colts (Oct. 20, 2013)#DENvsIND: Sunday at 1pm ET on CBS pic.twitter.com/AOW3u14TVf
Luck led the Colts to an upset victory over Manning and the Broncos two years later in the divisional round of the playoffs. But one year later, Manning rode off into the sunset after the Broncos won Super Bowl 50. Manning was inducted into the Hall of Fame this past summer.
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