Fans at Gillette Stadium welcomed former New England Patriots QB Tom Brady back to New England on Sunday, October 3rd. The rather warm welcome did not last long. Once the game started and the standing ovations were over, it was all down to business. Fans rallied their support behind rookie Mac Jones, who ended up having a more than impressive night against the seven-time Super Bowl winner. Most assumed that Tom Brady would return to what was his home field for two decades and dominate over the rookie from Alabama. Brady’s new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, entered Massachusetts 2-1 for the 2021 season. The Patriots went into the game at 1-2. The hype surrounding the game was building for months prior to kickoff, and many were speculating on who would come out victorious in this historic game.
Tampa Bay would end 19-17 over the Patriots and would indeed get the win. Although, it was not the decisive victory most predicted. Jones played much better than anticipated, with 2 touchdown passes to tight ends Hunter Henry in the second quarter and Jonnu Smith in the 4th. The Patriots’ defense, which has noticeably struggled this season, played exceptionally well. The defense kept Brady from any touchdown passes the entire night. Though Jones did throw one interception in the 1st quarter, the aggressive defense held the Buccaneers to a field goal to start the game. Jones would complete 31 of 40 passes for 275 yards for the night while Brady would go 22 of 43 for 269 yards. New England had a chance at victory on a 56-yard field goal attempt in the rain by kicker Nick Folk. It would have put the Pats on top 20-19 with less than a minute left in the game. However, the veteran kicker heartbreakingly missed it as it bounced off the uprights to seal New England’s fate.
This game was said my many analysts and commentators to finally settle the debate on who is to credit for the incredible success of the Patriots during the Brady-era. Brady went on to win his seventh Super Bowl title with the Buccaneers in the 2020 season. It seemed to many that he was the driving force behind six New England’s Super Bowl wins under Brady, rather than Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots had a less than exceptional 2020 season with TB12s replacement Cam Newton, while Brady was continuing to thrive. Many fans thought Belichick foolish for letting the star go. The Bucs and the Pats had not gone head-to-head since Brady’s departure from the team before Week 4. This was the perfect opportunity to see who, the coach or the player, would come out on top when directly facing each other.
Many thought that the assumed Bucs win would be a substantial victory and would finally settle the debate over who made the Patriots the dominant franchise of the last twenty years. However, the extremely narrow victory keeps the debate alive and well.