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Half-jerseys were the image of the day as many of the New England faithful wore a Pats jersey mixed with a Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey as a tribute to the 44-year-old undisputed G.O.A.T. — Tom Brady — and his six Super Bowl wins in Foxborough. Brady returned to face his former team of 20 seasons, a reunion that felt long overdue.
The stage was already set by the long-awaited matchup between head coach Bill Belichick and Brady, the nucleus of Belichick’s success, but accompanying that storyline was the fact that Brady was nearly guaranteed to eclipse Drew Bress’ all-time NFL passing yards record during the game.
Brady needed only the first six minutes of the game and a 28-yard reception by Mike Evans to hit the record (80,358). He needed just over 59 minutes and a failed FG attempt to seal a 19-17 victory against the Patriots, now led by Mac Jones.
Jones, a product of Alabama, held his own against Brady. He completed an impressive 31-of-40 passes and threw two touchdowns and one interception. An efficient, albeit green, response from Jones all evening forced Brady’s Buccaneers to orchestrate a crucial drive with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. They were down one point, 17-16, before Ryan Succop hit a 48-yard field goal to take the lead, 19-17.
Mac Jones got the ball back on the New England 20 yard line with 1:57 to go in the game, and he made a noble effort to set up kicker Nick Folk for a game-winning 56-yard score. Folk made the distance on a brisk, rainy Foxborough evening, but the ball cruised slightly left, hit the upright and missed.
“You could hear the doink,” said broadcaster Al Michaels. “Some doinks are better than others.” His colleague Cris Collinsworth dubbed the matchup “unbelievable.”
The student had overtaken his mentor, and Brady and Belichick met for the requisite post-game handshake. Belichick was cordial, while Brady likely had hoped for a warmer reunion with his former coach.
The Bucs have now won their third game (3-1), while the Patriots find themselves with an uncharacteristic 1-3 record. Belichick and the Pats travel to Houston for a potential bounce-back performance against the Texans (3-1) in Week 5. The Bucs will host the Dolphins (1-3) in Tampa.
Follow along on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela