Tom Brady, Bucs Edge Mac Jones, Patriots in QB's Return as Nick Folk Misses Late FG

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIOctober 4, 2021

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game New England Patriots, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
AP Photo/Stew Milne

Tom Brady won 219 games as a member of the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, but he notched his first as a visitor Sunday as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the host New England Patriots 19-17.

Pats kicker Nick Folk faced a potential game-winning 56-yard field goal attempt with 59 seconds left, but his valiant attempt through the driving rain hit the left upright.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

PATS MISS 56-YARD FG TO WIN THE GAME 😱<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/MkfcRiMzcw">pic.twitter.com/MkfcRiMzcw</a>

The Buccaneers, who ran out the clock in response, took the lead on its previous drive after Ryan Succop knocked home a 48-yarder.

It was a dramatic ending, but this night was all about No. 12's return.

Brady played for the Pats from 2000-2019, leading the team to 17 postseason appearances, nine AFC titles and six Super Bowl wins. He also made 13 Pro Bowls and won three NFL MVP awards along the way.

The 44-year-old also surpassed ex-NFL quarterback Drew Brees' league record for career passing yards after finding wide receiver Mike Evans with a 28-yard strike in the first quarter.

He finished the night 22-of-43 for 269 yards and now has 80,560 career passing yards for the season.

Brady moved the Bucs to 3-1 with the win. The Pats fell to 1-3.


Notable Performances:

Buccaneers QB Tom Brady: 22-of-43, 269 passing yards

Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette: 20 carries, 91 rushing yards; 3 catches, 47 receiving yards

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans: 7 catches, 75 receiving yards

Patriots QB Mac Jones: 31-of-40, 275 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers: 8 catches, 70 receiving yards; 2-of-2, 45 passing yards

Patriots TE Hunter Henry: 4 catches, 32 receiving yards, 1 TD


Brady on Centerstage, But Fournette and Bucs O-Line Pave the Way

It would have been near-impossible for any sports fan to avoid talk or advertising leading into this Sunday Night Football game given the magnitude of Brady's return. That was coupled with the inevitability of Brady breaking Brees' career passing yardage mark.

There was a game to be played, though, and Brady did enough to give the Bucs a win on a night that wasn't exactly conducive to good offensive football.

The rain proved problematic for both sides, but Brady still led the Bucs on five scoring drives.

He fired a 28-yard strike to Mike Evans to break Brees' record and put Tampa Bay in field goal range too.


.<a href="https://twitter.com/TomBrady?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TomBrady</a> is now the all-time passing yards leader! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TheReturn?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TheReturn</a><br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TBvsNE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TBvsNE</a> on NBC<br>πŸ“±: <a href="https://t.co/50pf7DlJse">https://t.co/50pf7DlJse</a> <a href="https://t.co/p7nLvNJ1ru">pic.twitter.com/p7nLvNJ1ru</a>

He later floated a beautiful pass down the sideline to Chris Godwin to help set up the Bucs' second field goal:


Godwin's getting going. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoBucs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoBucs</a><br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TBvsNE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TBvsNE</a> on NBC<br>πŸ“±: <a href="https://t.co/50pf7DlJse">https://t.co/50pf7DlJse</a> <a href="https://t.co/BxHNvPanLq">pic.twitter.com/BxHNvPanLq</a>

Later in the fourth quarter, Brady found Antonio Brown for a crucial third down conversion to set up Succop's final field goal. 


TB to AB: 3rd down converted. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoBucs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoBucs</a><br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TBvsNE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TBvsNE</a> on NBC<br>πŸ“±: <a href="https://t.co/50pf7DlJse">https://t.co/50pf7DlJse</a> <a href="https://t.co/lz7VoX8cDX">pic.twitter.com/lz7VoX8cDX</a>

Despite those good throws, the Bucs' pass game did have its struggles, completing just 22-of-43 passes.

Thankfully for Tampa, Leonard Fournette wore down the Patriots defense, amassing 138 total yards on 23 touches. He was the team's engine as the Bucs struggled to connect consistently in the pass game.

The former LSU star proved to be a big factor on three of the Bucs' five scoring drives.

The initial one occurred in the first quarter as Fournette picked up 24 yards on an 11-yard rush and 13-yard catch. The drive ended with a 29-yard field goal.

He kept finding ways to get positive yardage, most notably when he started the Bucs' lone touchdown drive with four carries for 26 yards. Eventually, Ronald Jones II helped put the Bucs up 13-7 with an eight-yard run.

On the Bucs' next drive, Fournette had a huge 23-yard catch-and-run to set Tampa Bay up in field goal territory at the Pats' 25-yard line. Eventually, Succop knocked home a 27-yarder for a 16-14 edge.

It wasn't pretty for the Bucs, but they got the job done for their third straight win.


Mac Jones Impresses in National Spotlight

Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones had to deal with a driving rain and a ferocious Bucs pass-rush against a short-handed New England offensive line, but he still managed to complete 19 straight passes en route to an efficient 31-of-40 night for 275 yards and two touchdowns (one interception).

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Mac Jones completed 19 straight passes Sunday night. <br><br>According to <a href="https://twitter.com/EliasSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@EliasSports</a> that's tied with Tom Brady (9/10/2015 vs Steelers) for the most in a single game by a Patriots player since 1978 (1st season of the 16-game schedule). <a href="https://t.co/ICSSgOhWFL">pic.twitter.com/ICSSgOhWFL</a>

Jones wasn't exactly slinging the ball down the field, but he did what he needed to do against a Buccaneers secondary that started the game shorthanded and ended it with in-game injuries to Carlton Davis and Antoine Winfield Jr.

The ex-Alabama star stuck in the pocket and found tight end Hunter Henry for 11 yards in the second quarter:

New England Patriots @Patriots

Hunter in the end zone.<a href="https://twitter.com/Hunter_Henry84?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Hunter_Henry84</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ForeverNE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ForeverNE</a><br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/SNFonNBC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SNFonNBC</a> / Patriots app <a href="https://t.co/F9Z9PbyQDE">pic.twitter.com/F9Z9PbyQDE</a>

In the third quarter, Jones evaded the Bucs' pass rush to find Damien Harris, who scampered for 21 yards:

New England Patriots @Patriots

Add a few broken tackles for <a href="https://twitter.com/DHx34?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DHx34</a>.<br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/SNFonNBC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SNFonNBC</a> / Patriots app <a href="https://t.co/aTlRbMYsgm">pic.twitter.com/aTlRbMYsgm</a>

The rookie also sold this fake well before hitting Jonnu Smith for a one-yard score to cap that drive:

New England Patriots @Patriots

Easy money.<a href="https://twitter.com/Easymoney_81?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Easymoney_81</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ForeverNE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ForeverNE</a> <br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/SNFonNBC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SNFonNBC</a> / Patriots app <a href="https://t.co/1AX137HTN7">pic.twitter.com/1AX137HTN7</a>

It wasn't all pretty for Jones, who forced this pass that eventually landed in Winfield's hands:


Antoine Winfield Jr. intercepts the tipped pass! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoBucs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoBucs</a><br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TBvsNE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TBvsNE</a> on NBC<br>πŸ“±: <a href="https://t.co/50pf7DlJse">https://t.co/50pf7DlJse</a> <a href="https://t.co/t2tch0CEe7">pic.twitter.com/t2tch0CEe7</a>

However, Jones was impressive considering all the dramatics surrounding this regular-season game given Brady's return. The spotlight shone bright on Jones, and went toe-to-toe with Brady. 

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians praised Jones postgame:

Karen Guregian @kguregian

Bruce Arians on Mac Jones : β€œHe played his tail off. He gave his team a chance to win.” <a href="https://t.co/BesMviQevn">pic.twitter.com/BesMviQevn</a>

Dane Brugler of The Athletic also gave Jones credit for his efforts:

Dane Brugler @dpbrugler

In college, Mac Jones' awareness was heightened in the big games and on money downs. Always intensely competitive, but with a steady heart beat.<br><br>Jones showed that tonight on an emotion-filled stage. Impressive showing by the rookie.

The Patriots may be just 1-3 through four games, but Jones' performance Sunday certainly provides encouragement for the future.


What's Next?

Both teams will play on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

The Bucs will host the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium, and the Patriots will visit the Houston Texans in NRG Stadium.