The first (and maybe only) on-field Brady vs. Bill battle did not disappoint, as the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers battled to the bitter end at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night.
And in a game that went down to the wire, a left-upright boink from Nick Folk on a 56-yard field goal attempt was the miss that paved the way for the Bucs to come out on top in a 19-17 final.
In a game that saw the teams trade body blows and mistakes at what felt like a comparable rate, the Patriots found themselves in a spot they were familiar with but from a different perspective: Protecting a lead against Brady’s offense with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The drive featured some classic Brady Brain, as he picked on Kyle Van Noy in pass coverage and then took advantage of a cold Justin Bethel to drive down the field and burn more clock.
But after two straight incompletions intended for Brown in the endzone, the Bucs were forced to settle for a field goal from Ryan Succop once again, which gave the Patriots the ball with 1:57 left in the game.
Helped by a defensive pass interference and a couple of key grabs in a must-win spot, the Patriots found themselves facing a fourth-and-three with less than a minute to go. But rather than go for it with a rolling Mac Jones, the Patriots opted to go for a 56-yard field goal from Nick Folk, which had enough distance but ultimately clanged off the upright for the loss.
But long before that, this contest started off with a first-half effort not many could have predicted based on what they’ve seen through the first three weeks of the new season, too, as the Patriots kept Brady and the rest of the vaunted Tampa Bay offense out of the endzone on their first five drives of the night.
In addition to the defensive effort that held the Buccaneer offense to two field goals in the opening 30 minutes of action, the Patriots put forth a gutsy, 11-play and 74-yard scoring drive capped by a Hunter Henry touchdown grab.
Hunter in the end zone.@Hunter_Henry84 | #ForeverNE— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 4, 2021
📺: @SNFonNBC / Patriots app pic.twitter.com/F9Z9PbyQDE
The drive featured some of Mac & Co.’s finest work to date this season, too, with a noticeable uptick in the pace of the attack, as well as three connections of at least 15 yards down the field.
In a one-point game, the Bucs and Patriots traded mistakes out of the gate in the second half, with a penalty by the Bucs’ Donovan Smith that negated what would’ve been a 44-yard hookup with Antonio Brown outdone by a J.J. Taylor fumble on the Patriots’ first drive of the half and with New England in a prime position to put more points on the board.
It didn’t get any better for the Patriots when a would-be fumble recovery on a Tampa punt return was called back with an unsportsmanlike penalty against Matthew Slater for running out of bounds on the punt.
The Bucs used that penalty to their advantage and took the lead on an eight-play, 52-yard touchdown drive.
But in need of a response, Jones and the Patriots did exactly that, as the rookie quarterback led a drive that included seven straight completions, including a one-yard touchdown pass to Jonnu Smith, to put New England back on top by one.
It was perhaps the best drive of a night that saw Jones go 31-for-40 passes for 275 yards and two scores.
The Patriots also finished this game with a staggering and borderline impossible minus-1 rushing yards.
And with Brady Week finally, mercifully behind them (and the rest of us for that matter), the Patriots will look to bounce back with a Week 5 head-to-head with the Houston Texans.
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Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.