Tom Brady has been the personified patriot for 20 years. With New England he wins the Super Bowl six times. Now he came back for the first time – with Tampa, his new team. The greatest football player of all time is not convincing, but still experiences a special game.
When it is all over, he stands in the pouring rain, is soaked and his facial expressions do not give any idea whether the return to his old place of work was successful or not. Tom Brady’s face is almost motionless as he waves his right arm in the direction of those fans who, almost an hour after the 19:17 victory of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the New England Patriots, are still standing loudly in the almost empty Gillette Stadium and his name call. Then the 44-year-old sends a kiss before he walks towards the catacombs.
It’s been an emotional week for him. But not just for him. The Patriots fans also experience a roller coaster ride of emotions. Her Tom has returned to Foxborough for the first time since saying goodbye in March 2020. He still wears the shirt number 12, but no longer the Patriots jersey, but that of the Buccaneers, with whom he won the Super Bowl in his first season. He’s an opponent now – incredible as that sounds.
Come as a nameless man, gone as a world star
Thomas Edward Patrick Brady was born in California, but for many Patriots fans he is still “New England’s favorite son”. He joined the Patriots in 2000 as a nameless player, and as a world star and most successful player in NFL history, he left them for Florida 20 years later. The quarterback had made Foxborough, that small town in the middle of nowhere in Massachusetts, the most feared address in the league.
Here the Patriots, led by Brady and coached by the trainer fox Bill Belichick, had destroyed the Super Bowl dreams of the competitors on so many icy January days. And here are the six championship banners that the Patriots won between 2002 and 2019. “That was my home for 20 years. I have the best memories, my children were born here. It’s just a great area. I love it up here, have a lot of friends,” said Brady after the game on NBC.
“This is his house”
In its first season of the Patriots, Foxborough, about 25 miles southwest of Boston, had only one completely outdated stadium and thousands of parking spaces. In the meantime, in addition to a new arena, a hospital, hotels, restaurants, shopping mall and the Patriots Hall of Fame have also been added. 1 Patriot Place, as the official address is, is no longer open every two weeks on Sundays when the Patriots have a home game, but has long since become an attraction throughout the week. Everything was built with taxpayers’ money and the millions of club owner Robert Kraft – but above all it is built on the successes of Brady and Belichick.
“This is his house,” said Nick Stevens, a well-known Patriots fan, in a preliminary report on the NFL network as he points to the stadium behind him. “And Tom Brady comes back in a different club – it’s my biggest nightmare.” Mike McDevitt feels the same way. He speaks of “a privilege” to have been a season ticket holder for 20 years. “During that time I saw Tom Brady, the best quarterback ever,” says McDevitt.
Outstanding club records
Stories like his have been in the Boston media all week. Everyone played up and down the keyboard of feelings and emotions. When the day of our reunion finally came, it was raining. For many Patriots fans, a sign that heaven is crying. Thousands of the total of 66,000 spectators come to the game in Brady jerseys, as always. It almost seems like the prodigal son is making his comeback for New England.
The pre-program on the radio station “98.5 – The Sportshub”, which broadcasts the Patriots games, is twice as long this time with six hours as usual. Brady is there at 5:10 pm, just under three hours before the start of the game. There are plenty of hand shakes, lots of friendly “hello” and a warm hug with Patriots owner Robert Kraft in the catacombs. It was emotional for both of them, both had fought back tears, says Kraft afterwards. Brady, according to Kraft, is “like a son” to him.
When Brady comes onto the field almost 50 minutes before the kickoff, it gets loud. As in the days of the Patriots, he jogs along the sidelines and ends the run with his familiar, loud “Let’s go!” There is a video “Best of Brady” on the huge stadium screen. The fans stare reverently, soaking up the sequences. The broadcaster “NBC” shows a list of some of Brady’s Patriots club records. They are so outstanding that sometimes the runner-up does not even achieve half of the values.
For example, Brady threw 541 touchdown passes – followed by Steve Grogan (182). His passes for a space gain of 74,571 yards make the 29,657 yards of “pursuer” Drew Bledsoe almost ridiculous. And it gets almost childish with the playoff touchdown passes. Brady has 73, the next in the ranking is Tony Eason and comes in at seven.
Loud cheers, but also boos
When Brady leads the Buccaneers onto the pitch, the arena is definitely an epicenter of emotion. However, there is not only jubilation, but also unmistakable expressions of displeasure. In the third minute, Brady comes to the field for the first attack play – and is mercilessly booed. The preliminary skirmish is finally over for the fans. Now it’s about winning this home game. Brady has become an ordinary guest quarterback. The past 20 years are history – at least until the end of the game.
Despite getting off to a nervous start with a few inaccurate passes, Brady sets a new NFL record for yards thrown in the first quarter – but that’s more of a side note this evening. Tampa is favorite, but Tampa is struggling. This is also due to the good Patriots defense. Coach Belichick knows Brady’s tricks of course – but of course he also knows what makes Belichick tick.
New England lead 7-6 at break and are two minutes to go 17:16 ahead. Brady’s Patriots successor, 23-year-old Mac Jones, is playing strong in his fourth NFL game. But now Brady has brought his team deep into the opposing half. With a field goal, Tampa takes the lead 19:17. But the Patriots still have one attack and a chance to turn the game around.
55 seconds before the end, kicker Nick Folk takes on a field goal attempt. 56 yards are the two yellow goal posts through which he has to shoot the football to bring the Patriots forward at 20:19. The whole thing in the pouring rain. Everyone in the stadium follows the trajectory of the ball, which hits the left bar and ricochets outwards from there. Belichick looks petrified while Brady clenches his right fist. His return ends with a happy 19:17 win. “What a great game. We had to work hard to win,” said Brady on NBC.
Brady and Belichick talk privately
He speaks of “a special evening” and emphasizes not to start crying. He’s already done that. As usual after defeats, Belichick appears grumpy and tight-lipped. He rushes to the square to congratulate Brady. A short hug, a few words – then he’s gone again. After the press conference, however, he goes to the Tampa booth to speak extensively with Brady without the media being present. He doesn’t come out again until 23 minutes later.
His Patriots have a record of 1: 3 after the defeat. They had last started that badly in 2001 – in Tom Brady’s first season as a regular. A few months later, New England had won the Super Bowl for the first time. Nobody believes that this time. The Patriots are currently at most mediocre. For them, Brady’s return could already have been the highlight of the season. The Buccaneers, on the other hand, are among the top favorites. It is quite possible that Tom Brady, New England’s favorite son, will win his second title in two years with Tampa in February.