I am going to keep this short and sweet: I have no idea how to react.
I could sit here and tell you about how chilling the video tribute was at the beginning of the game. I could tell you how much Tom Brady has meant to the game, to the Patriots franchise, and to the sports world. I could offer reasons why Bill Belichick wanted to move on from his then-43-year-old quarterback.
But you can go elsewhere for that.
What you'll get this evening is a confused, angry-but-happy, and passionate Patriots fan. This was the only football game in probably 3 years that I sat and watched every snap; dissecting Brady's moves, wondering why N'Keal Harry is still on the roster, and gasping as if I'd witnessed someone brutally murdered in front of my eyes when Nick Folk doinked a potential game-winning field goal.
Nonetheless, it was a 19-17 victory for the Buccaneers. If you had Bucs ML at -360, good for you (sarcastically poking fun at the conservative bettors as I got it at -125!!). If you had Mike Evans at +500 to catch Tom Brady's pass in which he broke the NFL's all-time passing leader, even better. If you had Pats money line, my heart aches.
This was a bizarre one, so let's break it down. Here are my collective thoughts after a 2-point loss, and an all-too familiar Tom Brady comeback win.
Mac Jones had his moments to shine.
Well, it certainly was not for lack of opportunity that the Patriots weren't able to sneak past the Bucs with a win. At the centerpiece of their success was Mac Jones; not a single person in Foxboro thought Jones would out-perform Brady on Sunday night, but you'd certainly have a legit case if you made that claim. Jones finished 31-for-40 with 275 passing yards and one interception; at one point, he completed 20 straight passes. Jones looked much more confident than Game 1 against the Dolphins, throwing the ball downfield fearlessly and reading the rush defense well. Regrettably, the offensive line let him down, conceding 4 sacks to the Buccaneers pesky group of linemen and linebackers. Jones had the opportunity to win the game for the Pats; he led the team down the field, got to the 39-yard-line, but Folk's kick just barely dinged off the upright.
Sure, it might be premature to determine who the QB standout from the 2021 draft class will be, but so far, you bet it's Mac Jones.
Matt Judon is proving to be the best free-agent signing of the 2021 offseason.
The Pats went out and spent a truckload of money in free-agency this offseason. I wrote last week about how frustrated I've been growing with the new additions (@ Jonnu Smith, @ Nelson Agholor, @ Jalen Mills), but I made a promise to myself that I'll be slow to slander edge rusher Matt Judon. I wholeheartedly believe Judon was the best signing in recent Patriots history; edge rushing efforts have been beyond inconsistent these past few seasons, and although Chase Winovich and Josh Uche will impact rushers, they are simply not ready to bear the load of this rush defense by themselves. Judon, however, showed up with guns-a-blazin' this season, and has easily stepped into the role of the team's primary edge rusher. He's already registered 4.5 sacks in just 4 games; on pace, obviously, for at least a sack per game. I'll take that any day.
Judon is also clearly a team leader. I am absolutely in his corner this year.
What's up with the O-Line?
Blame the rain, blame the high stakes, blame their experience. Whatever you'd like to pin it on, the New England offensive line was putrid on Sunday. They conceded 4 sacks to Mac Jones in total. Right guard Mike Onwenu, who was in line for a breakout year, had one of the worst games of his young career. He was flagged for two holding penalties, and when everyone thought he was hurt, they realized he was just benched for his poor performance.
Bryant alumni Casey Baker said it well. Then, NESN's Zack Cox did the digging.
That was objectively brutal. Let's chalk it up to a bad game and call it a day.
Belichick and Brady hugged after the game.
Who had the prop?!?!?! Bill and Brady reportedly just said "we'll catch up after the game." Bill went into the Bucs locker room before Tom Brady had the chance to leave, they had a behind-closed-doors conversation, and they left it there.
All the credit in the world to Bill, who has been brutally honest about how he feels - and felt - about Tom Brady. It can take a lot to admit it sometimes.
Crazy stat of the day: In 2021, Tom Brady has more wins at Gillette Stadium than the Patriots do. Let it sink in.
Also, Tom Brady has now defeated every single NFL team...obviously, the one that made him famous was the last one on his list. Add another to the ledger for the GOAT.
Up Next: Thank goodness, it's the Houston Texans. If there's any defense that we can feel comfortable with Mac Jones carving up, it's this one. Take a day for some much-needed rest, get the fellas going on Tuesday morning, and start preparing. This could be a breakout game for Mac Jones, provided the offensive line does its job and his receivers get open. Take whatever spread the books give you.