By Leo Haggerty


Just a quick note before I get into the Buccaneers road game with the Patriots.  This week was supposed to be my 50th high school reunion in New Jersey  Sadly, Covid forced us to postpone the large group get together until September of 2022, 50 plus 1 so to speak, but five of us had already rented a house at the Jersey shore.  We were all vaccinated so I spent the last week soaking up the sun in Sea Isle City with a group that have been my friends for just shy of 60 years.

Again, I have to thank Michelle Saban for asking the following question of QB Tom Brady at the Thursday press conference during my absence.  Thank you, Michelle!

MS : Do you feel that you have an advantage knowing a majority of the Patriots defensive personneland schemes that you’ll see on Sunday?

TB : They’re really well coached. Obviously, they’ve got a lot of great players, smart players. They’re going to be in the right spot. They prepare really well. Obviously, being there for a long time I know how well they prepare. I think when you put great preparation with great players, it makes for a great defense. They have one of the great defenses in the league. Dont’a and Kyle and Ja’Whaun.  Matt Judon’s a great player. Obviously, the guys up front, Lawrence and Deatrich, I know those guys really well. Jon Jones, Devin, Kyle Dugger, Adrian, J.C. is a great player. Jalen Mills I’ve played against. I’m pretty familiar with kind of who they are, what they do. We’ve just got to go do a great job against it. But they’re going to make it challenging. It’s going to be a very, very, very tough game.

On a night where Mother Nature was extremely uncooperative, Tom Brady made a triumphant return to Foxboro and led Tampa Bay to a hard fought 19-17 triumph over New England. The win advanced the Buccaneers to 3-1 and keeping pace with the Carolina Panthers for the top spot in the National Football Conference South Division.  The loss dropped the Patriots to 1-3 leaving them two games behind the AFC South leading Buffalo Bills.

The story outside the game itself was twofold.  The first was the hype.  Brady would be back on the same gridiron where he played for 19 seasons and was able to win six Super Bowl titles.  Also, #12 would be united for the first time since leaving the Pats with HC Bill Belichick albeit on opposite sidelines.

The second was the weather.  The tilt would be played in a constant rainstorm with its intensity increasing as the game went on.

The Bucs scored the only points of the opening period at 4:49.  After a 10 play drive that went 71 yards in 3:53, K Ryan Succop booted a 29 yard field goal to give Tampa Bay an early 3-0 lead.

The Pats answered at 8:28 of the second quarter.  QB Mac Jones (21-of-40 for 275 yards and 2 TD plus 1 INT) found TE Hunter Henry with an 11 yard aerial.  That finished off a 74 yard drive that took 11 plays and 6:21.  K Nick Folk was true with the PAT and New England took the lead at 7-3.

The Pewter Pirates cut into that margin with just 13 ticks left before halftime.  Again it was Succop with a field goal this time from 44 yards.  That culminated an eight play drive that travelled 69 yards in 1:36 and inched the Bucs to within 7-6 at intermission.

Tampa Bay retook the lead at 3:29 of third quarter.  RB Ronald Jones (6 for 25 yards and 1 TD) rambled into the end zone from eight yards out.  This capped a 46 yard drive that took eight plays and 3:48.  Succop was good with the extra point and moved the Bucs to a 13-7 advantage.

The Pats dented the scoreboard at 14:57 of the final period.  Jones found TE Jonnu Smith (3 for 14 and 1 TD) in the back of the end zone with a one yard strike.  That finished off a seven play drive that took 3:32 to traverse 77 yards.  Folk was perfect with the important PAT and New England jumped ahead 14-13 much to the approval of the partisan Patriots fans.

From that point on, it became a battle of field goals starting at 7:58 of the fourth quarter.  With their ensuing possession, Tampa Bay marched 68 yards in 15 plays and 6:59.  Succop connected from 27 yards to give the Buccaneers a 16-14 advantage as the lead seesawed back and forth.

Not to be outdone, the Patriots came back with a field goal of their own at 4:34 of the final stanza.  On their next possession, New England went 66 yards in 3:24 and eight plays with Folk converting from an identical 27 yards that gave the Patriots a precarious 17-16 advantage.

The Bucs march right down the field and scored with 1:57 left in regulation.  Succop boomed a 48 yarder that finished off a seven play drive that took 2:37 to go 28 yards giving the Buccaneers the lead again at 19-17.

But the drama was far from over.  The Pats matriculated down the field and were facing a 4th-and-3 at the Bucs 37 yard line.  Belichick chose to go for the field goal and the 56 yard effort by Folk had plenty of leg but doinked off the left upright and fell outside the goal posts with 55 seconds left in regulation.  Tampa Bay was able to run out the clock and secure the win in some adverse conditions to say the least.

After two very physical road contest, Tampa Bay now comes home to host the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium.  Kickoff is schedule for 1 pm, and as usual in Florida during the hurricane season, weather permitting.  See you then.