Here’s an initial glance through what went into Sunday night as the quarterback’s former team moves to 1-3 on the season.
Brady sets NFL’s all-time yardage record where it began
The 44-year-old under center for the Buccaneers stood 68 passing yards away from breaking Drew Brees’ NFL record of 80,358 in the regular season. And at the 6:10 mark in the opening quarter against the Patriots, he stood alone. Brady connected with wide receiver Mike Evans on a play-action pickup of 28 yards to do so in Foxborough.
The game paused briefly to recognize the milestone that began 22 falls ago. Brady finished 22-of-43 through the steady rain for 269 yards with no touchdowns nor turnovers. He was sacked once courtesy of outside linebacker Matt Judon. New England’s defense kept Tampa Bay’s surgical offense to a conversion rate of 47 percent on third down.
“Tom’s had an unbelievable career,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said during his midweek press conference. “I mean, you can’t — there’s not enough superlatives and adjectives to compliment him on everything that he’s achieved, he continues to achieve.”
Jones beyond his years in the quarterback age gap
Mac Jones was born the day Brady made his first college start for the Michigan Wolverines. The age gap of 21 years, one month and two days between the opposing quarterbacks made NFL history during Sunday’s matchup. Not lost in the gap was the rookie’s opportunity to close it.
In the no-huddle spread, Jones completed his first three pass attempts against Tampa Bay before New England’s drive stalled. But the Alabama product finished 31-of-40 for 275 yards. He found Hunter Henry underneath for a touchdown that gave the Patriots a 7-3 lead in the second quarter. He then found fellow tight end Jonnu Smith for another play-action strike that gave his side a 14-13 lead in the fourth quarter.
Jones would be sacked by defensive frontmen Shaq Barrett, William Gholston as well as Joe Tryon-Shoyinka twice. He’d be intercepted by safety Antoine Winfield Jr. as blitzing linebacker Devin White hit home unaccounted for. Issues in protection were not limited to the right tackle spot, where starter Trent Brown’s calf strain sent him the inactives list for a third straight week as Justin Herron and Yasir Durant split snaps. But Jones hung in, at one point completing 19 consecutive passes.
Ribs injury keeps Gronkowski away from reunion
Tampa Bay traveled to New England without Rob Gronkowski. The NFL’s 100th anniversary tight end had been downgraded from doubtful after reportedly suffering multiple fractured ribs last weekend and missing subsequent practices.
The injury prevented more history from being made on Sunday, as Gronkowski finds himself 16 receiving yards away from surpassing Greg Olsen for fifth place among tight ends in the league archives. The No. 42 overall pick in the 2010 draft currently sits with 8,668. He also sits first in Patriots franchise history in touchdown receptions, both for the regular season and postseason.
O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and standard elevation Codey McElroy were the active tight ends for the Buccaneers.
Rare Slater penalty shifts field for Tampa Bay touchdown
Buccaneers punt returner Jaydon Mickens lost the football with under seven minutes to go in the third quarter. The reason why was Matthew Slater.
But New England’s forced fumble and recovery would be nullified by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the perennial All-Pro on special teams ran out of bounds. Slater, an 11-year captain, made his case of being pushed out before working back to the field of play. To no avail. A replayed fourth down ensued with the goal posts at Patriots punter Jake Bailey’s back.
What was a 7-6 Patriots advantage became a 13-7 Buccaneers advantage eight downs later as running back Ronald Jones ran it in behind a tackle-eligible offensive line.
Meyers a go-to as Tampa Bay’s secondary battles attrition
After Jamel Dean was ruled out for Sunday due to a knee injury, fellow Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis had his status updated to questionable on the eve of the 8:20 p.m. ET kickoff because of ribs and abdomen injuries.
The attrition saw recent signing Richard Sherman thrust into a starting spot for the Tampa Bay defensive backfield across from Davis, who was carted from the sideline to the locker room before intermission with a quad injury.
The attrition also saw New England wide receiver Jakobi Meyers tally a team-high eight receptions on 12 targets for 70 yards. Meyers momentarily exited for the blue medical tent. The former North Carolina State quarterback recruit quickly returned, however, even completing passes of 15 and 30 yards.
Patriots’ committee loses four yards by ground, gains 81 by air
With captain James White on injured reserve after sustaining a season-ending hip injury, the Patriots faced nose tackle Vita Vea and a Buccaneers defense allowing 3.1 yards per ground attempt.
New England’s committee of running backs would total minus-four rushing yards on six attempts from there. Starter Damien Harris ran four times for a loss of four yards. And behind him, Brandon Bolden got the call on third downs, including a double-pass trick play. The veteran special-teamer went on to net six catches for 51 yards.
Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson was again healthy scratch on an evening in which sophomore back J.J. Taylor lost a fumble and wide receiver Nelson Agholor led the Patriots with four rushing yards.
Ex-Bucs kicker’s streak snapped on 56-yard attempt
Nick Folk made a career-low 54.5 percent of his field goals and 77.8 percent of his extra points over four games with the Buccaneers in 2017. He’d be released that February and landed with the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football.
The 36-year-old kicker had since set a franchise record with the Patriots. It snapped on Sunday.
Folk entered having made 35 field goals in a row. Against Tampa Bay, he tacked on a 27-yarder as New England regained the lead with four minutes remaining. Positional counterpart Ryan Succop then saw a 48-yarder sail through the uprights with two minutes remaining. A shot from 56 followed for Folk. It would be rejected off the left upright.