Finally, the day all New England Patriots fans had been waiting a year and a half for came and went as Tom Brady made his return to Gillette Stadium. The game was much better and closer than many may have thought as the Patriots fell 19-17 after Nick Folk’s potential game-winning 56-yard field goal hit off the upright with just under a minute to go.
The loss was a game that showed a ton of promise for Mac Jones and the New England defense. Jones was able to put all of the distractions aside this week, prepare and execute the offense efficiently in tough weather to put the Patriots in a position to win late. The defense stepped up big by getting timely stops against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and putting pressure on Brady all night long.
Winner: QB Mac Jones
The clear-cut winner from last night's game was Jones. In an atmosphere and environment like that last night, it would have been easy for him to get overwhelmed and struggle. However, the rookie stood in, took some shots and outdueled the guy that he took over for. Jones finished the night 31-of-40 for 275 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He led two drives throughout the course of the game that ended in touchdowns to give the Patriots the lead and got better and better as the game went on.
Last night was all about Brady and his return, but looking back on it weeks from now, we may have really gotten the true arrival of Jones.
Winner: CB Jonathan Jones
Jones was matched up with Antonio Brown all night, and although Brown got his catches, the corner was able to hold him in check and didn’t allow any big plays. Jones also was banged up towards the end of the game and gutted it out and came up with a stop on what could have been a go-ahead touchdown toBrown in the end zone. Jones has proven to be one of the staples of the Patriots’ secondary.
Loser: RB J.J. Taylor
With James White out for the season and Rhamondre Stevenson inactive again, many thought the Patriots would turn to Taylor to be the team's spark plug and chip in on third down. After a few touches in spurts early on in the game, Taylor had a costly fumble that then led to a Buccaneers go-ahead score. Taylor didn’t see the field after that and likely could be replaced by Stevenson going forward.
Winner: LB Matt Judon
The Patriots went out and paid Judon the money he got to perform in games like last night. Judon has been New England’s most consistent defensive player through the first four weeks of the season both against the run and providing consistent pressure off the edge. He was a force Sunday night, consistently making life tough on Brady. Judon picked up a sack and several tackles for loss while also drawing a big hands to the face call that negated a big play to Brown early in the second half.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers
With White out, Meyers has now turned into Mr. Reliable for the Patriots' offense. Meyers had eight catches for 70 yards on 12 targets and was a consistent chain-mover for Jones and the offense all night long. With the Patriots struggling to find success through the air consistently, Meyers has been the key guy for the quarterback early on in the year.
Loser: G Michael Onwenu
There hasn’t been much bad play from Onwenu since he came into the league last year, but it appeared that Onwenu was benched early in the second half after two key holding penalties that cost the Patriots chunk plays. Ted Karras came in for Onwenu and the Patriots’ offense started to string some good plays together and the penalties were limited. Although Onwenu had a rough Sunday night, it was his first rough game as a pro and should be back in, playing 100 percent of the snaps like he typically does next Sunday in Houston.