COLUMN: Tom Brady’s return to New England was triumphant, revealing, and bittersweet for the New England faithful

New England Patriots logo. Courtesy of Bryan Wright/Flickr

By Sravan Gannavarapu
Boston University News Service

Boston sports fans love their heroes, from Bill Russell on the hardwood to David Ortiz in the batter’s box. But when it comes to Tom Brady, few athletes reach the same icon status as the former Patriots quarterback.

More or less a living legend, Brady, as well as head coach Bill Belichick, have delivered football glory in a way that goes without precedent.

And yet, both men stood apart from each other in the pouring rain on Sunday. Brady, who left the Patriots in 2020, made his first appearance back in Gillette Stadium as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coming through with a 19-17 victory over his former coach and teammates. 

Additionally, he added to his legacy by becoming the NFL’s all-time leader in career passing yards while also becoming the fourth quarterback in league history to defeat all 32 teams. Not bad for a sixth-round draft pick. 

Upon taking the field, the New England faithful showed their appreciation for their favorite son but were back to business as usual, once the tributes and emotions subsided, unlike the weather, with booing and all. 

It wasn’t a standout game for Brady anyways, going 22 of 43 passing for 269 yards and no touchdown passes. In contrast, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones had the better box score, going 31 of 40 passing, 275 yards with two touchdown passes, and an interception. 

The ending, however, felt reminiscent of how many of Brady’s games ended throughout his tenure in New England; a field-goal attempt for a win. 

Once again, Brady got the win, but this time at the expense of Patriot kicker Nick Folk, whose kick hit the left upright for a miss and defeat. 

After the game, both Brady and Belichick met at midfield and again later, in the Buccaneers locker room, dispelling an alleged beef between the two.

As for Brady on his own homecoming, his postgame interview was telling, as NBC’s Michele Tafoya repeatedly asked him about his emotions on coming back to a city where he brought so much joy. 

Additionally, when Brady eventually hangs up his cleats, there’s a good chance he may come back to this community. 

“When it’s all said and done, and I retire, you know, I’ll be around,” Brady said. “… and the fans will get a chance to see more of me.”

Still, the whole situation is more than bittersweet. After all, it’s hard to forget how we got here. After losing the AFC Wild Card match to the Titans in 2020, Brady skipped town and joined the Buccaneers. 

Along with former Patriots Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, Brady and his new team went 11-5 in the following season. In the playoffs, the Buccaneers defeated three former league MVPs, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes to win the Super Bowl, Brady’s 7th title. 

As for the Patriots? A 7-9 season and no playoffs for the first time since 2008, when Brady was on the sidelines with a torn ACL. 

This first meeting between these two ended with the quarterback getting the win, but it truly felt like a draw. Both sides did what they could, and the score stands thus. 

By the way, if anyone thinks there’s any beef between Brady and Belichick, you are sadly mistaken. They are just two of the most competitive individuals in sports, and they came together at the right time for a city that needed them. 

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