By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- A collective "harrumph" was let out around the nation on Thursday night. A bemoaned grumble spread from coast to coast. Painful sobs bellowed out in lands far and wide.
Yes, it seems as though despite aging another year, Tom Brady is still good at football. Very, very good, in fact.
The 44-year-old quarterback -- let's repeat that, louder: THE 44-YEAR-OLD QUARTERBACK -- took the field with his Buccaneers teammates for the first game of the NFL season. And after the firework smoke cleared and the lackluster "banner" celebration concluded, the Tampa Bay offense took the field and ... went three-and-out.
A dud, perhaps, was on the way?
By now, you may have heard how it ended: With Brady driving the Buccaneers down the field for a last-minute, game-winning field goal to send the fans home happy. Here's how Brady and Co. got there. It was quite the ride.
Brady started the Bucs' second offensive drive with a 10-yard completion to Mike Evans, followed by a misfire to Evans. He then completed five consecutive passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. He dropped one in a bucket for Rob Gronkowski and another for Antonio Brown, and he waited for Chris Godwin to smoke Jourdan Lewis in man coverage near that goal line for a 5-yard touchdown connection.
This pass to Gronkowski was maybe the best of that drive:
Though the 28-yarder to Brown was probably better?
Later in the first half, Brady showed off the depths of his Old Man Strength:
That drive ended with a punt, but the Bucs' next drive ... ended with another touchdown pass from Brady.
Brady went 4-for-4 for 43 yards and a touchdown on the Bucs' second scoring drive, which included this bullet to Chris Godwin for 17 yards:
And then Brady did something he's not exactly known for, rolling out to his right, and throwing on the run. Touchdown.
If you can't recall Brady rolling out on a bootleg by the goal line, you can be forgiven. It isn't really in his repertoire. Or at least -- it wasn't.
Adding new tricks to his bag in his mid-40s is kind of rude. Anyways.
Brady added a third touchdown of the first half by throwing an absolute bomb to Brown. Forty-seven yards. Score.
There were people -- self-proclaimed "experts" -- who said that Brady had a wet noodle arm. They said that, like, four or five years ago.
These people should feel great shame.
Brady did throw a pick in the first half ... off the hands of Leonard Fournette.
And then he threw another interception ... on a Hail Mary. (Which was quite the chuck!! Sixty-plus yards!)
That's a pretty sweet pick.
Statistically, the two interceptions looked ugly. But quite literally anybody watching the game knew that Brady was having a dynamite football game. (At 44 years old.)
Brady went 0-for-3 in his first drive of the second half, perhaps instilling some hope in some viewers that he would stop being good. Alas, he rediscovered his goodness shortly thereafter.
After the Bucs' defense came away with an interception of Dak Prescott, here's what Brady did:
--Completion to Gronkowski, 20 yards
--Completion to Godwin, 2 yards
--Completion to Fournette, 2 yards
--Completion to Gronkowski, 11 yards, TOUCHDOWN
The touchdown to Gronkowski -- their second such connection of the night -- was just some veteran savvy on the part of both players, and it just so happened to be their 100th touchdown connection:
That was the 100th time -- the ONE-HUNDREDTH TIME -- that Tom Brady has thrown a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski. That's a lot of meatballs, folks. In fact, it's the second-most TD connections of all time, a spot that duo secured last season. They inched a little bit closer to the all-time leaders, Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, at 114.
After that touchdown, the Bucs led 28-19. Brady was 17-for-28 for 248 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. A solid evening of work. But, Prescott led the Cowboys on a touchdown drive, cutting the Bucs' lead to two points in the final minute of the third quarter.
So Brady went back to work. He threw one of his best passes of the night, but it went into the books as an 0-for-1:
Tough break. Sports are difficult.
When the Bucs took over at their own 37-yard line with just under 11 minutes to go, they had a chance to put the game away. Brady was perfect -- on paper, anyway. In reality, he benefited from a one-handed Gronkowski catch and a play where Fournette saved the Bucs from disaster, after Brady threw an ill-advised pass while falling on his backside.
Nevertheless, Brady was 7-for-7 for 53 yards ... but Godwin fumbled on the doorstep of the end zone, killing the drive:
Not the greatest quarter of Chris Godwin's life.
Between that turnover in that spot, all of the penalties, and various other instances of sloppiness, Brady perhaps realized around this time that he's going to have to turn back into screaming-and-yelling Tom Brady. A veteran's work is never finished.
The Cowboys capitalized, driving into Tampa territory and kicking the go-ahead field goal with 1:24 left in the game.
Brady and the Bucs took over at their own 25-yard line, with 84 seconds and one timeout left, trailing by a single point.
Here's what they did:
First-and-10, TB 25: Brady pass COMPLETE to Giovani Bernard, 8 yards
Second-and-2, TB 33: Brady pass INCOMPLETE to Mike Evans
Third-and-2, TB 33: Brady pass COMPLETE to Bernard, 4 yards
First-and-10, TB 37: FALSE START, Final timeout taken to avoid 10-second runoff
First-and-15, TB 32: Brady pass COMPLETE to Gronkowski, 6 yards
Second-and-9, TB 38: Brady pass COMPLETE to Gronkowski, 20 yards
First-and-10, DAL 42: Brady pass INCOMPLETE to nobody
Second-and-10, DAL 42: Brady pass COMPLETE to Godwin, 24 yards
First-and-10, DAL 18: Brady pass INCOMPLETE out of bounds
Second-and-10, DAL 18: Brady pass INCOMPLETE out of bounds
Third-and-10, DAL 18: Brady pass INCOMPLETE out of bounds
That drive was completed with a 36-yard field goal by Ryan Succop. The Bucs won by two.
Another game-winning drive for Tom Brady. Ho-hum. He went 5-for-7 for 62 yards before the three throwaways to drain clock. Bernard and Gronkowski made big plays to get out of bounds and stop the clock on a couple of occasions, and Godwin got away with a blatant push-off to make that 24-yard reception that set up the game-winning field goal. But still -- that entire sequence was vintage Brady. It looked awfully easy, and everyone on earth more or less saw it coming.
So there you have it. Tom Brady is 44 years old. He was 30-for-52 for 379 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He added another fourth-quarter comeback (40) and another game-winning drive (49) to his absurd resume. He's 1-0 on the new season. He's 231-69 in his career.
He's intent on never stopping.
Eventually, one day, he'll stop doing this. He'll stop being good. That day has not yet arrived.
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