By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Do you want to be greedy? I want to be greedy. I'm going to get greedy real quick. Ready? Here goes:
WE WERE ROBBED!!!
Yes, the Buccaneers-Patriots game was light years better than most of us anticipated. It was competitive. It had a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Good plays, bad plays, Tom Brady cheers, Tom Brady boos, severe swings of emotions. It was all there. Nobody should have any complaints. But I do.
Because ... WE WERE ROBBED!!!
What we were robbed of was that kick bouncing through the uprights instead of off the upright. Because do you know what we would've gotten to watch if that kick had been good?
We would've gotten to see Tom Brady, getting the ball, with 55 seconds left on the clock, in the rain, with two timeouts in his back pocket, needing only to get into a field goal range.
That's what was at stake when the kick faded ever-so-slightly toward the visiting team tunnel -- the tunnel from which Brady had emerged for the first time as a visitor a few hours earlier, and the tunnel where he'd depart once again having won a game at Gillette Stadium.
The sheer drama of that ending would have been unreal, taking a better-than-expected game to impossible heights in terms of entertainment value. Maybe he would have hit Antonio Brown with a 60-yard bomb. Maybe Matt Judon would have sacked him before Devin McCourty picked him off on a fourth-and-long. Maybe Ryan Succop would've been the one trying to kick the 56-yard game-winner through the rain, but into the open end of the stadium. Maybe some conflicted Patriots fans who still haven't fully processed Brady's departure would have collapsed unto themselves and entered a different realm of reality.
No matter what happened, it would have been a spectacle.
And so, I say this: WE WERE ROBBED!
Alas. The game was pretty great, aside from that robbery. So let's hit the leftover thoughts from the Buccaneers' 19-17 win over the Patriots.
--We take a lot of things for granted with Tom Brady, who is FORTY-FREAKING-FOUR YEARS OLD. Yes, that age gets repeated 16,000 times a day by everybody, and we get it, and we know it. But do we really get it?
Brady was far from great on Sunday night, to be clear. Rather than force the issue by jamming passes into tiny windows, Brady more often than not went with deep overthrows to avoid trouble. He still did have some dimes, like this absurd pass that should've been the putaway touchdown:
Yet what stood out to me the most watching Brady in this game was that the man has got some juice in those legs.
He obviously had the big run to convert a third-and-6:
Brady was in disbelief that he pulled that one off:
But he actually looked more mobile and athletic on some other plays.
Did you catch when he gave the okey-doke to Kyle Van Noy?
That ability to extend plays and give his receivers a chance to find a way open is something he really focused on adding to his game in 2014, when he was 37. The fact that he's still moving with such ease -- winning races to sidelines at age 44 -- is absolutely insane. That will just never be properly appreciated, because it's hard to properly fathom the things this guy is doing.
--Mac Jones also plays quarterback. He was really good. The pick wasn't really his fault. And once again, he had to deal with an absurd number of opponents in his face for basically the entirety of the game. Without Trent Brown, and with Mike Onwenu getting benched, the offensive line continues to be a hindrance to the Patriots' success.
Would you like to see some photographic evidence? Here you go:
I can't believe how quickly he popped up from this one:
The lone interception came as a direct result of allowing a free rusher directly through the A gap:
Mac is tough as nails, as we've learned. But this is no way to live. It's like the Patriots brought a brand new car -- not a Ferrari, but, like, a Lexus maybe -- and insist on bringing it to the demolition derby every Sunday. The young man is going to get hurt out there.
--If we can do the NFL rules thing for a moment ... how on Brady's green earth was Jakobi Meyers' fumble turned into an incompletion after replay review? After a brief bobble he secured the ball, took two steps (which you don't even have to do anymore), and then had the ball knocked away.
Maybe if that had been ruled incomplete on the field, I could kind of see why it would be somewhat hard to overturn. But the replay official in New York -- which is who, by the way? -- flipped this one and said incomplete.
The NFL continues to make the definition of a catch harder and harder to know.
--Something to monitor: Jones threw to Meyers in that spot over the middle three times. Every single time, he threw the ball too far ahead of the receiver. One was that one, one was caught, one was dropped.
--People are questioning Belichick's decision to try that field goal, which is all well and good. Part of sports. Maybe they're right, maybe they're wrong.
I just know that if Belichick had decided to go for it on a fourth-and-3 ... on Sunday Night Football ... with a Hall of Fame QB on the other team ... and the Patriots failed to make the play? Buddy ... people talk about that kind of thing FOR-EV-ER. More than 10 years later, they still get mad about such things.
I don't think that factored into Belichick's decision-making. (He said Monday morning that the Patriots being 2-for-9 on third downs was a rather large consideration.) But I'm somewhat relieved the decision was made. Fourth-and-2 discourse has been so annoying ... for a dozen years.
--You've surely seen a lot of trick plays in your life. I have too -- but I don't ever remember seeing an end-around reverse pass off ... a trap?
It's almost more impressive, given how crowded it got in the backfield with Shaq Mason pulling to sell the trap to the left side. Crazy.
Also crazy: Agholor's pre-snap motion brought him into the backfield, eight yards behind the line of scrimmage. When Meyers took the toss from Damien Harris, he was actually farther up the field than Agholor.
Yet still, Agholor got open for the big gain.
Mac Jones also showed some good pass blocking instincts:
Maybe he played guard in Pop Warner or something.
Anyways. Lots going on in that play.
--Nelson Agholor made a man bounce off him as if he had entered a Game Genie code. I mean, what was this?
Sir! Are you all right?! Where did you go? SIR!
(That was the Patriots' best "rush" of the night. Not great.)
--Sometimes people say that it's easy to throw a screen pass. And sometimes they're right. But on Sunday night, we learned that there is such a thing as a perfect screen pass. And of course, it was Tom Brady who threw it.
At first glance, it may just look like a screen that went for a big gain:
But watch how Brady leads Leonard Fournette away from the linebacker perfectly, hitting him in stride and allowing him to escape the would-be tackle with ease:
That is a professional quarterbacking job right there. This Brady kid is going places, I tell you.
--For as much as Mac Jones will get credit for playing well -- and he did -- he also got lucky. He kind of looked like he was trying to throw the game away here:
Mac's going to want to McCork that one next time. Could've -- and probably should've -- been real bad there.
--The "If, If, If" Game doesn't really do much for me these days. As Belichick himself said, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, then it would be Christmas every day. So the "if this" and "if that" way to talk yourself into the Patriots being 3-1 or 4-0 right now doesn't really fly.
Because fumbles like this one?
Those are the plays that Patriots' opponents always made at Gillette. Now it's the Patriots treating the football like a hot potato far too often. This one didn't lead to Bucs points, but it erased what should have been a scoring drive for the Patriots. The turnovers are simply killing them.
--A Gronk return would've been cool. Just wanted to get that in before the buzzer. He's a delight to watch play football. For the sake of him as a human, let's hope his ribs heal quickly. The guy has been through enough.
--This column began with a complaint, but that was partly in jest. The reality is that this was one of those moments in Boston sports history that we'll talk about for a long time. There can never be another athlete as important to the region than Tom Brady, and they'll never be another coach as important as Bill Belichick. Seeing them have this matchup -- at age 44 for the QB and 69 for the HC of the NEP -- was a special occasion. The fact that the game was as entertaining as it was made it all the more special.
It all kind of happened quickly. The pregame video tribute was short, and the resulting applause for Brady was brief, too. The acknowledgment of Brady setting the all-time passing yards record was barely an acknowledgment at all. And you would've missed the postgame hug if you blinked. Everything on this night passed by in a dizzying sequence.
Considering how quickly 20 years of unparalleled success passed around here, that was only fitting.
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