Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans have a reason to get excited for the 2020-21 NFL season by bringing in not one, not two, but three huge names this offseason. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette highlight a group that has been projected to bring Tampa back to the playoffs. Adding these three pieces, along with Pro Bowl caliber wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, should make the Buccaneers a scoring threat. However, that was not the case in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints. Tom Brady played like he did the majority of last year: overthrowing his targets, showing frustration and losing to a powerhouse team on the road. As for Drew Brees, he played like his usual self: composed, little to no errors and showing a strong response to adversity during the Buccaneers comeback attempt. The Buccaneers defense was let out to dry as Brees would throw deep often in attempt to get the cornerbacks penalized for pass interference. With the explosive speed of the new “$75 Million Dollar Man”, Alvin Kamara, who racked up 67-yards total with 2 touchdowns, the Saints offense was too much to handle for Tampa. The Saints dominated 34-23 in New Orleans at the Mercedes Benz Superdome filled with no fans.
The Buccaneers did start the game off with a bang, forcing a three and out on defense. Tom Brady’s first pass as a Buccaneer was caught by Chris Godwin for a quick 29-yard gain and the drive ended in a 2-yard QB sneak, making Brady the oldest player to score a touchdown in NFL history. After that drive, the offense quickly faded while the Saints would go on a 11 play, 64-yard drive ending in a Kamara 12-yard receiving touchdown to tie the game at 7. Throughout the week, Mike Evans had been dealing with a hamstring injury. Although he suited up, he was clearly not at his best as seen in a blown route that led to a Brady interception in the first half. This pick allowed Brees to take a deep shot to newly acquired wideout Emmanuel Sanders, resulting in a pass interference committed by Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead. The following play, Kamara continued to showcase his athleticism, bouncing off a tackle and running it in to take a one score lead for the Saints. Even the Bucs special teams were far from perfect as Ryan Succop’s 54-yard kick was blocked by Margus Hunt. The Saints would march 44-yards, resulting in a 29-yarder by Will Lutz to make the lead to 10 at halftime.
The Saints looked like the dominant team in the first half, but we’ve seen Brady make crazy comebacks before, surely a 10 point lead would be nothing for the 6X Super Bowl champion? With shades of former Bucs QB Jameis Winston, Brady opened the half by throwing a 36-yard pick-six to Janoris Jenkins. On their next drive, TB12 capitalized on a 9-yard touchdown to a wide open O.J. Howard, cutting the Saints lead to 10. Late in the third quarter, the Bucs continued to chip away at the lead as Ryan Succop hit a 38-yard field goal. Brees quickly responded, leading the Saints on an 8 play, 61-yard drive resulting in an Emmanuel Sanders touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, Mike Edwards erased the Bucs comeback hopes when he muffed the ball allowing the Saints to enter into cruise control the rest of the way. A Lutz 21-yard field goal bumped the home team up by three possessions. With under three minutes to go, a weary Brady threw to Evans for a 2-yard touchdown, his lone catch of the game. Things only got worse for Brady and his teammates as he yet again overthrew his target on the 2-point conversion. On the last drive of the game, Brees paired up with 3rd string quarterback and team gadget, Taysom Hill, who launched a 38-yard bomb to Kamara. Though it did not lead to points on the board, it was a beautiful play to witness.
Brady did not play his best, however would the outcome be worse if he faced his opponent in front of a sellout crowd - one of the most passionate fan bases in the NFL? This win now gives Brees a 3-2 all time record against Tom Brady, dating back to his days with the then, San Diego Chargers. Regardless of the outcome, this is only Game 1. The Buccaneers are still projected to have a good season with Brady in command. Rob Gronkowski needs more action on the turf as he is the only player on offense who has played with Brady before. Leonard Fournette must also be furthered installed in the offense and allowed more freedom. The Bucs defense did a decent enough job for Brady, but the offense stalled in the second quarter, contributing to the loss. As for the Saints, a great showing defensively (2 INTs, 3 sack) combined with an in-sync offense should give Saints fans optimism for the season. Don’t dismiss Tom Brady, after all, he is the “GOAT.” With his fierce determination, he is one quarterback that can defy all odds to reach his goal to play until age 45.
These two rivals will play again on Sunday Night Football during Week 9 at Raymond James Stadium in “Tompa Bay” Florida.