The Tom Brady Revenge Tour Has Begun
Tom Brady kept his cool throughout the entirety of the Deflategate saga. While his father, Tom Brady Sr., vociferously defended his son’s honor on sports talk radio shows, Brady largely stayed silent during his 18-month battle with the NFL. His performance on the field Sunday was a louder repudiation of Roger Goodell and the league office than anything he could have said.
Brady picked apart the Cleveland Browns’ defense with ease in his season debut. The Patriots scored touchdowns on their first three drives and Brady threw for more than 400 yards and three touchdown passes in the 33-13 rout. It was one of the best performances ever for a quarterback age 39 year or older—only Warren Moon has put up those numbers at Brady’s age.
During his four-game suspension, Brady wasn’t allowed to practice with his teammates or even talk to them. He spent more time nude sunbathing with Gisele Bundchen than throwing passes to Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, but amazingly, no rust showed.
Not coincidently, Brady’s return to the lineup coalesced with the reemergence of Rob Gronkowski. Entering Sunday’s contest, Gronkowski only caught one pass for 11 yards in two games—a stat line that he says propelled disgruntled fantasy owners to heckle him at the grocery store. He reeled in five catches for 109 yards with Brady back under center, including a 34-yard reception in the first quarter that featured him dragging hapless Browns defenders to the goal line.
— NFL Now (@NFLNow) October 9, 2016
The other offensive stars of the afternoon for the Patriots were Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan. The two newcomers combined for 10 catches and 181 yards, with Bennett bringing in three touchdowns. Bennett rolled his ankle in the first quarter, but wound up returning after just a couple of plays. After the game, the eccentric tight end said he channeled his inner Luke Cage to get back onto the field. “They asked me if I needed a cart and I was like ‘I’m going to look so weak.’ I’ve been watching Luke Cage, he’s the bulletproof brother from Marvel, and I’m like, ‘What would Luke Cage do right now?’” Bennett said, via ESPN. “He’d get up and keep bouncing around.”
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 9, 2016
Even though Brady inflicted most of the damage on Cleveland with his arm, the most memorable moment of the afternoon came after he made a play with his legs. On a 3rd-and-5 in the third quarter, Brady scampered forward to move the chains. He raised his right arm into the air afterwards, placing his left hand on his right shoulder to signal a first down. It appeared to be a deliberate warning shot sent to the rest of the league.
Tom Brady runs for a first down and… wait for it.. gets a nice celebration in at the end pic.twitter.com/8oPf5vcYuQ
— Henry McKenna (@McKennAnalysis) October 9, 2016
The vibe inside of FirstEnergy Stadium was electric, as seemingly thousands of Patriots fans made their way to Cleveland to watch Brady’s return. When Bill Belichick pulled Brady from the game midway through the fourth quarter, he received a standing ovation. The game apparently meant so much to Brady that he reportedly requested to keep his jersey.
The truth is, the Browns were probably the perfect team for Brady to face in his return. They’re now 0-5 on the season and might be the most moribund organization in the NFL. Despite the lackluster competition, though, this may have been one of the most satisfying performances of Brady’s illustrious career. After a one-month layoff, he didn’t show a single sign of rust (and says he’s feeling better than ever). The competition will get better from here, but with more time on the field, once has to assume that Brady will as well. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the league.