Jarrett Stidham outduels Tom Brady in virtual showdown

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By WEEI 93.7

Patriots fans ... you're welcome.

You yearned for the images of football being played at Gillette Stadium. And of course, you drooled at the prospect of soaking in the drama that would be Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski taking on their former team. But to get all of that along with the usual result -- a Patriots win -- with Jarrett Stidham at quarterback seemed like an unrealistic ask. Nope.

Patriots 27, Buccaneers 24. (For a game recap, click here.)

Thanks to the fine folks at RADIO.COM and EA Sports, we ran a simulated showdown between the Gronkaneers and Bill Belichick's current squad on Madden 20 Tuesday night. And while some might chalk up the endeavor as nothing more than some computer-generated pipe dream, it certainly seemed like the initial opportunity to see what might await. At least that's what the Patriots' followers went to bed hoping for.

We would recommend you go back and soak in the two hours of virtual football, but in the meantime, it is a worthwhile exercise to resurface some of the key takeways from the evening:

STIDHAM GOT THE BETTER OF BRADY

In a nutshell, Jarrett Stidham won this game in the first half while Tom Brady was seemingly still trying to get a grasp of the Bucs' playbook. The current Patriots' QB finished the first half with 218 passing yards while sending his team into halftime with a 20-0 lead. At one point commentator Jermaine Wiggins asks if there was a video game rating for seeing ghosts because "right now Brady's level is pretty high."  He also added, "If this is what warm weather Tom is all about Tampa might want to see if they can reg a refund."

Wiggins' co-host Nick "Fitzy" Stevens added, "I feel bad Brady is over there on the sideline with no receivers to yell at."

When it was all said and done Brady had the better numbers, finishing with a 114.1 quarterback rating while going 37-of-48 for 391 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. But Wiggins' analysis rang true when comparing the Bucs' QB's second-half surge to "a lot of fast-break layups when your team is already down 20."

BRADY MIGHT HAVE BEEN JEALOUS OF STIDHAM AND JULIAN EDELMAN

While many wondered where the Patriots' yards were going to come from with this current group, it became obvious that one solution was a familiar one: getting the ball to Edelman. The trusty wideout finished with nine catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. Different quarterback, same result. The only change? According to Wiggins Edelman told him his offseason conditioning program included "something about surfing and making the body better." OK, then.

2Q – 1:06Jarrett Stidham 7 yard pass to Julian Edelman for a TOUCHDOWN! Extra point is good. @Buccaneers 0@Patriots 17 pic.twitter.com/3MnOW5L9Az

— RADIO.COM Sports (@RDCSports) May 20, 2020

STIDHAM'S SECOND OPTION WAS A NEWCOMER

Remember the name Devin Asiasi. The former UCLA tight end certainly looked the part of someone who could finally help replace Rob Gronkowski, going for five catches, 75 yards and a touchdown. It led to a Fitzy classic: "Stidham to Asiasi ... Yessy, yessy!"

4Q – 1:55 to playJarrett Stidham to Devin Asiasi for a TOUCHDOWN! Extra point is good. @Buccaneers 17@Patriots 27 pic.twitter.com/NUZbuTamkp

— RADIO.COM Sports (@RDCSports) May 20, 2020

AND WHAT ABOUT GRONK?

Much like Brady, most of Gronkowski's production (8 catches, 75 yards) came after the Bucs had fallen in a significant hole. At one point the tight end was rocked on pass in the middle of the field, letting the ball fly into the arms of Patriots defender Jonathan Jones with 52 seconds left in the first half. It led to a half-ending field goal, leading Wiggins to blurt out, "This is a complete curb-stomping!" Brady's go-to guy this time around was undeniably Chris Godwin, who grabbed 10 balls for 135 yards and a touchdown. 

2Q – 0:52FUMBLE!Rob Gronkowski coughs up the football and Jonathan Jones recovers it at the Tampa Bay 42 yard line. pic.twitter.com/LNKMx4eAZ0

— RADIO.COM Sports (@RDCSports) May 20, 2020

THE BIGGEST PLAY OF THE GAME CAME FROM N'KEAL HARRY

The second-year wide receiver didn't do much until when it counted the most. With the Bucs having cut the Patriots' lead to three points with just under five minutes remaining, a struggling Stidham fired a 30-yard strike to Harry on first down to help pave the way for what would be the hosts' game-clinching touchdown.

THE PATRIOTS' KNEW BLITZING WAS NOT THE WAY TO GO

Belichick's defense finished five sacks of Brady, with Lawrence Guy leading the with a pair while Chase Winovich, Adam Butler and John Simon all had one each. But all of them were a result of the Patriots' sitting back in coverage and letting the Bucs' signal-caller hold on to the ball too long. This, of course, allowed Wiggins to bust out one of his favorites: "If the lights get too bright the booty is going to get too tight."

3Q – 10:02Tom Brady is SACKED by Lawrence Guy for his second of the night. pic.twitter.com/jfYLIpZ10B

— RADIO.COM Sports (@RDCSports) May 20, 2020

WIGGY REALLY LIKE CRITICIZING THE PLAY-CALLING

With the Patriots' running game virtually nonexistent in the early going, Wiggins' frustration led him to start criticizing Josh McDaniels. Of course, immediately after the rant about running the ball too much, Sony Michel busted off a TD run as part of what would be a 19-carry, 95-yard day. A few minutes later we actually heard this from that same announcer: "McDaniels is at his best when he's mixing up a bit." But it wasn't just the Patriots' coaching Wiggy took issue with. "(Bruce) Arians looks like someone who is just getting out-coached," said Wiggins, who also went on to question if his performance by Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich might cost him head-coaching opportunities.

SOME OTHER BROADCAST GEMS ...

- Wiggins was very intent on making it clear he had siphoned information in pre-productions meetings. "Brady told he me he is looking to stick it to Belichick." "I talked to the special teams coach of the Buccaneers." "Edelman told me he wants to be called Mr. Cluch." "I was talking to (Leftwich) and he said he has some pages in his playbook." And when Fitzy asked why he wasn't invited to the pre-production meeting the response was, "We had the pre-production on Zoom and we didn't have your Zoom number," making it clear Stevens could attend the post-production meeting.

- "This can only be described as a virtual shocker!" - Stevens after the Patriots took a 10-0 lead.

- "He goes by the name of 'Stiddy the Kiddy'." - Wiggins on Stidham. Also reacting to Stidham's interception with "That just shows his immaturity and youngness."

The @Patriots pull it off at home and defeat Tom Brady in his return to Gillette Stadium! pic.twitter.com/nXpw7v9nPv

— RADIO.COM Sports (@RDCSports) May 20, 2020