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
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
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.