Week 4 of the 2021 NFL season was all about the return of Tom Brady to New England.
Punters might not have been treated to the most aesthetically pleasing contest but it was a gripping, defensive encounter as Brady duelled his former boss Bill Belichick for three and a bit hours.
The final scorecard was a split decision victory for Brady, but it should not have overshadowed a big week of action in the National Football League.
We’ve got our big takeaways from that Sunday Night Football epic plus the rest of the weekend below.
1 – Brady Completes The Set
No matter how many times he said it in the lead up to kickoff, this was not “just another game” for Tom Brady.
How could it be?
Six titles, 20 years of memories and a departure that in the moment seemed impossible.
The Patriots did their bit to honour their former quarterback before kickoff with this in stadium video tribute.
For a guy who has produced hours, if not days of highlights cutting that down to a minute long video would have been tough.
You could tell he was amped up for this one, the emotion of the moment clearly took over as he sailed plenty of passes over the heads of his receivers.
But with the game on the line, he did to the Patriots what he had done to so many teams as a member of that team.
Needing a score to retake the lead late in the fourth quarter, Brady drove his team down, converting on a key third down to get them in field goal range.
Even though he needed a little bit of good fortune at the end with Nick Folk’s doink off the post, you would have backed Brady to take the lead back with 45 odd seconds and two timeouts in hand.
With that win he became just the fourth quarterback to record a win over all 32 NFL franchises and had a hug from his former mentor after the game.
It will be a huge test of the Buccaneers focus to come back from a draining game in New England next week when they take on the Dolphins back in Tampa.
2 – Bill Belichick Still Has It
Going over to the other sideline, it was far from a vintage New England Patriots performance against Tampa Bay.
Finishing -2 in the turnovers, with -1 net rushing yard, committing eight penalties and making several other mental errors throughout the game is hardly a recipe for success against the reigning Super Bowl champions.
However, the noted defensive genius, Bill Belichick was able to formulate a defensive gameplan that held the Buccaneers to 19 points off one touchdown and four field goals.
It had his team in a position to take the lead with 55 seconds remaining but…
Furthermore, while it might feel a bit hollow the day after a defeat, rookie Mac Jones showed plenty of promising signs in the face of a relentless pass rush on the big stage.
New England had to go deep into its bag of tricks and there has to be some concern that this was a kitchen sink game, especially on defence.
It will be impossible to replicate the stage and build up to that contest, but if they can find a way to build on that, they should start to get the results that have been eluding them to date.
On the plus side, they have a much easier task next week with the Houston Texans on the schedule.
Cut down on the mistakes and the Patriots should record a big win.
3 – R-E-L-A-X
Any Packers fan that panicked after their belting in Week 1 at the hands of New Orleans should have taken the advice of their quarterback from seven years ago.
One of his favourite combinations from that 2014 season was resurrected as he went to Randall Cobb for two touchdowns in the Packers 10 point win at home over the Steelers.
Not only has Rodgers been on a tear in the last three weeks, but the Packers are already a game clear on top of the NFC North ahead of their two week road trip.
It’s no surprise that they are favoured ahead of their game in Cincinnati this weekend.
4 – It Does Not Have To Be Pretty
Unlike the college setup, style points really do not matter in the NFL.
You just make sure you get your wins any way you can.
Even if it is a game that produced as many offensive highlights as the 2011 Indianapolis Colts with Curtis Painter at the helm.
Cleveland’s defence is riding a hot streak at the moment and that unit got them a huge 14-7 win over Minnesota.
They scored one touchdown but held the Vikings to just 255 total yards while sacking Kirk Cousins twice and picking him off once.
Seattle got off to a horrible start in San Francisco, tallying -12 net yards over their first four possessions.
On their fifth possession however the Seahawks finally got things going and they got on the board with this touchdown from DK Metcalf.
You might normally associate the Wilson to Metcalf connection with bombs down the sideline but they had to adapt in this one to find a way past the 49ers.
It helped that Jimmy Garoppolo did his calf which thrust rookie Trey Lance into the lineup who, despite his flashes of excitement is still not ready for primetime.
That win for the Seahawks sets up a massive game this Friday (AEDT) against the Rams who are looking to respond to their first defeat.
5 – Kansas City Is Just Getting Started
Kansas City is operating from a position of power right now, a 1-2 start would signal doom for most NFL teams but not these guys.
Having arguably the most talented group of star players in the league makes that pill much easier to swallow, because they know they can flick the switch when needed.
Philadelphia gave them the perfect opportunity for a tune up before next week’s big game against Buffalo.
Patrick Mahomes had his best output of 2021 with five touchdown passes as they dissected the Eagles all afternoon.
It was a relatively tough schedule for them to start off with as well with the Browns, Ravens and Chargers all capable of playing the Chiefs close, and they did.
But when they took on an overmatched defence, they did what they needed to and put up 42 points.
They will need to be humming from the get-go against a Buffalo side that will be challenging them for home field advantage in the postseason.