Throwing with precision and swiftness, and surprisingly running with some of the latter, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came out hot on Monday night.
There were some bumps in the road, but they ultimately got exactly what they needed, defeating the New York Giants, 30-10, and getting back to form as they snapped a two-game skid.
Coming off back-to-back losses in which Brady had a pair of interceptions in each defeat, the future Hall of Famer had a pair of touchdowns and 307 yards passing as he led a game-opening touchdown drive and then piloted the Buccaneers to the last 20 points of the game.
Noticeably frustrated following a Week 10 loss, Brady showed up for Monday's postgame news conference with a smile curving his face.
"We played better," Brady grinned. "Better for all of us when we play better."
All was not well for Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champions heading into Monday night. As aforementioned, they had lost two in a row and Brady was facing a Giants team that has historically been trouble for TB12.
Brady and Co. set the tone for change from the onset, though, marching 73 yards on the game's opening drive for a touchdown with the superstar signal-caller connecting on all five of his passes, including a 13-yard touchdown to Chris Godwin. Brady completed his first 10 passes of the game and finished the night 30 of 46 with an 89.7 rating. It was good for a get-right game, but as per usual, Brady pointed out that it could've gone smoother.
"We left some out there, we should've had another one before the half," Brady said in reference to punting before the half after a hookup with Godwin to the Giants' 1-yard line was negated by a penalty. "Just keep pushing forward."
A Daniel Jones touchdown pass to former first-round offensive lineman Andrew Thomas led to a tie ballgame at 10-all in the second quarter, but the Buccaneers responded with a scoring march on the ensuing drive capped by a Ronald Jones touchdown run. It was the start of a 20-point run for the Bucs that played out in the proverbial game that wasn't as close as the score would indicate.
Thus, even though the Giants responded from the Bucs' opening salvo, it was Tampa Bay's first shot that truly set the tone for a game in which the Buccaneers' offense was consistent and their defense was dominant.
However, it was the veteran QB's 10-yard sprint on the team's second drive that proved to be the biggest highlight. And it was 10 yards, even though Brady said differently after the game.
"Eleven-yard run," Brady said when asked about his 10-yard scramble. "Doesn't happen very often so I do remember how far they go."
Brady scrambled to the left, pulled off a low hurdle of a diving would-be tackler and then slid cleats up through a defender before springing up, pumping his fist and screaming aloud.
"It's been forever. Probably never," Brady said of "hurdling" an opponent. "That's not what I do. Good to have it come up. Hopefully I can do that next week."
The fleet feet of Brady carried him to a first down on the third-and-4 play. It led to a field goal by Ryan Succop, but stood as a highlight in a game that certainly wasn't perfect for Tampa Bay, but was exactly what it needed after the frustration of consecutive defeats in which the Bucs didn't play at their best.
It was also a snapshot of Brady's willingness to do whatever it takes to propel his team to victory.
"I was kinda open on that play, going up the seams, so I was like, I looked back, I was like why aren't I getting the ball. And he's running the ball, I was like Tom, man, you coulda just chucked up in the air, maybe it would've been a touchdown," tight end Rob Gronkowski joked. "I also saw him running and was like, man that's pretty dope. He got a first down, that's what we needed, so that was a good play by him. It's cool to see him run; 44-years-old, he's running around getting first downs. That's pretty impressive."
Entering Monday's prime-time showdown, Brady was 5-3 against the Giants, with two of those losses in the Super Bowl. Six of those eight games were decided by four points or less and Brady was 3-3 in those, per NFL Research.
This wasn't one of those close classics. This was a game in which the Super Bowl champs got right and improved to 7-3, while the Giants sputtered to 3-7.
Things are likely to get more troublesome on Sunday when Tampa Bay faces the streaking Indianapolis Colts.
"Every day that goes by is closer to the end of the season. Every game is more important, cause there's fewer of them and you don't get any of them back," said Brady, who surpassed 3,000 yards passing in a season for an NFL-record Tom Brady 19th time. "We're at a decent point, but we can play a lot better than we played. Seven and three through 10 games, there's a lot to learn from. Hoping our best football's ahead of us."
The hope returned and replaced the frustration for Brady and his bunch on Monday night. The Buccaneers got back on the winning track and their road to repeating in emphatic fashion.
"Just focused and disciplined," said Brady of the team's approach leading into the game. "We've got a lot of football left."