Tom Brady’s return to New England when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face the Patriots, has garnered at least one nickname thanks to NFL writer Peter King.
King dubbed the Buccaneers-Patriots Week 4 clash “The TomBill Bowl” for Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who forged a dynasty together before Brady left for Tampa in 2020. Of course, Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski will also play against his old team and coach, too. Same for recently re-signed Antonio Brown, who played a game for the Patriots with Brady in 2019.
Will the “TheTomBill Bowl” name stick remains to be seen until the Week 4 game happens. Great games in NFL history such as the Ice Bowl, a frigid 1967 title game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers.
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Why So Early?
The NFL opted for four weeks of anticipation versus a half season or longer for the Bucs-Patriots showdown because of the storyline.
“The story can be about Brady’s return,” VP of NFL Broadcast Planning Mike North told Pro Football Talk’s Peter King. “It would be different if he’s standing on the 50-yard line watching a tribute video in November in six inches of snow, or the later in the season we go, the more likely somebody’s injured. Getting it in early (and) having that story told made some sense.”
King interviewed North and NFL Senior VP of broadcasting Howard Katz about the decision and the rest of the NFL 2021 schedule.
“Wherever it was going to land, we thought the first six weeks of the season was probably the right time for it,” Katz told King. “Each network lobbied for that game. They lobbied hard. Everybody wanted it because it’s obviously a crown jewel in the schedule.”
“We played with that game at various stages of our schedule in different places,” Katz added. “That game was not always on the Sunday night schedule. It moved around a little bit. It wound up landing in Week 4 on Sunday Night Football. It might have landed in Week 4 or 5 or 6 on (a) Fox doubleheader. I know CBS really wanted it as a cross-flex. ESPN wanted the game.”
Insiders’ Speculated Dates for Bucs-Pats Varied Significantly
NFL Network’s Jim Trotter proposed the NFL “should kick off the 2021 season” with the Bucs and Patriots because of the game’s magnitude.
Others had the Bucs and Patriots playing in November. Jordan Moore of Tampa’s Spectrum Bay News reported that he heard the NFL will schedule the Bucs and Patriots on Thanksgiving Day. Scott Zolak and Marc “Beetle” Bertrand of 98.5 The Sports Hub also projected a Thanksgiving night game. Christopher Price of the Boston Globe likewise pegs the Bucs and Patriots for November but for Nov. 7.
“The biggest regular-season game of the year is the best way to kick off November sweeps,” Price wrote. “The networks are going to be wrestling over this one, but my guess is it gets the Sunday Night Football treatment.”
NBC Boston’s Tom Curran went with an earlier date of Sept. 19 for a Sunday Night tilt between the Bucs and Patriots but didn’t rule out November. Curran picked that September date based on how the NFL scheduled the Patriots last season where the team faced an NFC opponent in Week 2.
“Now the league could wait for sweeps as it used to with Brady-Manning,” Curran wrote. “Doing that may time it up so that Mac Jones faces Brady, not Cam (Newton). But if Jones takes over for Newton during the year, it may be because the Pats are in a swoon. Better to hit this one before the story of the 2021 season begins to be written and the 2020 season is still fresh. And I’m feeling instant classic on this one. Big-time Bullyball from both sides and a surprisingly tight one. It’s always better to catch Tom Brady early in the year.”
Big Ratings, Big Ticket
The NFL knows well that the Bucs-Patriots is the marquee game of the year, which the NFL Network touted in its schedule release hype video. The league announced its 2021 schedule May 12.
Ticket prices soared for the game after the announcement. Prices reached past $8,000 in the first 24 hours.
“This is going to be what every single person wants for their birthday,” Ace Ticket CEO Jim Holzman told WEEI. “Who wouldn’t want to go to this game? We never got to say goodbye to Tom Brady. It’s your last chance to see him at home. He never got a sendoff, and who is going to give up their seat? I think when you put those together, like who wants to give up their seat?”