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All is well with Tom Brady back on field

Tom Brady, who led his team out onto the field for Sunday’s game, was eager to return.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

CLEVELAND — More than a year and a half later — after “11 out of 12 balls” lost pressure, Mona Lisa Vito, the Wells Report In Context, Jimmy “Hotfingers” McNally, Fanboy Judge Berman, the Ideal Gas Law, Defending The Wall, and Free Tom Brady — the Patriots finally put Deflategate behind them Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium on the banks of Lake Erie.

Brady returned from his football Alcatraz (a sentence served alternately at the Big House in Ann Arbor and sunbathing nude in Capri), torching the poor, pitiful Cleveland Browns, 33-13, in front of thousands of road trippers with Boston accents on an absolutely perfect football Sunday. Brady completed 28 of 40 passes for a Ted Williams-esque 406 yards, completed three touchdown passes to Martellus Bennett, and was not intercepted.


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“I want to do the best job I can for the city, for all of New England, for my teammates and for my family,’’ said Brady. “You have to make certain choices in my life to play this game . . . I love running out in front of 20,000 fans that are cheering for us when 50,000 are against us. It’s just fun to run out and play.’’

Asked how it felt to have Deflategate behind him, Brady went into Fort Foxborough mode and said, “I was just thinking about today and what I had to do. Just try to focus on what my job is . . . ’’

Was he inspired by “perceived slights” i.e. the slings and arrows of the commissioner, the Wells Report, and his highly publicized punishment?

“This isn’t a time for me to reflect,’’ he answered. “I’m happy we won today. I’m happy we win every time we play. I have a job to do and there’s no point in looking back whether we won Super Bowls, or lost championship games, or the last four weeks. None of it matters. Just go out and do the best I can do every week.’’


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Bill Belichick, meanwhile, continued to insist there is nothing to see here. That’s the New England narrative, and the majestically obtuse Hoodie is sticking to it. Getting Tom Brady back is no different than getting LaAdrian Waddle back. Belichick’s hair, sweatshirt, and pants might be on fire, but Bill is not going to acknowledge that the room might be getting a little warm.

These, after all, are the anti-Red Sox (”let’s celebrate Big Papi some more while our season goes down the drain”). The Patriots are about Team, not Tom.

Good to have the greatest quarterback of all time back, Bill?

“It was good to have Tom back, good to have Rob [Ninkovich] back,’’ Bill droned.

Did Tom exceed expectations?

“Our expectations are to come out here and perform well as a team.’’

But we were asking about Tom.

“I meant the whole team,’’ snapped the Hoodie. “That includes everybody. What else would we come out here for?’’

Got it.

In the end, Deflategate cost the Patriots a million bucks, first- and fourth-round draft picks, another piece of their reputation, and four games without Brady — three of which they won with kid quarterbacks. Meanwhile, they’ve already effectively clinched the Tomato Can AFC East, and Tom is back. NFL American had better be prepared for the wrath of the Flying Elvises.


A helmet-less Brady led the Patriots out of the tunnel just before 1 p.m. Sunday. By this time we’d already heard Jonathan Kraft on the radio belly-aching about the “patently unfair’’ suspension Tom had been forced to serve. When Tom put on his helmet and warmed up with Jimmy G, I was pretty sure I heard Tom say, “Yeah, I got this.’’

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Brady stretched his warm-up tosses to 55 yards before removing his helmet and taking a seat. This was a day in which he planned to go over the top and stretch the field.

The Patriots won the toss and deferred — which is what they always do. I thought they might change course and take the ball as a show of solidarity with Tom, but Belichick always will be about team consistency more than individual celebration.

Brady didn’t have to wait long to get on the field. New England’s defense forced a three and out and Brady took over on his own 20 with 13:41 left in the first period. The first pass was a 10-yard completion to binky Julian Edelman. Then came a 19-yard gain over the middle to Rob Gronkowski. The big play of the drive was a spectacular 34-yard catch and run by Gronk to the 2-yard line. With 10:32 left in the quarter, LeGarrette Blount ran untouched to paydirt to make it 7-0.

Surgical. Eighty yards in eight plays over 3 minutes, 13 seconds. Gronk caught twice as many passes in the opening drive as he’s caught all season. Brady threw for 65 yards in the drive. All was well in the Patriot universe.


One of the highlights for road-tripping Patriot Nation came late in the third quarter when Brady scrambled to his right and chugged 4 yards to the sideline for a relatively meaningless first down. Brady was hit pretty hard at the end of the play, but bounced up and defiantly gave the “first down” signal as much of the Patriot-garbed crowd roared its approval.

“I don’t run much so when I do, I was a little excited,’’ he said.

“We’ve got amazing fans,’’ added Brady. “I think we’ve got the best fans in the world. They showed up today and it was great to hear them.’’

It’s Game On for the 39-year-old quarterback. This is going to be a fun four months. Bring lots of popcorn and attitude. Just don’t try to get anyone in Fort Foxborough to admit that this is a mission of validation and retribution.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.