SANTA CLARA, Calif. — It felt like a home game for the New England Patriots at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday as they asserted their dominance over the hapless San Francisco 49ers 30-17, Tom “BRA-DY” chants and all.
Well, except for two caveats: The stadium was less packed than Gillette Stadium at a typical home game but also possibly louder. (Sorry, Patriots fans. Pete Carroll was correct. You’re a quiet bunch in Foxboro.)
The chants made Brady feel at home, as well the quarterback should have 30 minutes away from where he grew up in San Mateo, Calif. Brady greeted one of his idols prior to the game and was set to meet a bevy of family and friends after the win.
“I’ve got a lot of people out there waiting for me, so it was very cool,” Brady said Sunday. “It couldn’t have been any better than that. To have the first chance to ever do that was very special. I felt it in pregame warmup, and it carried right to the last play of the game. It was pretty great. They’ve got a great organization, they always have. They inspired a lot of kids here in the Bay Area. My time growing up, I was one of them. To see Tom Rathman before the game, I idolized him. Dwight Clark and Joe Montana and to see Steve Young at halftime. Pretty great day for me.”
It was great on the field too, as Patriots fans have grown accustomed to seeing out of their quarterback for the last 15 seasons, and this one in particular. Brady went 24 of 40 for 280 yards with four touchdowns, connecting on scores to four different receivers.
Brady maneuvered the pocket, avoiding and scampering past pass rushers, while throwing on the run like he was a quarterback much younger and more mobile.
And while Brady never got to play at Candlestick Park, where he grew up watching the 49ers, it still was meaningful for him to play in the area against the team he exalted as a youth.
“I’ve always loved the team and the organization — until 2000, when I loved another team and another organization,” Brady said. “That’s just the way it goes.”
Brady even got a little nostalgic in his post-game presser while discussing Rathman, a 49ers fullback from 1986 to 1993.
“He was neighbors with my best friend,” Brady said. “I got to know him a little bit before the draft, and he was just starting in coaching. I always loved the way that he played, the way that he spiked the ball after he scored. He was one of my favorite players. He autographed my shoe at a store opening when I was probably 12 or 13. He and Roger Craig. It was a pretty great memory.”
Brady can sometimes seem a little robotic when he steps to a podium to address the media. But Sunday in his return to San Francisco, it was easy to tell Brady was touched by the showing of support from a stadium that booed him at Super Bowl 50.
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images