The matchup last night was billed as “The Return,” with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady coming back to Gillette Stadium to face his old coach Bill Belichick and his old team the New England Patriots.
Truth is, this time the hype was almost understated.
For a lot of the primetime game the rain poured on the Foxborough venue, with the score low and close. Blocked by Belichick’s playbook, Brady didn’t even throw a touchdown-winning pass and the whole thing could have gone sideways for the Super Bowl champs if Patriots kicker Nick Folk’s literally last-minute boot hadn’t bounced.
Still, in the end, the Bucs ground out a 19-17 victory and Brady clinched the NFL’s all-time passing yardage record with a smooth 28-yard toss to teammate Mike Evans. (Overall, for you math heads, the seven-time Super Bowl winner Brady has a stunning 80,058 passing yards in his career.)
Nothing but love. #TheReturn
Fr all those stats and the analysis of the perceived bad blood between Brady and Belichick (the two had a long locker room private convo after the game), the real numbers are the ones coming from Nielsen. And those numbers look very good.
In the non-adjusted fast affiliates, last night’s SNF snared a 6.0 among the coveted 18-49 demographic and about 22 million viewers.
Now, those results will significantly rise once time zone-adjusted data comes in and could end up just shy of an audience of 30 million. However, right now, Week 4 of NBC’s flagship NFL show is up a massive 58% in the key demo and 62% in viewership in the early numbers compared with last week’s Green Bay Packers-San Francisco 49ers game.
That Week 3 matchup went up to 20.2 million viewers on NBC in the final numbers. Looking at the wider landscape, the Total Audience Delivery for the nationally followed Packers and 49ers inched up to 21.1 million when streaming on Peacock, NBC Sports Digital and NFL Digital platforms were added in.
As things stand, it is probably unlikely that the Bucs-Pats grind will crack the Top 5 Sunday NFL games. The Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts matchup of November 4, 2007 is No. 1 there with 33.8 million watching.
How close last night’s SNF gets to that exalted list will be known later. We will update when we get them on a night NBC easily won.
In the meantime, beyond pro football, CBS ruled Sunday primetime with the latest installment of 60 Minutes, which earned a 1.5 demo rating and 9.93 million viewers. That provided a generous enough audience for the network’s showing of Star Trek, which closed off the evening.
America’s Funniest Home Videos returned to ABC on Sunday for its Season 32 premiere (0.4, 4.57M), just slightly down in the demo but up in viewers from its October 2020 opener (0.5, 4.27M). Following the long-running comedy clip show were Celebrity Wheel of Fortune (0.6, 4.48M), which marked a peak for ABC; Supermarket Sweep (0.4, 2.80M); and The Rookie (0.3, 2.98M).
Fox’s Sunday primetime peaked with a new episode of The Simpsons (0.5, 1.43M). The Great North (0.3, 950,000) was the network’s least-watched, and lowest-rated program of the evening.
Keeping the CW busy on Sunday was coverage of the iHeartRadio Music Festival Night 2 (0.4, 340K).