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Bucs-Patriots becomes second most-watched Sunday Night Football game ever

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 03: A fan holds up a big cut out of Tom Brady’s head prior to the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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As expected, Tom Brady’s return to New England drew a big audience. To the undoubted delight of Jerry Jones, it wasn’t the biggest audience that ever tuned in for a Sunday night game.

Via, Sunday night’s Buccaneers-Patriots contest generated a total audience of 28.5 million. That made it the second most-watching Sunday night game ever, second only to the Week 17 2012 playoff play-in game between the Cowboys and Washington, which delivered an audience of 30.3 million.

Given the realities of current TV viewing habits, it’s as strong a number as any regular-season game is going to deliver, especially this early in the season. Most of the most-watched games of the past came later in the year, as records develop and good teams declare themselves.

Also, it took a while for the game to get interesting. With plenty of rain and not much scoring, the game may not have held interest the way it could have, or maybe should have.