Tom Brady & Bucs’ Win Over Patriots Becomes 2nd Most Watched ‘Sunday Night Football’ Ever – Update

By Dominic Patten, Alexandra Del Rosario

Tom Brady
Tom Brady AP

UPDATE, 1:04 PM: Tom Brady has rarely been second place at anything, but the seven-time Super Bowl champ and NFL passing yardage record holder may be cool with this one.

The QB’s much promoted return to play his old comrades in the New England Patriot last night on Sunday Night Football is now the second-most watched SNF ever, according to update data from Nielsen.

At a Total Audience Delivery of 28.5 million, on NBC, Peacock and various other digital platforms, the Bucs 19-17 win over the Pats in an often very wet primetime is only topped by the 30.3 million who tuned in for SNF on December 30, 2012. That Cowboys vs Washington battle for the NFC East title snared 30.3 million, to be the fifth most watched Sunday NFL game ever.

Seeing a surge from this morning’s early numbers, the total viewers on the Comcast-own network alone were 27.2 million for the grinding 8:23 – 11:39 PM ET game at Gillette Stadium.

As well as getting more viewers than anything other broadcast this year except for February’s Tampa Bay-winning Super Bowl, last night’s NBC flagship NFL show scored a 34 share among U.S households – the highest ever for SNF since NBC started airing the gridiron show back in 2006.

Big boots for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills to even try (they won’t) fill on October 10 on SNF.

PREVIOUSLY, 9:07 AM: The Sunday Night Football 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 venue in Foxborough, MA, 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 last-minute boot hadn’t bounced off the upright.

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 Mike Evans. (Overall, for you math heads, the seven-time Super Bowl winner Brady has a stunning 80,058 passing yards in his career.)

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For all those stats and the analysis of the perceived bad blood between Brady and Belichick (the two had a long private convo in a locker room after the game), the real numbers are the ones coming from Nielsen. And those numbers look very good.

In the non-adjusted fast affiliates, SNF snared a 6.0 rating in the coveted 18-49 demographic and about 22 million viewers.

Now, those results will rise significantly 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 probably is unlikely that the Bucs-Pats grind will crack the all-time Top 5 Sunday NFL games. The Patriots-Indianapolis Colts matchup of November 4, 2007, featuring Brady against Peyton Manning, 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.

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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).

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