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Tom Brady's return to face Patriots nets second-highest 'Sunday Night Football' TV ratings ever for NBC

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Tom Brady's return to New England to face the Patriots on Sunday night was widely billed as the most anticipated NFL regular-season game of all time. The ratings offer further support to that theory.

NBC revealed Monday that more than one-third of U.S. televisions tuned in as Brady's new club, the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, clawed out a 19-17 victory over Bill Belichick and the Pats at Gillette Stadium. The 34 share, a percentage of televisions in use tuned to the game, Buccaneers-Patriots generated established a record for NBC's "Sunday Night Football" package.

The game was the most-watched Sunday night game in nearly nine years and pulled in the broadcast's second-best ratings ever, based on preliminary data, since the network began airing "SNF" in 2006. The official figures will be finalized by Nielsen on Tuesday.

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Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

The game registered a total audience delivery of approximately 28.5 million viewers across NBC TV, Peacock, NBC Sports Digital, and NFL Digital platforms. Only the 2012 regular-season finale between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington, a de facto playoff game with the NFC East title at stake – Washington prevailed 28-18 – has done better numbers for "SNF."

The local markets with the highest viewership numbers should come as little surprise. Providence, R.I., did a 73 share, followed by Boston (70), Tampa (51) and Hartford, Conn. (44).

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Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tom Brady's Patriots return nets big TV ratings for NBC in 'SNF'