TAMPA — He ran out of the tunnel and onto the field before Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium, with the familiar No. 24 on his back, a youthful spring in his step and a smile on his face.
Yes, Aiden Grimes celebrated his seventh birthday in style, as the Bucs granted his wish to run out before the game with the Bucs players, including his father Brent, who stayed alongside him stride for stride.
It was a preview of the day to come for Brent Grimes, who continues to celebrate his age and show he'll run with anyone, making big plays for the Bucs as a 34-year-old cornerback.
"That's the best corner in the league," teammate Vernon Hargreaves said of Grimes, who had three pass breakups and five tackles to help neutralize star receiver Odell Beckham, held to 90 yards on 15 targets in the Bucs' win. "I've been saying that. That's what he does."
A week earlier, Grimes had been sidelined by a shoulder injury, and the Bucs saw how much they missed him as Minnesota's Case Keenum threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns in an easy 34-17 Vikings win.
Against the Giants, Grimes was part of a defense that was still missing three key starters but stepped up to help Tampa Bay to a crucial 25-23 victory. When Grimes covered Beckham, he had just two catches for 10 yards on seven targets, according to Pro Football Focus.
"I want to take hats off to Mike Smith. He called a great game for us," Grimes said of his defensive coordinator. "He put us in great positions to make plays, and we executed the plan that we practiced all week. When you do that, you have some good results."
Still, the Bucs defense couldn't come up with any takeaways or sacks, giving Giants quarterback Eli Manning time to test the secondary. They responded with enough plays to pull off a sixth straight home win, if barely.
"When you are having a hard time generating a pass rush, you better cover," coach Dirk Koetter said. "Brent led the charge on that."
There's a bigger challenge awaiting Thursday, when the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots come to town. Tom Brady leads the NFL with 1,399 passing yards, is tied with 10 touchdowns and has zero interceptions in 155 passes.
Brady is 3-0 for his career against the Bucs. The Patriots have won those three by a combined scored of 86-10. Six Bucs players remain from the last — a 23-3 rout in 2013.
But Grimes knows Brady well. He faced him six times in 2013-15 when he was with the Dolphins, going 3-3, splitting the series each year. He's seen defenses hold Brady to 116 and 134 yards, and he's seen Brady go off for 356 yards and four touchdowns.
Brady is 40 now, and Grimes is old enough that the first time he played him, he didn't have a son to run out of the tunnel with. He's also never intercepted Brady, and that, too, would be a day to celebrate.
The Bucs' win against the Giants gives them optimism and momentum, Grimes said.
"Huge, going into a short week," he said. "It's still tough, but it makes it a lot easier. The vibe is a little better. Obviously the Patriots, everybody knows how good they are, but we've got to prepare and do the same thing next week — well, Thursday, in a couple of days, actually."
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.
Bucs vs. Patriots
8:25 Thursday, Raymond James Stadium. TV: CBS Line, O/U: Patriots by 5, 56