TAMPA, Fla. — Mission accomplished.
Eleven months after he shocked the sports world by leaving the New England Patriots in free agency and signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom Brady lived up to all of the expectations heaped on him.
Sunday, in Super Bowl 55, playing in the stadium that he now calls home and hosting the team that many projected as the league’s next dynasty, Brady led the Buccaneers to a 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
For the 43-year-old Brady, it was a remarkable seventh Super Bowl victory and his second in the last three years. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers snapped an 18-year drought and won the second Super Bowl in franchise history.
Tossing three touchdown passes (all in the first half), Brady took home MVP honors for the fifth time in his storied career.
In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, Brady said every one of his previous victories carried special meaning for different reasons, and that he didn’t like to compare them because of that. But whether he wants to compare or not, this victory for Tampa Bay just might top the list of his most impressive championship runs because of all the obstacles he encountered this season.
New surroundings, new teammates and coaches. New methods and philosophies, a new language after 20 years in the same offense, and — thanks to COVID-19, not a single offseason practice or preseason game to help ease the transition.
But Brady, who becomes only the second quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl as a starter for two different teams, emerged victorious because despite all the change around him, he didn’t change.
One of the most important traits Brady learned in New England has to be the importance of patience, discipline and consistency. Each unit, each player was charged with simply focusing on doing his job and finding ways to perfect his craft, and if so, improvement would come.
A commitment to each kept the Patriots grounded and focused despite slow starts, and it paved the way for them to peak at the right time so they played their best down the stretch of the season, then carried that momentum into so many deep postseason runs.
So it was fitting that the same type of approach to the season paved the way for Brady to win Super Bowl No. 7 in Year 1 with his new team.
He didn’t flinch when the Bucs reached the midway point of the season with their star-studded offense looking disjointed and aimless. He knew that patience, and attention to detail and a commitment to hard work would see them through. He knew he and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich simply had to keep tinkering, keep communicating and searching for that ideal balance that would blend the Bucs’ aggressive tendencies with the rhythmic offensive flow that Brady found most comfortable during the first 19 seasons of his career.
A willingness shared by Bruce Arians, Leftwich and Brady to find a compromise proved invaluable for Tampa, because as the Bucs continued to massage and better understand each other and learn new ways of doing things, the success followed.
Tampa exited its Week 13 bye with its offense reborn, and its defense formidable as ever, and ripped off four straight victories to cap the regular season. They extended that win streak to seven games including the postseason march to the Super Bowl.
Sunday night, the Buccaneers needed the same patient approach. They opened the game with a pair of three-and-outs, but eventually found their offensive weapon.
Leftwich got the run game going, and that opened things up for the play-action passing attack, opening things up downfield, and from there, he continued to mix things: short passes, misdirection, more run plays, and the offense clicked.
It was vintage Brady, connecting with Rob Gronkowski throughout the first half and twice for touchdown passes. (The duo’s 13th and 14th postseason scores broke the record previously held by Joe Montana and Jerry Rice).
And in another familiar ingredient for a Brady Super Bowl victory, he had the backing of a strong defense. All of those championship performances in New England featured outstanding defensive performances. Only twice did the Patriots surrender 300 yards or more in a Super Bowl, and they always won on third downs.
On Sunday, Tampa Bay followed a similar script. Todd Bowles’ unit kept the pressure on Patrick Mahomes, victimizing a Chiefs line without both starting offensive tackles, and denied Kansas City on 10 of 13 third downs.
A Chiefs offense that had averaged 30 points per game in the postseason and 29.6 per game in the regular season mustered just nine points, and Mahomes, who boasts a 108.7 career passer rating, posted a career-low rating of 45.2 Sunday night.
Th effectiveness on offense and the dominance of Tampa’s defense combined to give Brady something else he had never garnered: a blowout victory in a Super Bowl. Until Sunday night’s 22-point margin, his teams had won by three, three, three, four, six and 10 points in Super Bowls.
But the potency of a Buccaneers offense that boasted a wealth of talent, and the ferocity of Tampa’s defense overwhelmed the Chiefs and gave the G.O.A.T his moment of glory once again.