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Tom Brady and Buccaneers found a way to thrive during the most challenging of seasons

Tom Brady stands amid confetti, with his young daughter and two sons around him, holds up a trophy.
Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady is accompanied by his children as he hoists the Lombardi Trophy following Super Bowl LV.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Turns out, the NFL did have a bubble — an unofficial one — and Tampa Bay thrived in it.

“With the coronavirus situation and all the protocols, it was really like football for junkies,” Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady said Monday, the morning after leading his team to a 31-9 upset of Kansas City in Super Bowl LV.

“There was not really a lot of things to do other than show up to work and play football. Normally, there’s a lot of things going on with playing football. So if you love football, this was the year to be a player in the NFL, because that’s what it was. It was like football camp with all your buddies year-round.”

Brady, who secured his seventh ring and was named the Super Bowl’s most valuable player for the fifth time, brought to fruition the dream the Buccaneers had when they signed him as a free agent last offseason. He and Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians joined NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on videoconference for the annual early morning MVP news conference.

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At 43, Brady was the oldest player in Super Bowl history, and at 68, Arians was the oldest coach to win it all. They came together this season, two old dogs showing the football world some new tricks.

Bill Plaschke picked against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers winning the Super Bowl. After Sunday’s win over the Chiefs, he’ll never make that mistake again.

Even though Brady said the year felt like football camp, Arians said it was still a daunting challenge to get up to speed quickly and get in sync. Brady spent two decades running the same system in New England, then had to adjust that grooved thinking on the fly.

“We’re going to New Orleans, and I think I’m speaking for Tom here, it’s like, ‘What the hell’s that play? What’s that word mean? And what the hell’s that guy going to do on this play?’ I think it just took time, and it’s not easy,” Arians said.

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“I can’t give Tom enough credit for just hanging in there with the coaches and knowing this is going to work out sooner or later. And it did.”

The Buccaneers were 3½-point underdogs and faced the challenge of containing the score-from-anywhere Chiefs, led by superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But Mahomes was under heavy pressure all game and wound up losing by double digits for the first time in his NFL career. That hadn’t happened since he was at Texas Tech in 2016.

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs failed to reach the end zone in any of their 11 possessions against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl 2021.

Arians thought the score could have been even more lopsided. The coach said he was angry “because we really had about 40 or 45 out there last night, and we left a few out there.”

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“But this group of guys is so special,” Arians added, “and hopefully we can keep this band together and have an offseason where we actually know what the hell we’re doing and are all on the same page. The sky’s the limit with this group.”

Brady said after the game that he intended to be back. This season, he had the additional worry of both his parents battling coronavirus, something only revealed recently. They live in San Mateo, and the situation was somewhat reminiscent of the quarterback leading the Patriots to a Lombardi Trophy four years ago — the historic comeback over the Atlanta Falcons — in a year when Brady’s mother, Galynn, was battling cancer. They were at Raymond James Stadium for Sunday’s game.

“A lot of families have been affected by this COVID situation,” Brady said. “It hit my dad pretty hard. My mom recovered pretty quickly. My dad had a little rough go. But in the end, he came through like he always does. He’s a fighter. I was just so happy he was there last night watching us play, so it all ended up well.”

Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement to play with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, and the tight end showed his value with two touchdowns in Super Bowl win.

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Brady’s family stayed elsewhere during the Super Bowl preparations, allowing the quarterback the house to himself and thereby minimizing distractions. So the postgame celebration doubled as a big family reunion.

“I actually spent the night in my daughter’s bed because I had five of my nephews and nieces in my bed,” he said. “That was pretty unique. It was probably about two hours of sleep, so I’m going to be trying to get some extra sleep today.”

With this season’s ultimate goal accomplished, that’s some well-deserved rest.


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