BY ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro football writer
The long-suppressed Tampa Bay Buccaneers are again kings of the NFL thanks to Tom Brady and the championship pedigree brought back from New England – along with two former Patriots teammates who starred with him in Super Bowl 55.
The Buccaneers dethroned the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night between 31 and 9 at Raymond James Stadium behind Brady’s trio of first down touchdown passes, two against Rob Gronkowski and the other against Antonio Brown.
Gronkowski came out of retirement and signed with the Buccaneers after Brady signed the Patriots to a two-year $ 50 million deal in Tampa last spring after dominating the AFC for two decades.
Brown, who had a one-game cameo for the Patriots last season and briefly was Brady’s New England roommate, met him again in mid-season in Florida after being banned from eight games for violating the NFL’s personal code of conduct had been.
Brown caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Brady that put the Buccaneers 21-6 ahead at halftime after TD Gronkowski took 8 and 17 yards.
The Bucs, who also dispatched Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers to the playoffs, extended their lead to 28-9 on a 27-yard touchdown carried out by another NFL castoff, Leonard Fournette. The former Jaguars who ran back joined Hall of Famer Terrell Davis (1997 season) as the only players to score in four playoff games in a single postseason.
While Brady’s bunch took care of the offensive things, Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, and the rest of the Bucs starred defenders relentlessly pestered Patrick Mahomes by handing the Chief’s young superstar the worst loss of his spectacular NFL career.
Mahomes had never been held a professional without a touchdown, and he hadn’t lost double digits since his Texas Tech Red Raiders were throttled by Iowa State 66-10 on November 29, 2016.
Brady led Tampa Bay to its first title in 18 seasons and became the first player to win seven NFL championships. That broke a tie he had with three members of Vince Lombardi’s great 1960s Green Bay Packers teams: Fuzzy Thurston and Hall of Famers Herb Adderley and Forrest Gregg, which included the first two Super Bowls.
At 43, Brady was the oldest player to ever play in a Super Bowl. He did it just 10 months after leaving New England, where the Patriots missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008, the year Brady blew out a knee in the opener.
The Patriots and Bill Belichick fell 7-9 in 2020, the same record the Bucs had as their biggest free agent the year before Brady’s arrival in Florida since his sidekick Peyton Manning left the Indianapolis Colts for the Denver Broncos in 2012.
It wasn’t just freelance agents and commercial acquisitions that earned Tampa its second NFL title. Rookie Safety Antoine Winfield Jr.’s interception gave Tampa Bay the final score, a field goal that led to the 31-9, and linebacker Devin White intercepted Mahomes’ pass in the final minutes.
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