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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Tom Brady brings Patriots’ championship pedigree to Tampa

By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP News.

The long-downtrodden Tampa Bay Buccaneers are kings of the NFL again thanks to Tom Brady and the championship pedigree he brought over from New England — along with two former Patriots teammates who starred with him in Super Bowl 55.

The Buccaneers dethroned the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium behind Brady’s trio of first-down touchdown passes, two to tight end Rob Gronkowski and the other to wide receiver Antonio Brown.

Gronkowski came out of retirement and signed with the Buccaneers after Brady bolted the Patriots last spring for a two-year, $50 million contract in Tampa after dominating the AFC for two decades.

Brown, who had a one-game cameo for the Patriots last season and was briefly Brady’s housemate in New England, reunited with him in Florida at midseason after serving an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

Brown caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Brady that put the Buccaneers ahead 21-6 at halftime after TD grabs of 8 and 17 yards by Gronkowski.

The Bucs, who also dispatched Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs, extended their lead to 28-9 on a 27-yard touchdown run by another NFL castoff, Leonard Fournette. The former Jaguars running 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 things on offense, Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the Bucs’ star-studded defenders harassed Patrick Mahomes relentlessly in handing the Chiefs young superstar the worst loss of his spectacular NFL career.

Mahomes had never been held without a touchdown as a pro and he hadn’t lost by double digits since his Texas Tech Red Raiders were throttled by Iowa State 66-10 on Nov. 29, 2016.

In leading Tampa Bay to its first title in 18 seasons, Brady became the first player to win seven NFL championships. That broke a tie he held with three members of Vince Lombardi’s great Green Bay Packers teams of the 1960s: Fuzzy Thurston and Hall of Famers Herb Adderley and Forrest Gregg, which included the first two Super Bowls.

At 43, Brady became the oldest player ever to 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 to 7-9 in 2020, the same record the Bucs had the year before Brady’s arrival in Florida as the biggest free agent since his buddy Peyton Manning left the Indianapolis Colts for the Denver Broncos in 2012.

It wasn’t all free agents and trade acquisitions who brought Tampa its second NFL title. Rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr.‘s interception set up Tampa Bay’s final score, a field goal that made it 31-9, and linebacker Devin White intercepted Mahomes’ pass in the closing minutes.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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