TAMPA — Fire the cannons. Raise the flags.
It’s the rallying cry for Buccaneers fans from Ybor City to Bayshore Gardens and all points in between.
Tom Brady took care of the cannons Sunday night. As for the flag raising, he’ll take care of that on the opening weekend of the 2021 season.
Brady showed he still has plenty of firepower in his arm, throwing three touchdown passes as he riddled a baffled Kansas City defense in a 31-9 victory in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium.
Now the Buccaneers get to raise a championship flag in the fall — the seventh Super Bowl banner Brady has helped lead his teams to during his 21-year career.
When Brady signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay back in the spring, longtime Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David said, “Everything’s about to change.”
He couldn’t have known just how much.
Brady, who collected his record fifth Super Bowl MVP award, spearheaded the turnaround of a franchise that hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2007 and hadn’t won a postseason game since winning the Super Bowl XXXVII after the 2002 season.
“I think we knew this was going to happen, didn’t we guys?” Brady hollered to his teammates from the postgame podium surrounded by his boys, Jack and Ben, and daughter Vivian.
Asked if this was the crowning achievement of his career — his previous nine trips to the NFL’s ultimate game came with the Patriots — Brady deflected.
“I’m not making any comparisons,” said Brady, as he pointed to his teammates. “These guys are world champions forever and you can never that away from them.”
Later Brady said of his Super Bowl wins, “They’re all special.”
Leonard Fournette said Brady instilled confidence in the Buccaneers all week, including texting them late at night to give them pointers about the Chiefs defense and remind them what to expect during the week of preparations.
“I’m blessed to be with this man,” said Fournette, who was recruited to Tampa by Brady after the running back was released by the Jaguars. “He’s the GOAT. He is the greatest football player of all time and now I get to tell my children I played with him.”
The 43-year-old Brady outdueled young gun Patrick Mahomes, who was under constant pressure from a relentless Tampa Bay pass rush dialed up by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who preyed on Chiefs backup tackles Martinas Rankin and Mike Remmers.
Bowles’s counterpart, Kansas City’s Steve Spagnuolo, who has had plenty of success defending Brady in the past, had no answers on this night.
Brady completed 21 of 29 passes for 201 yards and a 125.8 passer rating, his highest of all his Super Bowl appearances. Mahomes was the third straight Super Bowl MVP to have his season ended by Brady, who dispatched Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in the Divisional round and the NFC Championship game.
Brady, who confirmed he’ll be back for season No. 22, also extended his Super Bowl marks for most career competitions (277), passing yards (3,039), and touchdown passes (21).
As he has done so often on these title runs, Brady leaned on swashbuckling buddy Rob Gronkowski early and often. Brady hit his former Patriots tight end teammate six times for 67 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
In his previous nine Super Bowl appearances, Brady had zero first-quarter touchdown drives but he no longer has that ugly statistic on his record.
After two fruitless drives, Brady got the ball for a third time staring at a 3-0 deficit. He quickly led Tampa Bay on a 75-yard drive, hitting all four his passes, the final one a simple 8-yard slip screen to an uncovered Gronkowski for a 7-3 lead. They never trailed again.
Brady continued his brilliant first half by going to Gronkowski again, hitting the big galoot on a 17-yard scoring strike and a 14-3 lead. It appeared as though the Buccaneers would settle for a field goal but an offside on the field goal attempt gave Tampa a first down and Brady made Kansas City pay for giving him an extra chance.
It was the 14th playoff touchdown connection for the pair, the most in NFL history, and their fourth Super Bowl TD, which broke a tie they held with Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.
Gronkowski trails only Rice (22) in postseason TD catches. He and Rice are the only players in NFL history with multiple TD catches in multiple Super Bowl games.
“Gronk’s an unbelievable player and teammate,” said Brady.
To put a bow on his terrific first 30 minutes, Brady led a clinical two-minute drive — though he got a huge assist from the Chiefs secondary as two critical calls kept the drive alive.
Brady finished off the lightning march by hitting another former Patriot, Antonio Brown, with a 1-yard TD and a 21-6 lead at intermission.
“Big-time players making big-time plays,” Brady said of the former New Englanders.
There’s was 30 minutes to go, but it felt like just formality.
Brady controlled the clock and his defense kept Mahomes out of the end zone for the first time in his career to seal the deal.
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