How with off-season workouts and preseason games canceled because of the pandemic, he still managed to transform a team that hadn’t won a playoff game since its Super Bowl-winning season of 2002 — that had finished last in the N.F.C. South in seven of the past nine seasons — and lead it to three consecutive playoff victories, all against division champions.
How he himself overcame a disappointing 2019 season in New England, undermined by a diminishing stockpile of talent around him, to average 333.3 passing yards per game over the final quarter of this season, with 12 touchdowns and one interception.
How he went from throwing an interception on the final play of his last season with the Patriots to helping the Buccaneers become the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
“It’s hard to envision this as a goal, but at the same time, it’s a week-to-week league,” said Brady, who will become the fourth quarterback to start a Super Bowl for more than one franchise, joining Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner and Craig Morton. “We’re at 7-5 seven games ago, not feeling great. We felt like we needed to find our rhythm. Played four great games down the stretch the last quarter of the season. After that, it was just all bonus. And we just had to go play well.”
As a team, the Buccaneers did play well on Sunday, and their comprehensive effort validated Brady’s decision to sign with them. He saw a team with elite receivers, an ascending young defense and a bevy of offensive coaches primed to maximize his final seasons. Instead of throwing to N’Keal Harry and Phillip Dorsett, Brady zipped balls this season to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, and to Antonio Brown, whom Tampa Bay added in October.
The game on Sunday unfolded early as if following a rough draft of the teams’ Week 6 matchup, when Tampa Bay sacked Rodgers five times, coaxed two turnovers and coasted to a 38-10 victory. But then Brady, after connecting on the last of his three touchdowns, threw interceptions on three consecutive drives, all in the second half, as Green Bay tried to overcome an 18-point deficit.
Backed by a defense that again sacked Rodgers five times and that twice held Green Bay’s league-best red zone offense without a touchdown when it had first-and-goal, Tampa Bay allowed just 6 points off Brady’s turnovers.