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Tom Brady outduels Patrick Mahomes with help from teammates

Updated February 7, 2021 - 9:13 pm

His bust already carved in the Mount Rushmore of the NFL, Tom Brady elevated himself to an even more exalted position on Sunday, leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

For Brady, it was Super Bowl championship win number seven. At the age of 43, his 21 of 29 passing for 201 yards and three touchdowns would normally be considered a career-defining achievement.

But the way Brady performed and the greatness he summoned out of a young and dynamic Tampa Bay team raise the valid question of how much more Brady can achieve in however many more years he decides to play.

“It’s been an amazing year,” Brady said. “Really proud of all the guys, all the coaches and the effort we put in. We knew we were playing a great team and we got the job done.”

Brady woke up on Sunday as the greatest quarterback to set foot on a professional football field. By the time the day ended, he remarkably pushed himself even higher by decidedly outdueling Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes and patiently guiding the Buccaneers to their second Super Bowl championship.

Where it ultimately places him in the hierarchy of sports is for everyone else to decide.

“We’ve been grinding pretty hard, so I haven’t had a lot of time to think about all the things like that,” Brady said. “I’m just blessed, grateful for my teammates, all the people that have supported us all year. It’s been a great year.”

Brady benefited from two big assists.

The first came from longtime New England Patriots teammate Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to join Brady in Tampa Bay this year and, reunited on the biggest stage, responded with six catches for 67 yards and two first-half touchdowns.

“It’s hands down one of the greatest accomplishments in sports history,” Gronkowski said about he and Brady and the Buccaneers forming such an immediate connection to win a Super Bowl. “I’m not going to say it’s the greatest, but I would say it’s up there to be sure.”

The second came courtesy of the Buccaneers’ defense, which took advantage of a depleted and reshuffled Kansas City offensive line to dominate the Chiefs.

By creating constant pressure on Mahomes, the Buccaneers hurried him into 26 of 49 passes for 270 yards and two interceptions.

While Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce had 10 catches for 133 yards and Tyreek Hill added seven catches for 73 yards, Tampa Bay minimized the damage.

As a result, the Chiefs’ potent offense was unable to score a touchdown, managing just three field goals.

The Buccaneers’ defense was brilliant during the whole postseason, beating quarterbacks Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and now Mahomes in their last three games.

“They rose to the challenge,” Brady said.

The Buccaneers used a dominant defensive performance, a brilliant and efficient performance by Brady and a lack of discipline by the Chiefs to take a 21-6 halftime lead.

An overly aggressive and often fundamentally inefficient Kansas City secondary contributed to eight first-half penalties by the Chiefs for 95 yards.

The timing of the penalties could not have been worse.

A defensive offside penalty by Mecole Hardman on a 40-yard field goal by Tampa Bay’s Ryan Succop gave the Buccaneers a first down, and Brady made sure the Chiefs paid a price, hooking up with Gronkowski on a 17-yard touchdown to give the Buccaneers a 14-3 lead.

It was the second time the two former Patriots connected on a touchdown, following an 8-yard touchdown throw from Brady to Gronkowski to put Tampa Bay up 7-3 in the first quarter.

Bashaud Breeland figured front and center in other penalty-assisted Buccaneers drive. He was flagged for pass interference late in the first half when he stumbled and tripped up Mike Evans on a long throw by Brady. The result was a first down at the Kansas City 24-yard line.

Then, on first and goal from the Chiefs’ 9-yard line with 13 seconds left in the half, Tyrann Mathieu was flagged for pass interference in the end zone to set up the Buccaneers at the Kansas City 1-yard line. Brady hit Antonio Brown on a 1-yard touchdown throw to put Tampa Bay up 21-6 at halftime.

The Chiefs finished with 11 penalties for 120 yards.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore onTwitter.

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