By: Michelle Sabin
Sports Talk Florida – Bucs reporter
One wonders what would happen if you take the greatest quarterback of all time and plug him into a new team, with a new playbook and a new head coach. Where would the path lead him? In this case, he was destined to lead a team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to the NFL’s first ever home Super Bowl Championship.
After a career that spanned two decades with the New England Patriots, Quarterback Tom Brady made a calculated (and shocking) decision to leave all that he knew, to try something new. Brady announced in March 2020 that he signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
At that same time, the world was grappling with the clutches of a pandemic that would bring everyone and everything to a halt. Businesses shut down, restaurants closed their doors, schools sent children home and every industry, the NFL included, felt the strain of social distancing and mandatory lockdowns.
As a result, the NFL held its first ever virtual draft in April 2020, where fans watched general managers and head coaches select future stars from their living rooms and kitchen tables. But when it came down to the 2020 season, questions surrounded how teams would practice, whether there would be a pre-season and, more importantly to the fans, whether they could attend the games and cheer their teams on to victory.
Without access to team facilities in the off season, many players had to adapt by exercising at home, including makeshift home gyms. In training camp, the teams were restricted with in-person training resulting in limited snaps and minimal time to practice. And with the decision made to have no pre-season games, teams around the league kicked off the season by jumping right into week 1.
For the Buccaneers, this meant that their new quarterback had little time to learn the ropes, and even less time to get comfortable with his offensive line and receivers.
But in the midst of these unprecedented times, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were patiently molding an offense stacked with numerous talented receivers, determined running backs, and a strong offensive line to protect the quarterback at the helm.
This season the Bucs added to their roster running back Leonard Fournette and receiver Rob Gronkowski, and halfway through the season signed receiver Antonio Brown. All three of these players walked into One Buc Place with their own adversities and hurdles, but were willing and dedicated to playing their part in a bigger plan, including scoring the four Bucs touchdowns in the Super Bowl.
There was no shortage of skill, talent, or passion on the Tampa Bay offense, and certainly no shortage of receivers for Brady to target throughout the season, including Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Cameron Brate, and Scotty Miller.
However, while the front page story was often about Tom Brady and the Bucs exciting new offense, waiting behind the headlines was a dynamic and powerful defense that knew their time would come. A defense that linebacker Devin White said last May was building on the momentum and confidence from their 2019 season when their “identity as a defense became made.”
White told Head Coach Bruce Arians and Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles, “if we can get this defense back, we’re going to be the reason why we win it all next year.”
Although Tom Brady won MVP of the 2020 Super Bowl, and added a seventh championship ring to his collection, it was Todd Bowles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that sealed the fate of Kansas City ushering the national title into Tampa Bay.
As the saying goes, offense wins games, but defense wins championships. This could not ring more true than it does for the Buccaneers, with the fifth overall defense in the league and the leading rushing defense.
In the playoffs, they forced four turnovers against Drew Brees in the divisional round that sent the Bucs into the NFC Championship against Green Bay, where they sacked Aaron Rodgers fives times and intercepted him once. The momentum set the stage for a dominant performance in the Super Bowl holding the Kansas City Chiefs to just three field goals.
The Bucs speed and power put pressure on Quarterback Patrick Mahomes from the first drive and never let up. They chased him from sideline to sideline and backwards down the field, sacking him three times and intercepting him twice. In total, they forced Mahomes to scramble almost 500 yards before he could throw the ball or was sacked. The pressure set the stage for a third quarter interception by rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr.
Later in the fourth quarter, with just under two minutes left on the clock, linebacker Devin White intercepted the ball in the end zone to deny the Chiefs even a single touchdown and lock in the win.
In the end, the Buccaneers proved they are a team of resiliency, determination, and commitment. Tom Brady often speaks about football as being a journey with no destination, where one constantly strives to be better and play better in pursuit of the ultimate goal. As Brady described, “there is no such thing as perfect; there is only the relentless pursuit of perfection.”
The same can be said for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In their journey, the Bucs lost their first game in week 1, and were looking at a 7-5 season after week 12.
By leaning on the talent on each side of the ball and making critical adjustments, they bounced back. The Bucs ended the season 11-5, secured a wild card position, won three playoff road games, and beat the defending champions in the Super Bowl.
While there may be no such thing as perfect, the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Todd Bowles defense were clearly on a relentless pursuit of perfection on Sunday, as they dominated the Chiefs 31-9 and became the first team to win a home Super Bowl Championship.