For the first time in NFL History an NFL team will play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. After 54 years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be the first team in history of the league to advance to the Super Bowl that is scheduled to be played in their home stadium.
There was much speculation that the Buccaneers would be able to do this once they signed Tom Brady as a free agent from the Patriots back in the offseason. With many other additions such as Tight End Rob Gronkowski in a trade from New England after Gronk voluntarily came out of retirement to play in the NFL again with Brady.
After a fast 6-2 start for Brady and the Bucs, tides quickly turned on the team as the offense seemed to so silent at times and the defense had difficulty getting off the field. From Weeks 9-13, the Bucs went 1-3 with their only victory coming against the Carolina Panthers, which was in Week 10. Losing back to back games to the Rams and Chiefs before they finally got their bye week.
After the much needed week off to work on things, the Buccaneers won their final four games, clinched their first playoff berth in 13 years and knew that they had win three games on the road if they wanted to get that home Super Bowl.
Despite a valiant effort from Washington's fourth string quarterback Taylor Heinicke, Brady and the Bucs were able to eliminate the NFC East Champions and probably the weakest link in the entire NFL Playoffs, it set up a third matchup with division rival Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
The key of the first two games between those two were turnovers. The Buccaneers gave the Saints the ball back repeatedly in the first two games, which lead to the worst two losses the Buccaneers had all season long. The Buccaneers knew that they had to get to Brees early and often, took a while but eventually they were able to get to him in the second half, and force the mighty Brees into a mistake. Tampa Bay intercepted Brees three times and got a costly fumble from Saints Tight End Jarred Cook that set them up for a win over New Orleans and a date with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
The long awaited playoff matchup between Brady and Rodgers is something many thought we would never get due to Brady playing in the AFC for the first 20 years of his career and the troubles in the playoffs that the Packers have had over the years, especially in the NFC Championship game.
In the first half, the Buccaneers had their way with the Packers both offensively and defensively. They were able to get off a late touchdown before the half to go up 11 points. The start of the second half was more of the same as the Packers first possession of the second half, Aaron Jones fumbled that set up an easy one play touchdown pass to Cameron Brate. However the tides started to change quickly as the Packers started to mount some drives and Brady was picked off three times in the second half. Fortunately, the Buccaneers defense was able to bail out their Quarterback and forced the Packers in punting situations after the second and third interceptions. In all, despite turnovers from Brady, the Bucs head the Packers to just six points off the turnovers.
So Tom Brady becomes the fourth quarterback to lead two different teams to the Super Bowl, and now has a chance to join longtime rival and friend Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl with two different franchises. In the debate between Tom Brady and Joe Montana, Brady has officially one upped Montana. Joe Montana led the Kansas City Chiefs to the AFC Championship game in 1993, but lost that game to the Buffalo Bills. Tom Brady went to the NFC Championship game and won.
Now that the Buccaneers have officially clinched NFL History with them now hosting the Super Bowl, the question is now, can Brady and company finish off the job and win the Super Bowl in their own stadium. We have to wait at least two weeks to discover that answer. However, the fact remains, the legacy of the 199th overall pick from the 2000 NFL Draft continues to grow. Plus it also just defines the reality that it was more about Tom Brady than it was about Bill Belichick.