I was wrong on the eve of the 2020 season and I was wrong again last Sunday.
When am I going to learn?
I sold Tom Brady short twice.
How could I do that?
Well, I didn’t really sell him short. I recognized his greatness.
But I didn’t think he was great enough to carry a team that had a losing record last season and had a few flaws including the fact they really yet learned to win.
So, not only did the 43-year old Tom Brady perform like the championship quarterback he is, he taught they rest of the team how to win.
Starting in late summer when he gathered his receivers at a practice field weeks before the first game, Brady made sure they all knew what true winning was all about. He got the message across to every player on the roster in practices, in meetings, everywhere.
I never knew one player, even at the all-important quarterback position, could accomplish that.
But he did.
And I’m thinking, with all the six Super Bowls he has won, what has transpired in 2020 may be his premier achievement.
And it was done in a rocky year of a pandemic, no training camp, and not much time getting to know his new teammates.
This will be Tom Brady’s 10th Super Bowl appearance. Incredible.
Even if he doesn’t bring home his seventh championship ring, he has proven again, with even more certainty, that he is the greatest of all-time.
Reaching the Super Bowl, like winning the pennant in baseball and getting to the World Series in my view, carries more significance than winning one game, or coming out ahead in a short series.
I know the spotlight is always on the champion, and that observers may not even remember the “other” team, but “getting there” is what all the hard work and sacrifice is about.
So, after surviving three playoff games on the road, there will be a Super Bowl first. Never has a team played at home in the big game. On February 7th, the Buccaneers will face the defending world champion Kansas City Chiefs in Tampa.
To get there, the Bucs had to beat the NFC’s number one seed Green Bay Packers and their probable NFL MVP QB Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau Field.
Keep in mind that the awards for distinguished play are for the regular season, not post-season, and the ballots are in before the playoffs.
On that basis, it appears Rodgers will be the MVP.
What impressed me, was the way the Bucs came out and jumped all over the Packers. I figured after gearing up and focusing on the Saints, as hard as it was for Tampa Bay in the Divisional playoff, they would have difficulty maintaining their razor sharp play in this one.
But they did, giving Brady all the time in the world to find his targets, and converting their first five third-down conversions.
Credit to the offensive line. They were marvelous.
The Bucs opened up a 28-10 lead and withstood the anticipated Green Bay rally.
The stats will show that Tom Brady threw three interceptions.
One came off a deflection, another came on one of the rare times the veteran was hit as he let go of the ball.
I realize, the QB gets tagged with any INT, but when there’s a deflection, there are extenuating circumstances.
The game also featured opposite philosophies by the two coaches that proved significant.
The Bucs Bruce Arians went for a surprising touchdown with seconds to play in the first half and struck gold.
The Packers Matt LaFluer, in a puzzling move, went for a safe field goal instead of a fourth down touchdown try deep in Bucs territory late in the game and the Pack never had another chance to pull it out.
In today’s NFL, playing it safe seems to be a recipe for defeat.
Now, the Buccaneers have reached the brink of what they hoped when they signed Brady. It doesn’t always work that way in sports, but it has for Tampa Bay, a 7-9 team a year ago.
To win it all, they’ll have to beat the champs, the Kansas City Chiefs, who played that way in routing the Buffalo Bills in the AFC championship.
The big question going into the conference title game was the health of their amazing quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes was put on concussion protocol after a hit in the Divisional playoff against the Browns.
He passed the tests required for him to suit up against the Bills.
Mahomes was also battling a toe injury.
But he showed no effects from either issue, and played a marvelous game, once again displaying why the Chiefs are considered the class of the NFL.
The Bills moved up in class in facing K.C. for a Super Bowl berth.
Buffalo is a team that will be heard from in the coming years.
It began last season when they exhibited the improved play in all phases, the poise, and the intensity that was evident in two strong games against the Patriots, and a playoff appearance.
In 2020, they took another step. They are well-coached, and frankly, look like winners.
It’s the old eye test. What you see is what they are.
With one of the best young quarterbacks, Josh Allen, leading the way, the Bills are on the brink of reaching the Super Bowl, and not just one.
In the AFC title game, the Chiefs were just too strong.
You can break down teams, and pinpoint areas where they are vulnerable.
The Chiefs won many close encounters this season, which I consider more of a true barometer than blowing out opponents.
But Kansas City seems to always find a way to get it done.
Falling behind has proven to be no obstacle for this team.
Every time I look up, Patrick Mahomes is finding tight end Travis Kelce, or receiver Tyreek Hill for a solid gain and another first down.
Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill
Or Mahomes himself, is running, finding open spaces, or twisting his body to throw an awkward pass that finds his target.
The Chiefs are fun to watch.
Now, they have the burden of halting the avalanche that is known as Tom Brady.
Is there any true sports fan not intrigued by what the next chapter will bring?