Updated with more information at 12:45 a.m. on Feb. 8, 2021.
TAMPA, Fla. — Tom Brady made the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, their fans and their city believe from the moment he arrived last year.
With Brady getting help from old friend Rob Gronkowski and a ferocious defense, the 43-year-old quarterback led the franchise to just its second NFL title — and its first in 18 years — while securing his seventh crown.
Brady threw two touchdown passes to Gronkowski and one to good pal Antonio Brown, and the Buccaneers dethroned the Kansas City Chiefs with a 31-9 rout in Super Bowl LV on Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs were the first team to play a Super Bowl at home, and they didn't waste the opportunity.
"You get this far and you want get the job done, and we did it," Brady said. "We just believed. I"m so proud of the guys."
Despite moving south to a new team and conference during a pandemic, Brady didn't slow down.
He earned his fifth Super Bowl MVP award and extended his Super Bowl titles' record in his 10th appearance, nine of those with the New England Patriots. Brady broke his own mark for oldest player to win a Super Bowl and joined Peyton Manning — set for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer — as the only quarterbacks to win one with multiple franchises.
"I think they're all special," said Brady, who spent his first 20 NFL seasons with coach Bill Belichick, nine of those years with Gronkowski as a Patriots tight end. "I'm not making any comparisons. Experiencing it with this group of guys is amazing."
Stunningly, it was easier than any of his previous Super Bowl victories, which came by an average margin of five points. Meanwhile, Mahomes lost a game he started by double digits for the first time in his four-year NFL career.
The Buccaneers (15-5), who had three straight losing records before Brady arrived, capped an unusual and challenging season played through the novel coronavirus pandemic. They won three road games as a wild card to reach a Super Bowl at home, and they joined the NHL's Lightning as a 2020 season champion from the Tampa Bay area. The Rays also went to the World Series but lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Chiefs (16-3) failed to become the NFL's first repeat champions since Brady's Patriots in the 2003-04 seasons.
"I didn't see it coming at all," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "I thought we were going to come in and play these guys just like we've been playing teams, and it didn't happen that way. I give them credit on that."
The NFL completed its 269-game season on time without any cancellations, a remarkable accomplishment that required nearly a million COVID-19 tests for players and team personnel.
Due to the virus, only 25,000 mask-wearing fans attended, including approximately 7,500 vaccinated health care workers given free tickets by the NFL. About 30,000 cardboard cutouts made the stadium look full.
A streaker wearing a hot-pink onesie eluded security and slid into the end zone with 5:03 left in the game. Kansas City's high-powered offense never got that far against Tampa's ferocious defense.
"Obviously I didn't play the way I wanted to play," Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "What else can you say? All you can do is leave everything you have on the field. I feel like the guys did that. They beat us pretty good, the worst I've been beaten in a long time."
At age 68, Bruce Arians became the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl. His mom, 95-year-old Kay Arians, witnessed it in person. Brady, Gronkowski and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles did plenty to help Arians get that Vince Lombardi Trophy.
"This really belongs to the coaching staff and our players. I didn't do a damn thing," Arians said after he was handed the hardware.
Bowles devised a masterful plan to frustrate Mahomes and shut down the Chiefs, the complete opposite of Kansas City's 27-24 win at Tampa in late November, when the Chiefs jumped to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. Tyreek Hill had 269 receiving yards and three touchdown catches in that one. He was held to 73 yards on seven catches Sunday.
"Coach Bowles is a mastermind," Bucs cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting said.
After the Chiefs took a 3-0 lead early, it was all Brady and the Bucs.
When Brady completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowksi for a 7-3 lead with 37 seconds left in the first quarter, it marked a first for his otherwise sterling Super Bowl career: Brady's nine Super Bowl teams in New England produced just three points total in the first quarter. Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to play with his buddy, caught his 13th and 14th postseason touchdowns from Brady. They had been tied at 12 with former San Franciso 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice and quarterback Joe Montana.
"To come here and be Super Bowl champs, it's surreal, man," Gronkowski said. "We have so many superstars on this team, but nobody's head was too big. Whoever got the ball got the ball. That's what was so great about being on this team. There was no one who was selfish on this team. No one selfish in the organization. It just happened to be me this time getting the touchdown passes."
Despite playing at home, the Bucs weren't allowed to fire the cannons from their famed pirate ship after touchdowns and big plays — but they did it soon after the clock expired as red, white and black confetti fell onto the field.
Fans still enjoyed the thud of Gronk's thunderous spike after his first score.
Tampa missed an opportunity to extend the lead when Brady's 2-yard pass to offensive lineman Joe Haeg was knocked out of his hands in the end zone. Ronald Jones was stopped short on consecutive carries as Arians stuck to his "no risk it, no biscuit" philosophy and went for it on fourth down.
The Chiefs didn't gain any momentum off the stop. Instead, they made one costly mistake after another.
First, All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce dropped a pass that would have been a big gain on third down. Then punter Tommy Townsend shanked a 29-yarder after a penalty forced him to kick again. The Bucs started at Kansas City's 38 instead of their 27.
A holding call on cornerback Charvarius Ward negated an interception by All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu. Kansas City's defense held but an offside penalty during Ryan Succop's successful field goal gave the Bucs a first down. Sarah Thomas, the first woman to officiate in a Super Bowl, threw that flag.
Brady fired a strike to Gronkowski for a 17-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead. Gronk hesitated before spiking the ball, waiting to make sure another flag on the play was against the sloppy Chiefs.
Mahomes drove the offense for a 34-yard field goal by Harrison Butker that cut it to 14-6, but Kansas City's defense fell apart in the final minute of the first half, allowing 42 yards on two pass interference penalties. One against Mathieu in the end zone set up Brady's touchdown pass to Brown for a 21-6 halftime lead.
It was Brady who convinced his new team to give Brown a chance after the troubled former All-Pro came off suspension. His touchdown toss to Brown — who played one game with Brady and the Patriots in the 2019 season — was his 50th of the season, including 10 in the playoffs.
Mathieu took an unsportsmanlike penalty after the touchdown pass for getting into it with Brady as he ran to the sideline.
Leonard Fournette, like Brown an in-season addition, ran 27 yards untouched to extend Tampa Bay's lead to 28-9. Arians pumped his fist after that score and pointed toward offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who made the call.
Succop's 52-yard field goal increased the lead to its final margin.
Last year, Mahomes rallied the Chiefs from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter against San Francisco and earned MVP honors in leading Kansas City to its first NFL championship in half a century. The Bucs' pass rush gave him no chance in this one.
Shaq Barrett had one of three sacks on Mahomes, who spent mort of the game trying to escape Jason Pierre-Paul, William Gholston and a relentless group.
"There was nothing that was going to stop us from winning this game," Barrett said. "I knew we were going to keep the pressure up. Coach Bowles had a great game plan. We had the guys up there to make it work, and we made it work, baby."
There were plenty of red-clad Chiefs fans doing the tomahawk chop for part of the first half until the Bucs made it a rout. Then it was the hometown fans chanting "Let's Go, Bucs!"
Brady signed a $50 million, two-year contract with Tampa last March. The Bucs hadn't reached the playoffs since 2007 and hadn't won a postseason game since the 2002 title season.
After all those New England winters, the warmer climate suited Brady perfectly. He passed NBA legend Michael Jordan in championships, and it doesn't seem he's ready to slow down. He already said he might play past age 45, so any talk of retirement is premature.
"I'm coming back," Brady said with a smile.
Once the seventh title was secured, there was never any doubt he's going for No. 8 next season.