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AP photo by Lynne Sladky / Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski celebrates after catching an 8-yard touchdown pass during the first half of Super Bowl LV against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in Tampa, Fla.

If one message can sum up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV on Sunday night, it might be this: You're not getting older, you're getting better.

Bucs quarterback Tom Brady is as good, if not better, than he's ever been at 43. Bucs coach Bruce Arians — a television analyst two years ago — became the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl at the age of 68. Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski — like Brady a career New England Patriot before this season — came out of retirement to rejoin Brady in Tampa and caught two touchdowns in the title win against the Chiefs.

Said Brady after winning another Super Bowl MVP award to go with his seventh Super Bowl crown: "I think we knew this was going to happen tonight, didn't we? We really came together at the end of the year. And we're coming back (next year)."

There were other messages sent that may have raised eyebrows regarding the coronavirus pandemic. While there were plenty of masks inside Raymond James Stadium on spectators, there also seemed to be more spectators than would have been wise under the most responsible of social distancing guidelines.

And while portions of The Weeknd's stylish and tasteful halftime show included the wearing of masks on numerous dancers and musicians, a couple of numbers didn't, though the militaristic dance at the end was quite responsible in its mask wearing, even if the dancers looked much more like they'd just been bandaged after facial plastic surgery than to protect against COVID-19.

Then there were the commercials, including a sweet, sweet one from CHI Memorial about someone rescuing a young horse who'd wandered onto the highway, but was gently returned to his herd.

Even better was a Jeep ad featuring Bruce Springsteen, which ended with the tagline: "To the Reunited States of America."

But even with all the ads and public service announcements focused on diversity and the ending of systemic racism, this 55th Super Bowl was mostly about football, about whether Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady could win two Super Bowls over the age of 40, or whether Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes would be the first QB to win two by the age of 25.

And all of this unfolding on one participant's home field for the first time in Super Bowl history.

Two stats from that first half left no doubt that Brady is not only the undisputed Greatest Of All Time, but may actually be getting better by the year, or at least by the Super Bowl.

No. 1: For the first time in his 10 Super Bowl appearances, Brady threw a touchdown pass in the opening quarter.

No. 2: No QB in Super Bowl history had ever completed 80% of his passes and tossed three touchdowns by halftime, yet Brady did just that as the Bucs roared to a 21-6 advantage at intermission.

Beyond that, when Tampa Bay scored on its first possession of the second half, it led 28-9, the kind of lead that only the Atlanta Falcons could be expected to blow. And just in case anyone south of the Mason-Dixon line had forgotten, Brady was on the team that beat those Falcons.

There was at least one troubling stat in all of this that will never be addressed by the NFL, at least not publicly, and that's the first-half officiating, which led to the Chiefs being flagged eight times for 95 yards while the Bucs got off with but one flag for 5 yards.

At halftime, it was all enough laundry on the field for CBS studio analyst Boomer Esiason to observe: "The referees are getting way too involved here."

But if the questionable officiating may have handed the Bucs one first-half score, it didn't decide the game. If anything, for all the justifiable talk about Brady's colossal impact on the Tampa Bay franchise in his first year as a Buc instead of a Patriot, the real MVP of the night may have been Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

Much as the Bucs kept Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers off balance for most of the NFC title game, Bowles' unit flustered Mahomes almost from the first snap. Though Mahomes was not only playing with two backup tackles but also an injured foot, he was scrambling even more than Rodgers had two weeks earlier.

So complete was the Tampa Bay defensive scheme that it took Mahomes until the end of the third quarter to reach 100 passing yards. Beyond that, never in his young career had he lost a game by double figures. He'd also never been held to fewer than 10 points as a professional.

So while Brady will understandably reap much of the credit for the Tampa turnaround from 7-0 the season before he arrived to Super Bowl champ, that other TB in the TB organization — Todd Bowles — was at least almost as important to this victory.

One more point, which CBS announcer Jim Nantz thankfully referenced with roughly 3:45 to play. On Thursday night, Chiefs linebackers coach Britt Reid, the son of head coach Andy Reid was involved in a serious auto collision that has left a 5-year-old girl named Ariel in critical condition in a Kansas City hospital, currently in a coma with bleeding on the brain.

Britt Reid admitted to law enforcement he'd had at least two or three drinks and the drug Adderall prior to the accident. A GoFundMe page has already raised more than $150,000 for Ariel. In their urge to put this loss behind him, let us all hope the Chiefs organization and the team's fans not put this little girl's medical expenses and health issues behind them, but keep them front and center until her life returns to normal.

Even, if she's just a little bit lucky, as normal as Tom Brady hoisting Super Bowl trophies.

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Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.

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