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How the NFC was won: Tampa Bay’s meteoric rise to success

Tampa

Have you ever decided to build a jig-saw puzzle, dedicated endless hours of your time and effort into constructing this project only to get to the end and find out there is a piece missing?

Well, allow me to introduce you to the 2019 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa were a 7-9 football team with a frustratingly good roster and a Head Coach who came out of retirement to ‘win now’.

So, what was the missing piece, I hear you ask? A Quarterback. And what was Tampa’s solution to this problem? Enter stage left Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. – formerly of the New England Patriots and six-time Super Bowl winner.

The future first ballot hall of fame Quarterback shocked the football world when he decided his two-decade tenure in New England was over and moved south to the tropical climate of Florida and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The marketing abilities skyrocketed. Less than a month after moving to Tampa, Brady applied for a patent to trademark “Tompa Bay”. This was a breath of fresh air and a side to Brady the league hadn’t seen before. It was as if the shackles had been ripped off and Brady was having fun and determined to win football games.

The pandemic massively hindered Brady’s introduction to Tampa and a reduced off-season had many wondering if the on-field performance would be disrupted. Playing in a division with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints meant losing games simply wasn’t an option – and if you did, you would pay for it massively in terms of playoff rankings.

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Tampa’s 2020 season

The Bucs finished the 2020 season with a modest 11-5 record and went through the motions over the course of the season. There was no clear ‘purple patch’ where the Bucs struggled for a significant period of time. They finished the season having three 3-game win streaks and finished off winning their last four games with the losses dotted throughout.

Perhaps the most notable game from the season is the week 12 matchup against none other than the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs blew the doors off the Bucs in the first half and a resurgent Tom Brady led a comeback attempt only to fall just short of the mark and ended up losing 27-24 at home.

The Bucs had some frustrating losses this past season, namely the week 5 loss to Chicago on Monday Night Football and getting swept by the Saints. On the flip side, however, they compiled some pretty convincing wins and showed they meant business all season long. They made light work of the Packers, the Raiders, and the Falcons winning the first two by 25+ and the latter by 17.

I would love to say Tom Brady transformed this team but that’s unfair to the foundations built before his arrival. He took this team to the next level and now has them playing for their first Championship since 2002. The Bucs also become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

To be playing this late in the season is such a foreign feeling to the Buccaneers and their fans who have endured years of losing seasons to now be playing in the biggest game of the year. The Bucs have such a talented, young roster that had gone unnoticed for much of the season until the playoffs.

One such player who often flies under the radar is Bucs wide receiver Scott Miller who caught the touchdown pass from Brady right before the half in Green Bay in the Championship game. I was fortunate enough to speak with Scott this week and when I asked him what it would mean to him personally if he won a Super Bowl he told me; “A tonne. This is just a dream to be in this position… To be in this game means so much”. Miller also added how excited he was about the prospect of playing at home in front of the Bucs home fans.

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Having gone on the road and won three straight playoff games against tough opposition, it cannot be understated just how much this Bucs team deserves to be here. They’ve established themselves as a force to be reckoned with and their defence is playing ferocious football. The unstoppable force vs. the immovable object would be the perfect way to describe this game and it’s one that will certainly go down in history.

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Michael Lavery writes on behalf of the Irish NFL Show who are in partnership with Pundit Arena. Tune into their Sunday, Monday and Thursday shows every week on Facebook. 

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