Brady, improved defense keys to Bucs winning Super Bowl

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Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady during NFL football practice, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers will face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 55. (Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers via AP)

TAMPA, Fla. – Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won’t be denied.

The 43-year-old six-time Super Bowl champion may no longer be the best quarterback in the NFL, however, he’s shown in his first season with the Bucs that he’s still good enough to lead a team to the NFL title game.

And the way Tampa Bay’s defense has played since Patrick Mahomes manhandled it in Week 12 of the regular season gives the NFC champions confidence that Sunday’s rematch with the defending Super Bowl winners will be different.

Brady and the Bucs haven’t lost since falling to the Chiefs 27-24 on Nov. 29, rattling off seven consecutive wins on the way to the franchise’s first appearance on football's biggest stage in 18 years.

This is exactly what general manager Jason Licht and coach Bruce Arians had in mind when — coming off a 7-9 finish and hoping to end a 12-season hiatus from the playoffs — they signed the former New England Patriots star to a two-year, $50 million contract in free agency.

“Naturally, I think you envision it every year in the offseason. You want to make some moves that hopefully get your team into the Super Bowl. I think when you sign a guy like Tom, it makes it a little more realistic,” Licht said.

“Just talking to him the days after we signed him, you could just hear and feel the confidence that he had,” the GM added. “It made it a little bit more real.”

Arians has also worked with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer during a long coaching career in which he’s developed a reputation as a quarterback whisperer. He said what sets the great QBs apart from others is a unique passion to win.