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TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) — Tom Brady threw three touchdowns as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers thumped the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl on Sunday, giving the evergreen 43-year-old quarterback a record-extending seventh championship ring.
Brady's age-defying performance, which earned him the Most Valuable Player award, brought the curtain down on what was perhaps the most challenging season the NFL has had to navigate because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic kept stadiums mostly empty throughout the season and restrictions limited Super Bowl attendance to 25,000 spectators, including 7,500 health care workers, sprinkled among 30,000 happy-faced cardboard cutouts.
While the pandemic reined in America's biggest sporting party the show went on as scheduled and once again Brady, who joined the Bucs last March after 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, rose to the occasion in his 10th Super Bowl.
"My father had an expression," Bucs co-owner Joel Glazer said while he accepted the Vince Lombardi Trophy as confetti showered the on-field stage. "If you want to know the road ahead, ask the person who's been there. Well, we found that person ... Tom Brady."
The NFL championship game had been hyped all week as a battle between Brady, recognized as the greatest quarterback of all-time, and 25-year-old Chiefs counterpart Patrick Mahomes, widely regarded as the best in the game today.
But in the end it was no contest as the Bucs' rampaging defense harassed Mahomes, who threw a pair of interceptions, the entire night to bring the Chiefs' Super Bowl title defense to a jarring end.
"I'm not making any comparisons," Brady said when asked if this Super Bowl win was the sweetest. "Being down here and experiencing this with this group of guys, every year is amazing.
"This team is world champions forever, you can't take it away from us ... We're coming back."
The only team to play a Super Bowl on their home field, the Buccaneers made the most of the opportunity as they were crowned champions for the first time since January 2003.
In the opening half former Brady found former Patriots teammate Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to join the Bucs this season, for a pair of touchdown strikes to build a 14-3 lead.
Brady also made the Chiefs pay dearly for some undisciplined play connecting with Antonio Brown for a touchdown strike with six seconds left in the half after pass interference and unsportsmanlike penalties put the ball on the Chiefs' one-yard line.
Meanwhile, Mahomes and the Chiefs' explosive attack could not get in gear with scoring limited to a pair of Harrison Butker field goals to go into the intermission down 21-6.
The Chiefs struck first in the second half as Butker booted another field goal but the Buccaneers would hit back with a Leonard Fournette 27-yard touchdown run and a Ryan Succop field goal to cruise into the fourth quarter with a 31-9 lead.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Writing by Steve Keating; Editing by Frank Pingue)
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