Bucs’ Super Bowl 55 season gets its Hollywood ending
If it was a movie, no one would buy the premise. The dimple-chinned star quarterback, trying to squeeze another championship run from his career at age 43, joins a franchise of lovable losers with no playoff wins in 18 years. A season teetering on collapse. A comeback for the ages, and an ending that would be too corny for Hollywood.
But this was the Bucs’ reality, no actors needed, just action.
NFL Films has created their highlight film of the Super Bowl 55 champions, available Tuesday. (The DVD is $24.99, Blu-ray combo pack $34.99 and a digital version $14.99.)
Despite a pandemic, NFL Films shot approximately 3,000 hours of game footage, or 125 days of highlights, sound and interviews, and wound up with an incredible 75-minute documentary.
Steve Sabol, one of the founders of NFL Films, used to say you need a great beginning, a great ending, then get them as close together as possible.
“But I think the journey in this one makes it great because you go through them losing three out of four. You’re at the crossroads with them and you hear the guys talking honestly about what’s going on,” said Todd Schmidt, senior producer for NFL Films. “Everybody wants to make that championship run. Well, Tampa Bay got one. We played that up for all it was worth.”
Not surprisingly, the star of this film is Tom Brady. Not just because of his playmaking ability, but for how quickly and seamlessly he forms trust and relationships with his new teammates, some of them not much older than his 21-year career.
Brady is an obsessed prisoner of the moment and his laser focus on the next play — not the next game — is transferred to his teammates aching for direction.
“I think that really is a nice marrow to the film because Tom Brady is such an amazing story, obviously,” Schmidt said. “But here’s a guy who has been around 20 years who still treats his teammates like high school teammates.
“I think in the moment is the thing. He’s not thinking about yesterday, he’s not thinking about tomorrow. He’s focused on this drive and I find that extraordinary. Nothing else matters except what we’re doing right now. ... I was really blown away by it.”
The mic’d up portions of the film are as enlightening as they are entertaining.
The Bucs were 3-2 and coming off a crushing 20-19 defeat at Chicago when they trailed the Green Bay Packers 10-0 early in the first quarter Oct. 18.
Jamel Dean’s pick-six was the first turnover of the season by the Packers. On the next series, Mike Edwards intercepted a pass tipped by Carlton Davis to set up another score in a 38-10 win.
“We got a turnover now. Let’s go get his (butt)!” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles implored his team.
After the game, Brady and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers met at midfield. “You guys got a good team,” Rodgers said. “We’ll see ya down the line.”
The Bucs reached a crossroads of their season at 7-5, having lost three of four games, including by a field goal to the Rams and the Chiefs. Then they ripped off four convincing wins to earn a wildcard game at Washington.
The story line that week was rookie defensive end Chase Young saying, “I want (Brady).” Locked in a tight game, Brady calmly told his offensive line how to neutralize Young.
“We can’t let this guy jump around blocks, that’s all he’s going to do all day, all right?” Brady said. “Let’s pound their (butt) in the (freaking) run game. It will turn the whole game around if we do both. We’re doing a decent job in the pass game. The protection is amazing. We’ve just got to do a little better in the run game. Just stay with them a little longer.”
From linebacker Devin White calling his shot just before his interception at New Orleans (”Hey, I’m gonna take over this game. I’m going put the dagger in them. Watch.”) to Saints quarterback Drew Brees screaming, “Alvin!” after he lets go of a pass to an unaware Alvin Kamara, it’s goosebumps stuff.
After beating the Packers in the NFC title game, Brady and White had an interesting exchange. “We still ain’t played our best yet,” White said to Brady. “Nope. We save it,” Brady said.
Super Bowl 55 captures the total domination of the Bucs over the Chiefs and the immense confidence they had before, during and after the game. After a series of two, Brady knew the Bucs had the Chiefs defense where they wanted them.
“You guys good on everything?” Brady asked on the bench to his receivers. “Two, one blitz. One press, two press, blitz. They’re going to try everything. All right, they’re going to be aggressive, inside release and go. Everything is twitchy tonight, okay? Go make some tough catches.”
The celebration, from the confetti raining and family members falling into players’ arms, is captured with big sound and editing. But it’s the tender, quiet moments that NFL Films let’s you interlope on that make the film.
In the end, several Bucs players, new and old, actually thanked Brady for delivering them a Lombardi Trophy.
“Big man! I love you,” receiver Mike Evans said. “GOAT. I love you, man. Thank you so much. That’s what we wanted.”