It took a couple of possessions to warm up, but Tom Brady's speedy brain showed up and once again did not disappoint on the NFL's biggest stage.
"Some people have fast-twitch reactionary brains," said coach Bruce Arians, whose Buccaneers walloped the Chiefs 31-9 in their home stadium to win Super Bowl LV on Sunday. "Peyton [Manning], all the great quarterbacks have it because if you don't have it, you can't be a great quarterback. Tom has always had that, and he has sharpened that tool to the highest degree."
The Bucs opened Sunday's game with a three-and-out, a third-down sack on the next drive and a 3-0 deficit. But then Brady and his fast brain found their rhythm, thanks in large part to Byron Leftwich's balanced game plan, which produced 145 yards rushing, 201 yards passing, no turnovers and no penalties.
Combine all that with one of the most smothering team defensive performances in Super Bowl history and, well, it adds up to the easiest of Brady's seven Super Bowl victories and five Super Bowl MVP awards.
The Bucs didn't start taking control until three straight Leonard Fournette runs opened the third possession. The 75-yard drive had four runs and four passes, including the first of Rob Gronkowski's two touchdown catches. The Bucs led 7-3 and wouldn't trail again.
What unfolded starting with that third possession was Leftwich's commitment to running the ball, to max protecting Brady, to throwing screens and calling for play-action on nearly half of Brady's dropbacks.
"Byron, he's a superstar," Arians said. "I can't give him enough credit."
Brady started playing faster. Seeing things faster. Reacting faster after the snap and before.
"Tom did a great job quickly getting us out of bad plays," Arians said. "Getting us into good plays, too."
Yes, that 43-year-old brain still processes information as quickly as ever. Probably faster than ever after all it's seen in 21 seasons and still has no interest in retiring.
Brady ended up completing 80 percent of his first-half passes with three touchdowns, the first player to do that in a half in Super Bowl history. He used Gronk as both a quick option and as a third or fourth option after progressing through his reads on Gronk's 17-yard touchdown catch to put the Chiefs down 14-3.
By halftime, the Bucs led 21-6. They would basically coast from there offensively as their defense destroyed Patrick Mahomes and his decimated offensive line.
"I think what our defensive line did was incredible," Brady said. "It's very difficult, almost impossible, to play quarterback under duress like that. That's just the reality of football."
For the record, Tampa Bay's defense finished the season by beating up Drew Brees, MVP Aaron Rodgers and Mahomes with a combined six interceptions and eight sacks. The three also combined to complete just 59.5% of their passes.
But the Bucs wouldn't be world champions without Brady.
"This was a very, very talented football team last year," Arians said of the 7-9 Bucs of 2019. "But we really didn't know how to win. When you bring a winner in and he's running the ship, it makes a total difference in your locker room and every time we step out on the field.
"His belief that we're going to do this permeated through our whole locker room. Knowing that he had been there and done it, our guys believed it. It changed our entire football team."
And it happened in the middle of a pandemic that wiped out offseason practices and the preseason. Not the most ideal situation for a guy changing teams after 20 seasons and having to learn a new system and all the different verbiage that came with it.
"We're going to New Orleans," said Arians, referring to his team's season-opening loss. "Tom's saying, 'What the hell is this play? What's that word mean? What the hell is this guy going to do on this play?'
"I can't give Tom enough credit for just hanging there with the coaches and knowing this is going to work out sooner or later. Just grateful to him to battle through this and to watch the performances get better and better."
Brady and the studious, off-the-field portion of his brain enjoyed the new challenge.
Asked once again to rank this win among his seven Super Bowl victories, Brady once again sidestepped the question. But he did say this season was "great, fun" and stood out in one way.
"I think in a unique way, it was kind of like with the coronavirus situation and all the protocols, it really was like football for junkies," Brady said. "There was not a lot of other things to do but show up for work and play football. Normally, there are a lot of other things that go on with playing football. If you love playing football, this was the year to be a player in the NFL because that's all it was.
"It was like football camp all year long with your buddies. I really enjoyed that part."