After this game, the Super Bowl should be Tampa Bay's to lose
Take a seat, fellas, and turn down the lights. There's a video you need to watch. Forget the first 64 minutes of your 33-27 overtime win against Buffalo. For that matter, forget the first 12 weeks of this screwy season. Instead, just watch Breshad Perriman running all alone toward rhapsody.

This is the way the 2021 season was meant to go, with the entire NFL chasing you boys. It hasn't often worked that way, and there are a lot of reasons why. Injuries have played a huge part, and that's not your fault. But complacency and carelessness have had their moments, too.

So watch the Bills running helplessly behind Perriman on the near sideline, then close your eyes for a moment. You see it, don't you? The Cardinals chasing Mike Evans somewhere down the road. Or maybe the Packers pursuing Rob Gronkowski in January. When you play a full afternoon this way, there is not a team in the NFC that can catch you.

Bruce Arians tried to tell you this back in the spring. He said this year's Bucs could be even better than the Tampa Bay team that won the Super Bowl back in February. But he also reminded you that, as of yet, the 2021 Bucs had not accomplished diddly squat. "We know how to win," Arians said after Sunday's game. "I would just like to see us not make it that close."

So watch Perriman cut like a flash across the middle of the field to catch Tom Brady's eye, then remember that four weeks ago he was unemployed. Again. Cut by the woeful Lions in August and waived by a mediocre Bears team in November.

If you recall, that was one of the secrets to last year's team, too. Finding just the right additions at just the right moment. Leonard Fournette in September. Antonio Brown in October. And, by February, the Bucs were the most complete team in the league.

"It's amazing," Perriman said. "I was just kind of looking around … seeing everybody's reaction to going to overtime. Nobody was worried."

So look at the way Brady stayed calm in the pocket on that 58-yard touchdown pass to Perriman. The man had just played one of the worst 25-minute stretches of football in his life. He came out of the locker room after halftime and threw 14 incompletions in his first 20 attempts of the second half. He missed Gronkowski time after time on plays that could have put the game away.

By the end of regulation, he had seen his team blow a 21-point lead for the first time in 10 years. And then what did he do? He completed the longest touchdown pass to end an NFL overtime game since Blaine Gabbert connected with Torrey Smith for 71 yards in San Francisco's 26-20 victory against Chicago in 2015. "I would much rather not have it come down to that," Brady said. "We have to learn from it, and we have to move on."

So look at how you all ran down the field as Perriman was heading toward the end zone. When was the last time you celebrated on a football field like that? Stupid question, right? It was Feb. 7 when you beat Kansas City in the Super Bowl in this exact same stadium.

Let this be a reminder. A tease. A gentle nudge of one of the greatest memories of your lives. This is what is possible if you play to your potential. There are four games remaining in the regular season, and you should win every single one. No questions asked. I don't care that upsets have become commonplace in the NFL.

You guys are the reigning NFL champions, and there is no earthly reason you should lose in December to teams with losing records. Not with the NFC's No. 1 seed at stake. Not with a bye and home-field advantage still on the table. So look around the room and ask yourselves this: Who is better than the 2021 Bucs?

Who has a quarterback with 52 game-winning drives in the regular season? Who has likely Hall of Famers at quarterback, receiver and tight end in the same huddle? Who is starting to get healthy in the secondary? Who is leading the NFL in scoring, and who has a head coach quite so fearless? Just watch Tom Brady find Breshad Perriman as the crowd goes wild. And remember, that's what Super Bowl champions look like.

John Romano, The Tampa Times, published 13 December 2021