By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyetra.com
In the Tampa area, it is in Tom Brady and Todd Bowles We Trust.
Both names can generate a grimace from Jets’ fans.
The longtime Jets’ nemesis and the brief battered ex-Jets head coach ironically will be on football’s biggest stage in their own backyard in two weeks.
Tampa Bay and Green Bay provided all of the expected hype in an entertaining battle between two future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks in Brady and Aaron Rogers.
Ironically, they have had their halves to shine, and Tampa had some luck in the end on Green Bay’s questionable call to kick a field goal instead of giving the ball to Rogers.
Fate would be Tampa Bay’s — the league’s first 0-14 team in 1976 under the late legendary John McKay — and it didn’t easily land on legendary Lambeau Field.
But these Buccaneers’ fans have trusted the process since head coach Brice Arians proclaimed it was going to be a “Super Bowl” or bust season.
They were delirious when the 43-year-old Brady looked 10 years younger in August, and they went into a further state of delirium when Rob Gronkowski joined the party.
Bowles’ defense started to take shape last year when they formed a solid unit last year and capped it with first-round corner Antoine Winfield Jr. who didn’t play because of an injury. Ex-Giant Jason Pierre Paul and ex-Ram Ndamukong Suh have been the perfect veteran presence for one of the league’s best budding units.
Despite making some mistakes, Brady show his grit and guile, while Bowles’ defense made the big denials down the stretch after they roughed up Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rogers to the tune of five sacks.
Edge rusher Shaq Barrett — free agent to be Jets and Giants — had three and Paul had a pair.
From the start, all the signs pointed to the Bucs’ day in their 31-26 victory. In the end, they did enough to hold out and show the character of a championship team.
Brady looked fresh and focused like his Patriots’ days and he put the Packers and the Lambeau fatfthful into shock with his perfectly placed 39-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Miller in the closing seconds of the first half.
It seemed to be an insurmountable mission for Green Bay down 28-10.
Fittingly, though, it would be a flashback Brady-Gronkowski brilliantly called 28-yard screen that was ready to send it back home.
But Brady made some errant throws and interceptions that helped fuel Rogers who finally found his rhythm in the third quarter when he went 9-for-9 on a scoring drive.
Brady’s youthful first half looked like an aged second half. He finished with three touchdowns and interceptions apiece with an adequate 260 yards.
Yet, the ghosts of Bucs’ past and the fortitude of the current ones wouldn’t allow Rogers to steal the show in the final act.
For the first time since the 2002 season, the Bucs are back in the Big Dance.
And Brady and Bowles can make the perfect partners as well as add to the misery of Jets’ fans.