For Tom Brady, it’s on to the NFC Championship with the Buccaneers

Drew Brees is cast aside. And now a date with Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field for the NFC Championship.

As life-after-the-Patriots scenarios go, Tom Brady couldn’t have written a much better script for himself.

Really, could it get any better?

Brady gets a perennially inept team into the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. Then he sends the younger Brees packing in the division round, setting up a delicious showdown with Rodgers for a chance to play for another championship.

Yes, life is good for Brady. He’s on the brink of another Super Bowl.

Should anyone be surprised?

The Bucs had lost both of its previous matchups with the Saints during the year, by big scores. Given his history in New England, it was hard to believe Brady would lose a third time to the same team, especially in a bigger-stakes game.

Of course, it didn’t happen. He got by the Saints, right on cue. The beat just goes on for the now red-hot Buccaneers, as Brady won the Battle of the Old Dudes, 30-20, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

That allows him to appear in his 14th conference championship, his first in something other than a Patriots uniform.

“I’m really proud of our team, and everything we’ve put in to get to this point,” said Brady. “There’s four teams left, and we’re one of them. It’s tough to get to this point, so we need a big week … it’s one of the best teams in the league in Green Bay. The top seed. Aaron’s playing incredible. They’ve got a great defense. It’s going to be a great matchup.”

One more for the ages.

Now, this wasn’t vintage Brady against the Saints. Far from it. He was fortunate he didn’t have a bunch of picks to go along with his two touchdown passes. He did have some luck on his side.

But, as usual, he was good enough, especially in crunch time, ultimately playing a turnover-free game. It was 13-all at the half, but then Brady and Tampa’s offense picked it up. And so did the Buccaneers’ young defense, forcing Brees into a turnover machine.

The Saints had four in all, with three setting up Brady in Saints territory. Brees, who is expected to retire, threw three interceptions. Not the best way to go out, if this is it for the Saints quarterback, and the final matchup between the two greats.

Brady, meanwhile, continues to defy the odds, and continues to win. At age 43, he still looks like a man wanting the next one. He may have six Super Bowl titles tucked away with the Patriots, but he wants the next one with Tampa.

He made the plays when he had to, completing 18 of 33 passes for 199 yards, with two passing touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown. His quarterback sneak into the end zone at 4:57 basically put the dagger in, with the Bucs scoring 17 straight points. The scoring play was set up by a 13-yard-pass to Rob Gronkowski, his lone catch of the evening.

Brady had a big hug for Bruce Arians at the two-minute warning. He can win without a coach named Bill Belichick, especially if you put a great cast around him.

While the Saints had sacked him a bunch in the first two meetings, and he threw five of his 21 picks on the season, he remained clean in this game.

The Bucs have definitely been more in tune with keeping Brady protected during the past month, keeping Gronk in a lot to help take on the top pass rushers, and that’s triggered a much more effective offense.

One of the knocks on the Brady-led Bucs was the fact they hadn’t beaten many good teams. Well, it’s January, and they’ve put a couple notches on the holster.

Earlier in the year, they crushed the Packers, 38-10 in October. They beat the Washington Football Team in the wildcard round, with Brady playing incredibly well in that win.

But the story, for Brady and his quest, is how well the Bucs defense played. That unit has come around at the right time, and if they give Rodgers the same kind of fits they gave Brees, the Bucs just might get to the promised land.

“The defense was incredible all game,” said Brady. “The turnovers were huge. Last time we played them, we lost the turnover battle … today was plus-4. You’re not going to lose many games when you’re plus-4. Just a great effort. They came up huge, and offensively we made plays when we needed to. And the line protected great.”

He’ll take it, along with another trip to a championship game. Asked if this one felt different, Brady acknowledged that it did.

“I’m just so proud of everyone, the whole organization,” said Brady. “Our coaches have put in so much work and effort to this point preparing us every day. Just an amazing job. Guys have really come together. It’s really a unique team. We have great chemistry, we have fun at practice, and we’ve worked really hard to get to this point.”

Just like the Patriots, the Bucs — with Brady — have gotten hot at the right time.

It’s a familiar recipe, one the Patriots rode to six Lombardi trophies.

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