NFL Playoffs: Buccaneers 31-26 result: Brady going to 10th Super Bowl
Tom Brady's first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will end at Super Bowl LV after they made history in beating the Green Bay Packers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be the first team in NFL history to contest the Super Bowl in their home stadium after defeating the Green Bay Packers 31-26 as the NFC Championship Game delivered a classic.
Rodgers vs Brady: a classic
A matchup between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady at Lambeau Field lived up to the expectations, with the latter surviving a three-interception second-half display to reach the Super Bowl for the 10th time in his incredible career.
He put the Buccaneers in command with a stunning first half and an 18-point third-quarter deficit proved too much for the Packers to overcome as they fell short of reaching Super Bowl LV, which will take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Chiefs or Bills at Super Bowl LV
The Kansas City Chiefs or Buffalo Bills will stand between them and the Lombardi Trophy, with the Packers left to reflect on their missed opportunities after they and Rodgers suffered yet more playoff heartache.
Tampa Bay could hardly have asked for a better start as Brady went three for three on third down on the game's opening drive, which ended with him lofting a beautiful 15-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans.
Green Bay's response was not immediate but when it came it was spectacular as Rodgers hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a 50-yard bomb down the right sideline.
A stunning 52-yard catch from Chris Godwin set up a speedy reply from the Buccaneers, with Leonard Fournette bouncing to the outside for a 20-yard touchdown run.
Just a field goal for the Packers
The Packers were then left frustrated as a 15-play drive ended in just a field goal and the mood among the 8,500 fans allowed at Lambeau Field worsened after Rodgers was intercepted by Sean Murphy-Bunting and Brady connected with Scotty Miller on a 39-yard strike with seconds remaining in the first half.
Aaron Jones' fumble on the first drive of the second half set the Bucs up to extend their lead, which they did almost instantly as Brady threw his third touchdown to a wide-open Cameron Brate to make it 28-10.
A rout akin to their 38-10 demolition of Green Bay in Week 6 seemed likely at that point, but Rodgers trimmed the deficit by capping an eight-play drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan.
Hope of a Packers comeback was furthered when Adrian Amos broke from the middle of the field to pick off Brady's deep right throw to Evans and Rodgers took full advantage, reducing the gap to five points through a two-yard toss to Davante Adams, though Equanimeous St. Brown dropped a two-point conversion pass.
Another field goal for the Packers
The Bucs' defense stiffened thereafter, however, preventing the Packers from capitalising on successive ugly interceptions from Brady, who ended his turnover streak to lead a drive that resulted in a 46-yard Ryan Succop field goal and an eight-point lead.
Overtime appeared on the cards when the Packers drove to the Tampa Bay eight-yard line, but they could not get into the endzone and the inexplicable decision to kick a short field goal on fourth down proved costly as a pass interference penalty on the final drive sealed history for the Buccaneers and the ageless Brady.
Buccaneers - Packers: Turning Point – Miller Time the difference
The game tilted on a wild sequence at the end of the first half, which started when Murphy-Bunting avoided a defensive holding penalty and picked off Rodgers, who had been intercepted just five times in the regular season.
Tampa Bay looked set to punt to end the half after failing to move the ball into field-goal range, but Bruce Arians instead elected to go for it on fourth down and, a play after moving the sticks, Brady produced a pinpoint pass to find Miller after the diminutive receiver had streaked clear of Kevin King's coverage.
The contrast between Arians' faith in his offense and Packers head coach Matt LaFleur's apparent lack of trust in his attack on fourth down in the red zone was ultimately the difference in an absorbing encounter.
Brady mistakes go unpunished
Though much of the focus will be on Brady, Tampa Bay's defense deserves a great deal of credit for preserving the lead despite his back-to-back-to-back interceptions.
In doing so, the Bucs made more history, becoming the first team to win on the road in a league or conference championship game while having more turnovers and fewer yards than their opponents.
The Bucs will likely be underdogs regardless of who they face in the Super Bowl, with the Chiefs and the Bills regarded by many as the top teams in the league.
Instead of preparing for such a test, the Packers now face a long offseason where they will think about what might have been. There will be questions about the future of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, while getting more weapons for Rodgers has to be the priority after Green Bay neglected to do so last offseason.
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