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The Bucs will become the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl in its own stadium following Sunday’s 31-26 win over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field.
Tampa Bay won three road playoff games for the right to play at home for the NFL championship game Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
The Super Bowl appearance will be only the second in the Bucs’ 45-season history and first in 18 years. They won Super Bowl 37 following the 2002 season.
Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes to advance to his 10th Super Bowl and first with a team other than the Patriots. He has won six.
Trailing by 8 with just over 2 minutes remaining, Green Bay inexplicably went for a field goal on fourth and goal from the Tampa Bay 8, leaving it still behind by 5 points and putting the game into Brady’s hands.
The Bucs picked up three first downs on the ensuing drive, aided by a pass interference penalty against Kevin King on Tyler Johnson on third and 4 from the Tampa Bay 37. The Bucs went on to run out the clock.
Brady completed 20 of 36 passes for 280 yards, including touchdowns of 15 yards to Mike Evans, 39 to Scotty Miller and 8 to Cameron Brate. He was intercepted three times.
Chris Godwin had five receptions for 110 yards, including several key third-down catches.
Sean Murphy-Bunting intercepted a pass and Jordan Whitehead forced a fumble that was recovered by Devin White. Both resulted in touchdowns for the Bucs, who stretched a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter to 28-10 early in the third.
Aaron Rodgers threw two third-quarter touchdown passes to bring the Packers back to within 28-23, but Green Bay’s final three possessions ended in two punts and a field goal. He finished 33 of 48 for 346 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Here‘s how it happened:
Too little, too late for Packers
The Packers drove to the Bucs 8 in the closing minutes but couldn’t advance further and settled for a field goal.
Mason Crosby’s 26-yard field goal cut Green Bay’s deficit to 31-26 with just over 2 minutes remaining.
Jamaal Williams’ 30-yard kickoff return gave the Packers possession at their 34.
Aaron Rodgers’ 29-yard completion over the middle to Marquez Valdes-Scantling gave the Packers a first down at the Bucs 28.
An 11-yard pass to Davante Adams made it first and goal from the 8. But three straight incompletions set up fourth and goal, and Green Bay opted for the field goal.
Field goal extends Bucs’ lead to 8
Ryan Succop’s 46-yard field goal extended the Bucs’ lead to 31-23 with just under 5 minutes remaining.
The Packers will need a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie.
Packers come up empty after interception
A second straight Bucs possession ended with a Jaire Alexander interception, as the Packers cornerback leaped high to pull in an underthrown Tom Brady pass intended for Mike Evans at the Green Bay 24.
Brady threw the ball up for grabs after safety Darnell Savage rushed unimpeded into the Tampa Bay backfield.
The turnover didn’t hurt the Bucs, though, as Shaquil Barrett again sacked Aaron Rodgers on the ensuing possession, forcing another Green Bay punt.
Missed opportunity for Bucs, Packers
The Bucs were driving deep into Packers territory early in the fourth quarter when Tom Brady was picked off for the second time in the game.
Cornerback Jaire Alexander intercepted a Brady pass deep over the middle that went off the fingertips of Mike Evans at the Green Bay 3 and returned it 16 yards to the 19.
The turnover ended a drive that started at the Tampa Bay 45 after a 43-yard kickoff return by Jaydon Mickens.
Rookie Tyler Johnson made a clutch catch at the Green Bay 37, laying out to catch a 16-yard pass over the middle on third and 8.
While the interception undoubtedly cost the Bucs points, it didn’t result in any for the Packers, either, as Shaquil Barrett sacked Aaron Rodgers on third and 5 from the Green Bay 24, forcing a punt.
Packers pulling back into the game
The Packers methodically worked their way down the field on a late third-quarter drive, closing their deficit to five points.
Aaron Rodgers’ hit Davante Adams on a quick slant for a 2-yard touchdown pass, trimming the Bucs’ led to 28-23.
Equanimeous St. Brown dropped what would have been a successful two-point conversion attempt.
Only two plays on the drive — passes of 13 yards to AJ Dillon and 11 to Jamaal Williams — were longer than 7 yards.
A penalty against cornerback Carlton Davis for lowering the head to initiate contact turned a 7-yard completion to Davante Adams into a 10-yard gain to the Bucs 2.
The drive was set up by the Packers’ first takeaway of the game. Safety Adrian Amos intercepted a deep Tom Brady pass intended for Mike Evans at the Green Bay 32.
Green Bay gets one back
The Packers bounced back from turnovers on consecutive drives at the end of the first half and start of the second to score on their second possession of the third quarter.
Aaron Rodgers’ 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Robert Tonyan capped an eight-play, 75-yard drive that pulled Green Bay back to 28-17 with 9-plus minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Rodgers completed passes of 24 yards to Marquez Valdes-Scantling and 16 to Allen Lazard on the drive.
From bad to worse for Packers
If you thought things couldn’t get worse for the Packers after their late second-quarter collapse, think again.
Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead forced an Aaron Jones fumble at the start of the second half, and inside linebacker Devin White returned the ball 21 yards to the Green Bay 8.
Tom Brady needed just one play to take advantage, connecting with tight end Cameron Brate on an 8-yard scoring pass, extending Tampa Bay’s lead to 28-10 less than 2 minutes into the third quarter.
Whitehead left the game with a shoulder injury after the play and did not return. His absence left the Bucs without both of their starting safeties, as Antoine Winfield Jr. was ruled out before the game.
Bucs lead by 11 at halftime
The Bucs got a big break shortly before halftime when Sean Murphy-Bunting intercepted Aaron Rodgers near midfield.
After a fourth-down conversion, Tom Brady hit Scotty Miller with a 39-yard touchdown pass, putting Tampa Bay ahead 21-10 at halftime.
The sequence started when the Packers took possession at their 13 with just over 2 minutes remaining in the second quarter after forcing a Bucs punt for only the second time in the half.
Rodgers completed a 23-yard pass to Allen Lazard to the Green Bay 40 on third and 6 from the 17.
Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Rodgers for a 7-yard loss on the next play, pushing the Packers back to the 33. At that point, the smart play might have been to take a knee and head to the locker room trailing by 4.
Instead, the Packers continued to push the play, and Rodgers’ pass deep over the middle for Lazard was intercepted by Murphy-Bunting at the Green Bay 49.
A 6-yard pass from Brady to Leonard Fournette moved the ball to the 45, but three straight incompletions set up fourth and 4.
After first sending the punt team onto the field, the Bucs reconsidered, putting the offense back out. The gamble paid off, as Brady found Fournette for 6 yards and a first down at the 39.
As the final 8 seconds ticked off the clock, Brady threw deep down the left side of the field to Miller, who had gotten behind the Packers secondary. Miller pulled in the pass in the end zone, giving Tampa Bay a 21-10 lead.
Packers get their backs involved
The Packers got their running backs involved in the offense during a late second-quarter field-goal drive.
Jamaal Williams gained 12 yards on a run around left end to the Bucs 47. Two plays later, Aaron Jones picked up 12 more around right end to the 30.
Jones picked up two more first downs on the drive with runs of 1 and 4 yards.
The Packers moved to the Bucs 6 before three Rodgers passes for Davante Adams fell incomplete.
Green Bay was forced to settle for a 24-yard Mason Crosby field goal and 14-10 deficit with less than five minutes remaining in the half.
Bucs quickly regain the lead
The Bucs wasted no time responding to the Packers’ tying touchdown, driving 73 yards in four plays to move back ahead, 14-7, early in the second quarter.
Chris Godwin’s 52-yard reception set up a 20-yard Leonard Fournette touchdown run with 12-1/2 minutes remaining in the half.
Packers tie game on long touchdown pass
The Packers tied the game at 7 early in the second quarter on Aaron Rodgers’ 50-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
The pass deep down the right sideline on third and short capped a seven-play, 90-yard drive.
The Bucs seemed to have the Packers contained when Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Rodgers at the Green Bay 5, setting up third and 15. But Rodgers found Allen Lazard near the right sideline for 23 yards and a first down at the 28.
Rodgers then hit Davante Adams for 15 yards and tight end Robert Tonyan for 5 before connecting with Valdes-Scantling for the tying touchdown. Carlton Davis was in coverage on the play.
Packers finally stop Bucs on third down
The Bucs converted their first five third-down opportunities before the Packers managed to stop them.
Green Bay defensive lineman Kenny Clark sacked Tom Brady on third and 10 from the Tampa Bay 49, forcing a punt.
After going 3-for-3 on third down on their opening drive, the Bucs converted their first two third-down opportunities their second time with the ball before the Clark sack.
Ronald Jones gained 2 yards on a third-and-1 carry, and Chris Godwin took a short Brady pass 14 yards to the Tampa Bay 49 on third and 13.
Bucs force Packers’ punt on opening possession
The Bucs’ defense allowed one first down on the Packers’ opening possession before forcing a punt.
Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett sacked Aaron Rodgers for an 8-yard loss on third and 9 from the Green Bay 43.
The Packers picked up a first down earlier in the drive on Rodgers’ 14-yard pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis, moving from their 28-yard line to the 42.
Bucs score touchdown on opening drive
The Bucs drove 66 yards on nine plays on their opening drive and took a 7-0 lead on Tom Brady’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans.
Tampa Bay converted three third downs on the drive, on Brady passes of 27 yards to Evans, 14 to Chris Godwin and the touchdown pass to Evans on a fade pattern.
Jaydon Mickens set up the Bucs at their 34 by returning the opening kickoff 29 yards.
The big play was a 27-yard completion from Brady to Evans to the Packers 33 on third and 4.
Three plays later, Brady found Chris Godwin for 14 yards and another first down at the 18 on third and 9.
Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is out for game
The Bucs will be without one of their biggest playmakers on defense against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in today’s NFC Championship Game.
Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. tested his ankle before the game at Lambeau Field, and it was determined he will not play.
It’s a huge loss for the Bucs defense, since the All-Rookie performer has a knack for making big plays at critical times in the game.
Win will earn Tom Brady a cool half-million
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady can pad his $25 million annual salary with performance bonuses totaling $1 million if he can lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl title, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported.
Brady, making his 14th appearance in a conference title game, receives a $500,000 contract incentive if the Bucs defeat the Packers for the NFC championship today at Lambeau Field. He makes another $500,00 if the Bucs win Super Bowl 55 at Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7.
Bucs have a chance to make NFL history
This is why the Bucs hired Bruce Arians. And signed Tom Brady. And acquired Rob Gronkowski.
They’ve raised the Lombardi Trophy elsewhere.
Now, they have a chance to do it in Tampa Bay.
Beat the Packers today at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., and the Bucs will advance to the Super Bowl for only the second time in their 45-season history and first since winning Super Bowl 37 after the 2002 season.
The icing on the cake?
They’ll play for the NFL championship Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
For a chance to be the best, they’ll have to beat the best. The Packers are the top seed in the NFC, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the presumptive favorite to be named league MVP.
The Bucs had their way with Rodgers in a 38-10 romp in Tampa in mid-October, sacking him five times and pressuring him into two of his five interceptions this season. His quarterback rating of 35.4 in that game was far and away his worst of the 2020 campaign.
Both teams expect a different game this time around. The Packers have won 10 of 12 since that meeting and are 8-1 this season in their home stadium.
Of course, the Bucs haven’t exactly been pushovers themselves, winning six in a row since back-to-back losses to the Rams and Chiefs in late November.
Inside linebacker Devin White, coming off a breakout performance in last weekend’s division playoff win over the Saints, could be a difference-maker today for the Bucs. The Bucs’ brash secondary also will have a say in the outcome, one way or another.
While the Bucs defense will get a boost from the return of defensive tackle Vita Vea from a broken leg, the offense will be without wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is out with a knee injury. Safety Antoine Winfield Jr., a surprise addition to Friday’s injury report, is out with an ankle injury.
Come kickoff time, temperatures are expected to be in the mid-20s, with a chance of snow flurries. While cold weather used to be a problem for the Bucs, it seems to be less of an issue these days.
Brady advanced to nine Super Bowls, winning six, while playing in New England for 20 seasons, and Tampa Bay has won its past two games when the kickoff temperature was below 45 degrees, including a wild-card win two weeks ago at Washington.
Follow along, starting at 3 p.m., as the Bucs aim to become the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl in its home stadium.
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A little light reading
Here’s some of our content leading up to today’s game: