The NFC has a new champion.
Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will represent the NFC at Super Bowl LV after knocking down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday 31-26.
While winning conference titles is nothing new for Brady – this is his 10th win in 14 appearances in both the NFC and AFC – it is the first conference championship for the Buccaneers since 2003.
And they took the scenic route to get there.
Possessing an impressive 28-10 lead early in the second half, it looked like the Buccaneers could make it to the Super Bowl – but the Packers wouldn’t leave.
Rodgers set up a 75-yard drive on Green Bay’s second possession in the second half, culminating in a touchdown for Robert Tonyan.
The Packers then chose Brady to return the ball to Rodgers, who scrolled his side for 60 yards for another score, this time to Davante Adams, reducing the lead to five after the Packers missed their attempt to go for two, as Equanimeous St. Brown couldn’t save Rodgers’ pass in the end zone.
While the Tampa Bay offense experienced a major lull in the second half, its defense took over in a big way. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett led the way with two sacks in the second half, finishing with a game-high three.
Special teams also stepped up for Bucs, with kicker Ryan Succop extending the Tampa Bay lead to 31-23 with a crucial 46-yard field goal.
The Packers set up a 58-yard drive to threaten the Bucs, but with two minutes left, Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur opted to take a shot for the basket instead of attempting to score. and a two point conversion to fourth. down – a controversial decision that will be unwrapped momentarily.
Perhaps more controversial, the referees focused on the end of the game, calling for defensive pass interference on the third and fourth to give the Bucs another run of downs with 1:45 to go.
To say Rodgers was excited by the call would be an understatement.
Nonetheless, the Buccaneers managed to bleed the clock and win the NFC title with a 31-26 triumph. As a wild card team, the Bucs played three games en route to the Super Bowl.
Their reward for winning on the road? Become the first NFL team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium, as Super Bowl LV takes place at Raymond James Stadium.
With their hallmarked tickets, the Buccaneers will wait for Sunday’s AFC Championship result between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills to finalize the Super Bowl LV game.
Here are the main takeaways from the NFC Championship:
1. LaFleur’s decision to kick
Down eight points with just over two minutes to go, the Packers opted for a field goal attempt on fourth base from the 8-yard line.
Mason Crosby converted the 26-yard attempt, reducing Green Bay’s deficit to five.
Keep in mind that Green Bay would have needed a fourth conversion for the touchdown and a two-point conversion just to tie the game. Even so the questions started to fly through Twitter.
That basket was the last the Packers saw off the ball, as the Buccaneers shot the clock to zero.
The Rodgers Take?
LaFleur’s decision is one that will surely be examined in the coming days.
2. Half the battle
The end of the first half also had its share of drama.
With less than two minutes to go in the first half, it looked like the Packers would stay within striking range at 14-10, at worst.
But Green Bay’s decision to press the issue backfired, as Sean Murphy-Bunting threw his third playoff interception to return possession …
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