Tom Brady is headed back to the Super Bowl, this time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a wild NFC Championship Game victory over the Green Bay Packers. A matchup between two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks delivered on the hype, coming down to the final minutes in a wild finish.
Brady and Co. started cooking early. Thanks to some big snags by wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, paired with a glorious run by Leonard Fournette, the Buccaneers rolled out to a 14-7 victory. Just as Green Bay started to respond, cutting the deficit to four points, Tampa Bay’s defense gave Brady another opportunity to prove why he is the best to ever do it.
Things looked over when the Buccaneers took a 28-10 lead, but Aaron Rodgers wasn’t ready to surrender quite yet. He stormed back with two touchdowns of his own, making it a 28-23 game entering the final quarter.
With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, Brady uncharacteristically struggled. Two interceptions gave the Packers a chance to grab their first lead of the game, but Tampa Bay’s defense came through again and again in the closing minutes. Finally, with the help of a baffling decision by Matt LaFleur, the white flag was waved and Brady punched his ticket to earn his 10th Super Bowl appearance.
Here are the winners and losers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31-26 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
Winner: Todd Bowles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator
Tampa Bay isn’t going to Super Bowl LV because of head coach Bruce Arians. It was Brady who made the call to throw the last-second Hail Mary instead of punting before halftime. Then, when Arians’ offense stopped working, Todd Bowles’ defense saved the day.
After each of Brady’s two interceptions, it felt like Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl hopes were sinking fast. Instead, Bowles rallied his defense and dialed up the right blitzes and coverages to take away everything the Packers wanted to do. Green Bay’s offense couldn’t find the end zone in the fourth quarter, often stalling in three-and-outs. While the Packers looked flat with their season on the line, every single player on Tampa Bay’s defense executed, flew to the football and did the little things right. So many players came through in this one and that’s a credit to Bowles.
Loser: Kevin King, cornerback, Green Bay Packers
Kevin King had an opportunity to create his legacy in Green Bay and to write himself a blank check. A pending free agent this offseason, King was going to be challenged by Brady. If he stepped up and made a big play, he would send his team to Super Bowl LV and become a hero for one of the NFL’s most storied franchises.