The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, 31-26, to book their sport for Super Bowl LV. Super Bowl LV will be played on the 7th of February 2021 at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Bucs are the first to play in the Super Bowl in their home town, at their home stadium. This is the second Super Bowl appearance for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after their win in Super Bowl XXXVII.
New team, new conference, new city, same result. Tom Brady is going back to the Super Bowl. TB12 will play in his 10th Super Bowl after guiding the Buccaneers to a road win in Lambeau Field over MVP favorite Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The 43-year-old QB made plays early, particularly on third downs, dropping dimes and stepping into rifle shots over the middle. Brady tossed three TDs and 12 first downs to move the chains in several high-leverage situations. He finished with 280 yards but could have earned more if it weren't for several Bucs drops. Brady stubbed his toe in the second half, throwing three interceptions when Tampa could have put the game away, including a pass just high off Mike Evans‘ fingertips. The Bucs D picked up its QB, however, as Tampa held on for the win. Given his age and all the things stacked against him heading into his first season with a new team after 20 years, it's remarkable. For all the superlatives that can be said about Brady, that he's playing for the chance to hoist his seventh Lombardi Trophy is the highest praise for the greatest to ever do it.
Aaron Rodgers clawed the Packers back in the game after Green Bay got down 18 points early in the third quarter. Rodgers made a bevy of great strikes all game, including an early dime down the sideline to Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 50-yard TD. Rodgers sprayed the ball all over the field, completing 33-of-48 passes for 346 yards and three TDs with an INT. With the Bucs' stifling run defense, it was clear entering the game that Matt LaFleur would lean on his QB. After getting down big, Rodgers marched his team for back-to-back TD drives to pull the Pack within five points before the third quarter was over. Missed opportunities, however, will haunt Green Bay. Two goal-to-go situations will particularly be damaging, as Rodgers threw incomplete six times in scoring position, and the Packers settled for field goals (more on that later). The red zone misses were the difference in the game. Also of issue were back-to-back three-and-outs in the third quarter after Green Bay's defense forced turnovers. Once again, Rodgers and Co. fell short in an NFC Championship Game as the QB missed out on another chance to play in his second Super Bowl.
Credit the Tampa Bay defense with dominating upfront. Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul were game-changers, screaming around the edge, collapsing the pocket, and relentlessly discombobulating Rodgers. Barrett amassed three sacks, while JPP took down Rodgers twice. It was the first time all year we've seen a team batter the Packers O-line. Injuries finally caught up to Green Bay, with the Bucs edge rushers taking advantage of David Bakhtiari‘s absence. That injury alone could be the reason the Packers are headed home. The Bucs took advantage. Behind the D-line's awesome game, Devin White and Lavonte David flew to the ball, and the secondary made plays despite dealing with injuries of their own. Jordan Whitehead forced two fumbles before exiting due to injuries, leaving Tampa with two backup safeties in the game. Todd Bowles' young secondary, however, made plays when it was needed. The coverage forced Rodgers to hold the ball on several occasions in the fourth quarter. The Bucs defense also stood tall in the red zone, making game-changing plays in the compressed area. The Bucs might have given up yards, but when Bowles' squad needed to make big plays, it got off the field more than not Sunday afternoon.