Packers Fall Short in NFC Championship Game to Buccaneers
NFC Championship Game:
Tampa Bay 31, Green Bay 26
–Aaron Rodgers and the Packers couldn’t complete the comeback after being down 18 points early in the second half as they fell short of reaching the Super Bowl for the second straight year.
Tom Brady and the Buccaneers struck first in the game, as Brady connected with Mike Evans for a 15-yard score with 10:59 left in the first quarter and a 7-0 lead.
The second quarter has been the Packers’ quarter this season, and it looked it would stay that way today – as Rodgers tossed a 50-yard strike to Marquez Valdes-Scantling to tie the score under a minute into the frame. The Bucs would answer quickly, with a 20-yard run from Leonard Fournette giving them the lead back at 14-7 with 12:24 to play before halftime.
The Packers would answer, but would falter in the red zone, capping off a 15-play, 69 yard drive with a 24-yard field goal from Mason Crosby to make it a 14-10 game.
After a Tampa punt, Rodgers was intercepted by Sean Murphy-Bunting on the ensuing drive, giving the Bucs a chance with under a minute to play in the first half. Brady would convert a fourth down with a short pass to Fournette, then found his receiver Scotty Miller behind the defense for a 39-yard score with one second left before halftime.
Tampa Bay wasted no time extending their lead to start the third quarter, converting an Aaron Jones fumble into points on an eight yard touchdown pass from Brady to tight end Cameron Brate for a 28-10 advantage.
Now down by 18 points, Rodgers led the Packers on an eight-play, 75 yard drive – capped by a touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan to cut the deficit to 28-17. Adrian Amos would intercept Brady on the ensuing drive – leading to a touchdown pass from Rodgers to Davante Adams. The two-point pass from Rodgers to Equanimeous St. Brown was no good, so the Packers trailed 28-23. The Packers defense would intercept Brady on the next two drives – but the Buccaneers defense stood tall and forced Green Bay to punt after both turnovers.
Tampa Bay would add to their lead with 4:42 left in the game, getting a 46-yard field goal from Ryan Succop after driving to the Green Bay 28 yard line. The Packers would get the ball back, and face a first-and-goal at the Bucs eight yard line – but after three straight incompletions from Rodgers, they opted for a short Crosby field goal to make the score 31-26 with 2:05 to play.
Tampa got the ball back, and was able to run out the clock – aided by a pass interference penalty on Kevin King on a third down incompletion, and a 12 men on the field penalty on Green Bay – both of which closed the door on any hopes of a Packers comeback.
Passing: Aaron Rodgers – 33/48, 346 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT – Sacked 5 times
Rushing: Aaron Jones – six carries, 27 yards
Receiving: Marquez Valdes-Scantling – 4 catches, 115 yards, 1 TD
Passing: Tom Brady – 20/36, 280 yards, 3 TD, 3 INT – sacked once
Rushing: Leonard Fournette – 12 carries, 55 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Chris Godwin – 5 catches, 110 yards
The Packers season comes to an end with a loss in the NFC Championship Game for the second straight season, and the fourth time in the last seven years. With the win, the Buccaneers become the first team in history to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Super Bowl 55 marks Tampa’s first trip to the championship since their win over Oakland in Super Bowl 37 in January 2003.
AFC Championship Game:
Kansas City 38, Buffalo 24
–Patrick Mahomes threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns as the Chiefs won over the Bills to earn a trip to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row