WE’RE SUPER BOWL BOUND BABY!
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sailed into the “Frozen Tundra” of Lambeau Field and pillaged the Packers postseason plans beating them 31-26 on Sunday. After the Bucs had jumped out to a 21-10 halftime lead, it looked as though we were looking at a repeat of their Week 6 matchup where Tampa Bay beat Green Bay 38-10 in Raymond James Stadium. However, three third quarter interceptions by Tom Brady helped the Packers score 13 points to get it to a 28-23 game going into the fourth quarter. The Buccaneers defense held strong giving up just 3 points to Aaron Rodgers offense and in the end, it was the Buccaneers in victory formation to close out this win and punch their ticket to Super Bowl LV.
After 18 years of nothing but losing seasons and early wildcard playoff exits, the Bucs are heading back to the Super Bowl to conclude what can only be described as a storybook season. This game against the Packers wasn’t as easy as it was earlier in the season, but it was a WIN nonetheless. This week, my “GOOD” will be the players that stepped up in this game and my “BAD” will be the players who didn’t. So here’s what, or who I came up with for this week’s NFC Championship “Battle of the Bay’s” game.
Tom Brady’s First Half
The first half of this game could not have gone much better for the Buccaneers and Tom Brady was outstanding. He had 202 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first 2 quarters and the Bucs offense looked unstoppable jumping out to a 21-10 halftime lead. He finished with 3 touchdowns in this game, the most in a playoff game in team history. He has now had 12 playoff games with three or more touchdowns, the most in NFL history. In just one season (3 games), he has now become the Buccaneers all time leader in postseason touchdown passes with seven breaking Brad Johnson’s previous record of five. Brady now has 80 touchdowns in the postseason. The next closest player is Joe Montana with 45 touchdowns.
The Offensive Line
Even though the run blocking could’ve been a little better, the Bucs offensive line once again kept Tom Brady clean for most of this game giving up just one sack on 37 dropbacks. This group has been playing outstanding football for most of the season and they’ll have to keep it up when they play Kansas City again.
The Bucs didn’t have a lot of success running the football against the Packers, but Fournette finished with 12 carries for 55 yards, including an impressive 20 yard touchdown run in the first half. “Playoff Lenny” has been Tampa’s best option out of the backfield in this postseason with Ronald Jones battling different issues.
Godwin has had issues with drops in these playoffs and he had another one early on in this game that would’ve given the Bucs a first down. But he bounced back strong and finished with 5 catches for 110 yards, including a tough catch for 52 yards in between two defenders. He was by far the Bucs leading receiver in this game.
Scotty “Scooter” Miller
Filling in for the injured Antonio Brown, “Scooter” only had two catches in this game but one of them was a 39 yard touchdown at the end of the first half to put the Bucs up 21-10 going into the locker room.
Since missing that wildcard game against Washington, White has been playing like a man possessed. He finished this game with 15 tackles and a fumble recovery. In his first two career playoff games, he has totaled 26 tackles, a tackle for loss, an interception, a pass defensed and 2 fumble recoveries. He’s been on fire lately, and the Bucs will need him to bring even more heat against the Chiefs.
Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul
With the Packers forced to start backup offensive tackles on both sides, Shaq and JPP had to show up BIG in this game. And boy did they. JPP finished with 5 tackles and 2 sacks. And Shaq finished with 5 tackles and 3 sacks. He and Warren Sapp are now the only two players in Buccaneers history to have 3 or more sacks in a playoff game. They also both have 11 QB pressures in these playoffs, which is second most behind the Bills Jerry Hughes (12). In their two games against the Bucs, the Packers gave up 10 sacks. They only gave up 16 sacks in their 16 games against everyone else.
SMB finished with 6 tackles and another interception in this game. He is now tied for the most postseason interceptions in team history with three, but he’s the first player in team history with a pick in three consecutive playoff games. He’s just the fourth player in NFL history to do it in his first three career playoff games.
Even though he didn’t start and only played 33 plays against the Packers, the Bucs first two sacks came on his first two snaps of this game. Vea has always been considered a run stuffer, but he has developed into a really good interior pass rusher.
The Bucs kick return game hasn’t been much to brag about this season, but it came alive up in Green Bay. Mickens had his best game of the year with 121 yards on 5 kickoff returns averaging 24 yards per return with a long of 43 yards. His 121 yards set a new Buccaneers playoff record.
Succop was business as usual in Green Bay hitting all five of the kicks he attempted, including a clutch 46 yard field goal that put the Bucs up by 8 points late in the fourth quarter. He is now 8 for 8 on field goals and 8 for 9 on extra points in this postseason.
Tom Brady’s Second Half
After a nearly flawless first half, Brady threw three interceptions in the second half matching his postseason career high. He’s done it three times in 43 career playoff games. He hadn’t thrown an interception on the road since Week 1 in New Orleans. The bad news is, he’s heading back home to Raymond James Stadium where he threw 10 of his 12 picks during the regular season.
RoJo had a career year in 2020, but he hasn’t had much success in the playoffs. He finished with 10 carries for 16 yards against the Packers for a 1.6 yards per carry average, his lowest of the season by far. After missing the wildcard game against Washington, he now has 23 carries for 78 yards and no touchdowns in these two playoff games.
He was having one of his best games of the season before he got hurt in the third quarter against the Packers. He had 5 tackles and 2 forced fumbles in this game. He’s not here because of his play on the field. It’s the injury that took him off the field that could be “bad“. As of right now, there hasn’t been an update as to the extent of his shoulder injury so we’ll have to wait and see what the diagnosis is and hope it’s not something that will keep him from suiting up for the Super Bowl.
Dropped passes were once again an issue for this Buccaneers team. In a game where they couldn’t afford to make mistakes, they made their fair share. Mike Evans dropped a couple of catches that he typically makes, including one that bounced off his hands and was intercepted. Rookie Tyler Johnson dropped a big one for a big first down early on in the game. Leonard Fournette had a couple of drops in the first half. And Chris Godwin, who has had more drops in these playoffs than he did in the regular season, added a couple more to his postseason total. Pro Football Focus has the Bucs with 12 drops “officially” in these playoffs, but that doesn’t include a few that were bad throws but still catchable balls.
The Packers only had 11 turnovers during the regular season and none against the Rams in the divisional round last week. They had two against the Bucs. The big difference maker in this game, the Buccaneers scored 14 points off both turnovers. The Packers only got 6 points off of the Bucs three turnovers. They went three and out after two of Brady’s three picks.
The Bucs are the first team in NFL history to score 30 or more points in three straight road playoff games.
The Bucs have now won seven straight games setting a new franchise record and breaking the record of six straight from the 1999 season.
Aaron Rodgers was sacked just 25 times all season and the Bucs had 10 of them. Rodgers also threw as many interceptions against the Bucs in two games (3) as he did in his other 16 games combined.
THE SUPER BOWL
Since the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Buffalo Bills Sunday night in the AFC Championship game, they will be coming to Tampa to face the Bucs in Super Bowl LV. For the first time in NFL history, a team will host a Super Bowl in their own stadium. On February 7th, Tom Brady will play in his 10th Super Bowl and fourth in the last five years. It will also be his third since turning 40 years old, while no other quarterback over 40 has ever even started in one.
The Buccaneers have now won three straight road playoff games beating Washington, New Orleans and now Green Bay in the process. That’s impressive. Especially when you realize that they haven’t played their best football in this postseason. The defense has been outstanding. Where they’ve been lacking is on offense, even though they’ve scored at least 30 points in all three games. The Bucs offense has left a ton of points on the field because of missed opportunities and dropped passes. They’ve gotten away with it so far, but if it continues against the Chiefs they’ll be in trouble.
Yes Tampa Bay, our Buccaneers are heading to their second Super Bowl. It’s exciting. It’s been a long time coming. It’s been a frustrating 18 years for us as fans. But there’s still work to do. As Bruce Arians said earlier this week, it wasn’t the goal this season just to get to the Super Bowl. The goal is to win the damn thing. To do that, they have to beat the defending Super Bowl champs in the Kansas City Chiefs. To do that, they’ll need to play a near perfect game. That’s something they haven’t done all season long. Maybe they’ve saved their best for last. I guess we’ll see on Super Bowl Sunday.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!