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NFC Championship Recap

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

The Battle of the Bays gave us Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady as the Packers hosted the Buccaneers for the NFC Championship game.

Tampa Bay won yet another road game this postseason and held on to beat Green Bay 31-26 to advance to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady is back in the biggest game and go figure that he will be the first quarterback to play a Super Bowl in his home stadium.

WHY THE BUCCANEERS WON:

  • Tampa’s Defense was BIG. Tampa Bay got to Aaron Rodgers so many times with a fierce pass rush that was disruptive all game. 5 sacks, many hurries, and they created a critical interception too.
  • 3rd down conversions. On the opening scoring drive Tampa converted three big 3rd downs to keep the drive alive that ultimately ended with a Mike Evans touchdown catch. The next scoring drive was a big 3rd and 9 when Tom Brady just put the ball up for grabs in the middle of the field and 52 yards later Chris Godwin came down with it. The very next play Leonard Fournette had his electrifying 20 yard touchdown run.
  • The Bucs played aggressively. Late in the half when they failed on a rare 3rd down miss instead of setting up to punt, they thought about it and brought the offense back out. They made the 4th down and had a few seconds left to get a little closer into field goal range. Tampa instead took a shot deep and Brady found Scotty Miller for a touchdown to end the half.
  • They didn’t give the ball back to Aaron Rodgers. We all wonder why the Packers kicked the field goal late but the reasoning is to use your timeouts, get a stop and try one more time for the win. The theory didn’t work because Tampa picked up 3 first downs and iced the game.

WHY THE PACKERS LOST:

  • The secondary ended up with 3 second half interceptions but the play before the half, the deep shot to Godwin in the 2nd quarter, and the late holding all felt like back breaking plays.
  • Losing Aaron Jones during the game. Jones has been the Packers best running back for the last couple of seasons. His numbers weren’t incredible while he did play but he is a big time weapon that was sorely missing as the game went along. On the play he got knocked out he had a costly fumble that gave Tampa great field position. They would go on to score and he never returned to the game.
  • Red Zone failures. They settled for a couple of field goals while in the red zone instead of getting critical touchdowns.
  • Aaron Rodgers was not great in the 4th quarter. Green Bay had three 4th quarter possessions all while trailed by either 5 points or 8 points. Rodgers had two 3 and outs and the scoring drive ended in the controversial field goal. Rodgers ended the quarter 4-11 for 54 yards. He also turned down a few chances to run when they looked to be there.
  • The decision to kick a field goal. This didn’t make sense to many at the time and still doesn’t make sense to many now. Even with what was said about Rodgers previously, he is your best player. He is the league MVP. You have to put the game in his hands.

This was a mistake, one of too many the Packers made.