After working all season to secure a first round playoff bye and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, the Green Bay Packers season came to an end in the NFC Championship game, falling to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-26 on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Tom Brady threw for 280 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions and will play in his 10th Super Bowl in two weeks, this time on his own home field in Tampa. Brady will be in search of his seventh Super Bowl title. To get there, the Bucs had to beat three division winners, including the Packers on Sunday.
The Buccaneers (14-5) will face the Kansas City Chiefs (16-2) on Feb. 7 in Super Bowl 55. No team has ever played in a Super Bowl on their own home field before.
The Packers (14-4) picked a bad time to play their worst game of the season, seeing their seven-game winning streak come to an end.
Green Bay trailed 14-10 late in the first half and had forced Tampa Bay into a punting situation. Instead, the Bucs called a time out and Bruce Arians put his offense back on the field. Even after the timeout, the Packers were caught in the wrong defense (man coverage) and Tom Brady found Scotty Miller over the top and down the left sideline for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 1-second left in the first half to make it 21-10. Miller beat Kevin King on the play.
The Packers started the second half with the football, but running back Aaron Jones quickly turned it over with a fumble. Devin White recovered and ran 21 yards to the Green Bay 8 yard line. One play later, Tom Brady found tight end Cameron Brate to extend the Bus lead to 28-10.
Brady then threw three straight interceptions to allow the Packers to rally. Aaron Rodgers found tight end Robert Tonyan for a 8-yard touchdown to make it 28-17. Then Rodgers hit Davante Adams from 2-yards out to make it 28-23, but the Packers went for the two-point conversion and it failed.
Tampa’s Ryan Succop made it 31-23 with a 46-yard field goal with 4:42 left to play.
The Packers started what they hoped would be a game tying drive, but it stalled at the Bucs 8-yard line. On fourth down, instead of sending the likely NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers out for one more shot, Matt LaFleur went to Mason Crosby for a short 26-yard field goal with 2:05 left to play.
LaFleur was putting the ball in the hands of his defense, but they were unable to get the ball back. The Packers thought they had a stop, but Kevin King was called for pass interference which ended any chances of a miraculous comeback.
It was a crushing defeat for the Packers, who picked a bad time to play their worst game of the season.
Aaron Rodgers completed 33 of 48 for 346 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Davante Adams caught nine passes for 67 yards and a touchdown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling had four catches for 115 yards and a score, including a touchdown reception that went for 50 yards. But the Packers had no balance to their offense, partly because of the score in the second half. But they passed it 48 times and ran it 16 times.
Aaron Jones left with a chest injury to start the third quarter. He had just six carries for 27 yards. As a team, the Packers managed just 67 yards rushing.
During the regular season, the Packers converted red zone opportunities at better than a 80% clip. On Sunday, Green Bay was just 2 for 4.
Jaire Alexander had two interceptions and Adrian Amos had one for the Packers. But the Packers had just one sack for the game, that belonged to Kenny Clark.
The Packers are now 0-5 in NFC Championship games dating back to 2014. With the league dialing back on the salary cap for next season, the Packers are facing the potential free agent loss of some of their key players as they shape their roster for next season.