The stage was set on the frozen tundra. The lights were at their brightest and the stars were shining in preparation of a historical quarterback matchup. Aaron Rodgers versus Tom Brady, at Lambeau Field, for the right to go to the Super Bowl. It simply does not get more historic than that and the game lived up to the billing. Sure, the game had its faults with the officiating.
Fans saw firsthand that Clete Blakeman and his crew were just about as uneven as you can be. However, whether Packers fans want to admit it or not, there were plenty of calls (or non-calls) that went both ways. In the end, the game came down to questionable decision-making by Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur.
On the Packers side of the ball
Well, that wasn’t all that great now, was it? Home field advantage, fans in the stands, the team is rolling and they hit a brick wall. A brick wall named Tom Brady, who now has beaten over half of the NFL, in the playoffs! Green Bay diehards should feel bad after this one, there’s no sugar-coating it.
This was a horrendous loss and everybody knew going into the game what a loss would mean for Rodgers’ legacy. They just didn’t want to admit it. They didn’t want to bring the horrible thought to light, that the Packers have now wasted a generational talent like Rodgers.
The Packers signal-caller is now 1-4 in NFC Championship games. He has one lonely Super Bowl title to his name. Whether or not you believe that wins is a quarterback stat, this is damning for Rodgers. He’s held to a golden standard, in which he be compared to the all-time greats and he will not be known as a player who got the job done.
Everything was set up this year for Green Bay. Their offense was clicking. Their defense was no longer an easy scapegoat. The game was at home. In the end, they decided to play it safe in a can’t-lose game against the greatest football player there ever was. So, now they’ll be heading home instead of taking a trip to Tampa.
The decision to go for a field goal instead of trying for a touchdown, down by eight points will haunt Packers fans for a long time. The entire play sequence with goal-to-go will be a woeful Wisconsin nightmare for the foreseeable future. To make matters worse, Rodgers could have ran it in for a touchdown on third and goal but he didn’t.
Green Bay also had a blown play call miscommunication. It was an (un)spectacular blow up, with explosions as loud as the Fourth of July. Blame the officiating all you want, failure to execute was the reason why the Packers fell victim.
Unfortunately, there is no silver lining here. Rodgers and his teammates will now have the entire offseason to think about that decision to kick a field goal, instead of going for it on fourth and goal. He’s also going to wonder why the Packers inexplicably took a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, rather than obtaining some wide receiver help for him.
This loss will sit with Green Bay and rot at its core until they finally get back onto the practice field and start again. There’s something poetic about a loss as cold as that magnitude, happening in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
On the Buccaneers side of the ball
Tampa Bay is about to become the first-ever team to host a Super Bowl in their home stadium, while also playing in the game. The first home team in a Super Bowl, led by the greatest football player to ever play the game, is something to feel great about if you’re a Tampa Bay fan. Let’s be clear, the Bucs did not choose Tom Brady, Tom Brady chose the Bucs and as a result, are now in the Super Bowl.
Head coach Bruce Arians should thank Tom Brady. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich should thank Tom Brady. The greater Tamp Bay area should thank their lucky stars that Tom Brady chose them. Enjoy this man while he’s here, we may never see anything like him ever again.
There are no more superlatives we can hurl at Tom Brady. He has heard it all and his legacy is cemented in diamond-encrusted rings. With that said, beating Drew Brees on his home field and then Aaron Rodgers the following week must have him feeling ecstatic.
For Brady, this is just another year of being an expert at his craft. However, it is more than that. The stigma of system quarterback was there, as nonsensical as it might be. The thought of being a product of Bill Belichick was there, yet another absurdity for a sixth-round runt of the litter turned golden-armed God.
People will debate the ‘who needed who more’ narrative between Belichick and Brady until the end of time. For now, Tom Brady stands alone as the most historic player the NFL has ever seen. We are now possibly witnessing the greatest sports career of any athlete ever. Hate him all you want, at the end of the day, you can say that you witnessed a crowned sporting achievement of the likes, which may never be seen again.
The Bucs will now put their heart and soul on the line to secure another ring for Brady. The gamble of taking on a 43-year-old quarterback has paid huge dividends. The risk of bringing along his walking fiesta of a tight end with him has also paid off. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this experiment has already been worth the reward. But not for TB12.
Making it there will never be enough for him. He knows he has to win this game. He doesn’t have to win this game but in his mind? He does have to win this game. Why? Because one more ring is another middle finger to every team that passed on him way back when.
One more ring is another nail in the coffin to every person looking to discredit his greatness for some odd reason. One more ring and it still won’t be enough for him. That’s what makes him the greatest football player ever. The feeling of never being satisfied with what you’ve accomplished even when the list of accomplishments is as long as I-95.
So enjoy this party, or in Gronk’s words, fiesta, Tampa Bay. It has been one heck of a ride since the football version of Zeus chose to call your beloved football team his own. You will now walk into your home stadium as the NFC representative in Super Bowl LV.
With one final act to go, the world is watching the incredibly entertaining show you have been hosting. It should be a finale for the ages.