GREEN BAY, Wis. – It’s Championship Sunday. Follow along all day for live updates from Lambeau Field as the Green Bay Packers battle the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a trip to Super Bowl LV on the line.
Buccaneers 31, Packers 26
Buccaneers 31, Packers 26 (2:05 remaining)
Mason Crosby kicked a 26-yard field goal, a disappointing finish for the NFL’s top-ranked red-zone offense. A 29-yard catch by Marquez Valdes-Scantling and an 11-yard gain by Davante Adams on third-and-1 made it first-and-goal at the 8. However, Aaron Rodgers and Allen Lazard weren’t on the same page on first down, Rodgers threw it away on second down and he threw into double coverage on third down. There was room for Rodgers to run, probably not for the touchdown, but to perhaps set up a fourth-and-goal from the 3.
Buccaneers 31, Packers 23 (4:42 remaining)
Ryan Succop booted a 46-yard field goal to make it an eight-point game. A 29-yard gain on a screen to tight end Rob Gronkowski was the big play. That sets up what might be a do-or-die drive for Aaron Rodgers and the offense.
Buccaneers 28, Packers 23 (12:20 remaining)
The Packers are back in the game. With the Bucs driving following Jaydon Mickens’ long kickoff return, Tom Brady’s touch pass to Mike Evans was even too high for the 6-foot-5 receiver. It glanced off Evans’ hands and Jaire Alexander showed quick reaction skills for the interception. Green Bay has the ball at its 19.
Buccaneers 28, Packers 23 (24 seconds remaining)
On third-and-goal from the 2, Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams beat the Bucs’ blitz for the touchdown. Equanimeous St. Brown dropped the critical two-point pass that would have made it a three-point game. The drive was set up by Adrian Amos’ interception and included catches of 13 yards by running back AJ Dillon and 11 yards by fellow running back Jamaal Williams on third-and-2.
Buccaneers 28, Packers 17 (7:54 remaining)
There’s a glimmer of hope for the Packers. Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, perhaps a bit greedy, went deep to Mike Evans but was intercepted at the 32 by safety Adrian Amos.
Injury update: Any comeback will have to be done without Aaron Jones, who is questionable with an injured chest. He was hurt on the fumble to open the second half.
Buccaneers 28, Packers 17 (9:28 remaining)
The Packers made it a two-score game with an impressive touchdown drive. Rodgers hit Davante Adams for 10 on third-and-3, Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 24 on a hole shot, Equanimeous St. Brown for 10 and Allen Lazard for 16. On first-and-goal at the 8, Rodgers had time and tight end Robert Tonyan was open for the touchdown.
Buccaneers 28, Packers 10 (13:54 remaining)
Is that it? Tom Brady, the six-time Super Bowl champion, made the Packers pay immediately. His play-action fate got tight end Cameron Brate wide open for the touchdown against safety Adrian Amos. Green Bay is down three scores and its offensive tackles have been beaten by Bucs pass rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett.
Buccaneers 21, Packers 10 (13:58 remaining)
The Packers are on life support. Badly needing a score to get back in the game, the Packers instead turned over the ball. On third-and-5, Aaron Rodgers connected with running back Aaron Jones on a crossing route. Jones had a chance to get the first down but fumbled on a hit by safety Jordan Whitehead. Star linebacker Devin White, who proclaimed after the Week 6 game that the Packers didn’t belong on the same field as his Bucs, scooped up the loose ball and returned it to Green Bay’s 8.
Buccaneers 21, Packers 10 (1 second remaining)
The Buccaneers have shocked the Packers just before halftime. Tom Brady went deep to Scotty Miller, who got a couple steps past Kevin King for a 39-yard touchdown. Two plays earlier, on third-and-4, Will Redmond dropped an interception. On fourth-and-4, Bucs coach Bruce Arians sent on the punt team, called timeout and brought the offense back out. Brady fit a pass to Leonard Fournette between linebackers Krys Barnes and Christian Kirksey for a gain of 6 and the first down.
The Bucs got the ball at their 49 with 25 seconds remaining when Sean Murphy-Bunting made a tremendous one-handed interception of a pass to Allen Lazard. Lazard wasn't open at all. So, instead of the Packers driving to at least a field goal to pull within one point halftime, they're staring at an 11-point deficit.
Buccaneers 14, Packers 10 (4:59 remaining)
The Packers, the best red-zone team in the NFL, had a first-and-goal at the 6 but had to settle for Mason Crosby’s 24-yard field goal. On first-and-goal from the 6, Rodgers’ back-shoulder throw bounced off the hands of Adams. It would have been a tough catch but Adams has made harder. On second down, Rodgers’ sprintout was batted down at the line; Rodgers was mad at Allen Lazard. On third down, Rodgers hit Adams but Adams was out of the end zone. Early in the drive, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones had 12-yard runs.
Buccaneers 14, Packers 7 (12:24 remaining)
In big games, your big players need to make big plays. The Buccaneers got two of those to take the lead. On third-and-9, Chris Godwin made a circus catch on a jump-ball bomb against Darnell Savage for a gain of 52. That more than made amends for his second-down drop. On the next play, Leonard Fournette forced three missed tackles on a 20-yard touchdown. Bottled up at the line, he got to the perimeter, broke tackles by Damon Harrison and Jaire Alexander, then used a devastating spin move to avoid Adrian Amos.
Packers 7, Buccaneers 7 (14:07 remaining)
Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Aaron Rodgers got the Packers even. On third-and-3, Valdes-Scantling beat top cornerback Carlton Davis on a go route. Valdes-Scantling caught the ball at the 20, slipped through the tackle and sprinted into the sunny north end zone for the score. The big play came early in the drive. On third-and-15 from the 5, Rodgers sprinted out to the right and fired a laser to Allen Lazard for a gain of 23 at the sideline.
Buccaneers 7, Packers 0 (2:49 remaining)
Kenny Clark recorded a huge third-down sack to keep it a 7-0 lead. The Buccaneers had converted their first five third downs, including a third-and-13 with a receiver screen to Chris Godwin that gained 14.
Buccaneers 7, Packers 0 (7:33 remaining)
The Packers got one first down on a pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis but that was it against the high-quality Buccaneers defense. On third-and-9, Aaron Rodgers tried to extend the play but Shaquil Barrett, last year’s NFL sacks leader, got free of right tackle Rick Wagner for the sack.
Buccaneers 7, Packers 0 (10:59 remaining)
The Packers won the toss and deferred, and the Buccaneers made them pay for that decision. Tom Brady threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans for the opening score. The Packers blitzed and Brady lobbed the ball to Evans. The ball seemingly hung in the ball forever and cornerback Kevin King, who was in good position, mistimed his jump. It was the third third-down conversion on the drive. Brady hit Evans for 27 against Chandon Sullivan on third-and-4, with the Bucs devouring a six-man pressure. On third-and-9, Chris Godwin was wide open in the flat for 14.
Tom Brady on Aaron Rodgers
"He basically does everything well, so he's got great command and experience. And [his] leadership – players are playing hard. He's got a great style of play. He obviously throws the ball as well as any quarterback, he gets rid of the ball quickly, has great vision of the field and is able to extend plays with his legs. There [are] a lot of explosive players he's got, so they've got a great football team and they've got obviously a top scoring offense, or a top offense, however you see it. It's a big test. We're going to have to go up and play great football to beat them."
Aaron Rodgers on Tom Brady
“I grew up wearing out a VHS tape of Super Bowl highlights. As a kid, you dream about playing in Super Bowls, playing in big games, what that would feel like. Getting to play Division I football was a huge dream of mine, and I remember the first moment I stepped on that field as a starter. It’s a special, special feeling, and the same feeling you get when you step on the field as a starter in the NFL and then when you take your first snap as a playoff quarterback and get to the Super Bowl for the first time. A lot of special moments.
“This is just another one of those special moments in my career. It’s great obviously fodder for media outlets. There’s just so many great storylines, and there always are. That’s the NFL. There’s so many great people and great stories to talk about. Obviously, Tommy’s had an amazing career. His legacy is one of so many wins and so many accomplishments. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and enjoyed the few times we’ve gotten to play. I remember when I heard the news about him coming to the NFC, I thought this was a real possibility, and I’m excited about the opportunity to play against him one more time.”
Defense Gets Second Chance
In last year’s NFC Championship Game, the defense was embarrassed by Raheem Mostert and the San Francisco 49ers. Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns as the Niners demolished the Packers 37-20.
The Packers were reminded of that debacle on Friday. Just before talking to reporters, Za’Darius Smith the defense watched that game.
“It’s just not sitting right with us and we know what we have to do as a team and as a defense,” Smith said.
Added fellow outside linebacker Rashan Gary: “To be honest, I had to give myself a couple minutes before I came in here to gather my composure. Going back and watching that and just seeing what happened, it hurt. It hurt, just knowing we were four quarters short of going to everybody’s dream. You’ve got to take that to heart. You’ve got to put that chip on your shoulder. I ain’t going to say too much about it but we know what we need to do.”
Cornerbacks Kevin King (back) and Tramon Williams (re-signed Thursday) are active for the Packers while the Buccaneers will be without all-rookie safety Antoine Winfield (ankle).
The View from Vegas
It doesn’t get any bigger than Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady for a trip to the Super Bowl. Unless it’s Aaron Rodgers vs. Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl. A Rodgers-Mahomes matchup is the expected result from the NFL’s Championship Sunday. Rodgers and the Packers are 3.5-point favorites over Brady and the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game.
The line stuck at 3.5 for most of the week but the line dipped to 3 on Sunday morning at PointsBet, with 79 percent of the spread money on the Packers. The line was down to 3 at DraftKings, as well. There have been at least two huge bets on the Bucs.
“Bettors are thinking maybe it was a bad day. If you look at Tampa Bay last week, they lost twice to the Saints so the bettors were thinking, ‘You’re not going to lose three times.’ They were right,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations at DraftKings, told Casino.org.
Now or Never for Rodgers?
The time is here. The time is now.
For quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Sunday’s NFC Championship Game will be his fourth chance to get to his second Super Bowl. You never count out a great quarterback because of his ability to lift an entire team on his shoulders, but the 37-year-old might never again be in such a strong position to get to the Super Bowl.