Tom Brady worked his magic, but it was the stellar play of the Tampa Bay defense, allied to one of the worst fourth quarter head coach decisions in NFL history, that saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers become the first team ever to play for the Superbowl on home soil.
The NFL world reacts to Tom Brady leading the Bucs to the Super Bowl 👏 pic.twitter.com/k3iEQxMZO8
— ESPN (@espn) January 25, 2021
For Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, it was very much a case of what could have been. Especially after the incredibly poor decision from head coach Matt LeFleur to kick a field goal late in the game.
LeFleur’s Questionable Call
The decision came with just over two minutes on the clock, the Packers in the Bucs redzone and trailing Tampa Bay by eight points. Rather than entrust Aaron Rodgers to convert from less than ten yards with this set of downs, LeFleur opted to kick the field goal on fourth down, then he hoped his defense could get the ball back from Brady with enough time on the clock for the Packers to drive once again.
It was a staggeringly bad call. You don’t ask the Greatest QB Of All Time to basically convert two first downs for a place in the Superbowl. Especially, against a defense that he had surgically picked apart most of the game.
Even Aaron Rodgers moved to distance himself from the call in an interview after the game.
“It wasn’t my decision.”
Aaron Rodgers on Packers coach Matt LaFleur deciding to kick a field goal on 4th down late in the 4th quarter.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 25, 2021
What made it all the more incomprehensible was that it cut the lead to five points. The Packers still needed a touchdown to win the game, whereas going for it could have seen them tie the game up, had they scored and then landed a 2-point conversion.
Buccaneers Deserve Their Spot
That call alone should not obscure the fact that the Buccaneers were richly deserving of the win. In particular, their defense was superb, harassing the normally unflappable Rodgers all game
The Packers QB was sacked five times, hit eight times and almost always hurried when throwing the ball. He was intercepted and the defense also forced a fumble from running back Aaron Jones, which led to further points for the Bucs.
Yet despite all this, the Packers had more time in possession, they converted 8 of 14 third downs, had three interceptions and yet still lost the game.
Todd Bowles defensive play calling for the Bucs was a large part of the reason why as his unit ran riot causing numerous problems for the Packers throughout the game. It was their play that allowed the Bucs to win when stats alone suggested a Packers victory.
Home Field Superbowl
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The Bucs 31-26 victory was their third road victory in the playoffs after wins over Washington, New Orleans and now Green Bay. Their reward is the first Super Bowl home game.
Fittingly, this will be against the current Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs who came through their game with the Buffalo Bills later on in the evening.
Even so, a quick glance at the early Super Bowl odds from DraftKings Sportsbook reveals that home field advantage does not make the Bucs the favorites.
The Chiefs are the -162 favorites on the moneyline bet to land a second successive Superbowl victory, with the Buccaneers the +143 outsiders.
Worst Call In The NFL?
While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs get ready for the latest Brady v Mahomes showdown, Green Bay Packer fans will be holding an inquest into that final set of plays the Packers ran.
Rodgers could have ran, if not into the end zone then very close to it, on the third down. Even so, from less than ten yards, he has the skill set to not only score on fourth down but net the required two-point conversion afterwards.
Your odds on that outcome are certainly higher than kicking a field goal and then hoping your defense can stop Tom Brady with the Superbowl on the line.
It was arguably the worst call in the NFL since Pete Carroll decided to pass into the end-zone from a couple of yards at the end of the Seahawks v Patriots Super Bowl, with ‘beastmode’ Marshawn Lynch sat on the sidelines.
It is a decision fans of the Packers now have to live with and one that LeFleur and Rodgers will have to try to explain.