Tom Brady, going to a record tenth Superbowl, threw for 280 yards from 20 for 36 passing with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers led by 18 points early in the third quarter but the Green Bay Packers made a valiant effort to bring themselves back into the game. However, the Packers' inability to convert turnovers into points and questionable decisions down the stretch meant the Bucs held on.
Aaron Rodgers finished with 346 yards, three TD’s and an interception but it wasn’t enough as the Bucs will face either the Buffalo Bills or the Kansas City Chiefs who contest the AFC Championship game.
The first half
Third down conversions were key to the Buccaneers first touchdown drive as they converted on third down three times with passes of 27 yards to Mike Evans and a 14-yarder to Chris Godwin before finding Evans again for the 15-yard TD pass.
Brady looped the ball over to Evans who was wide open after Packers’ cornerback Kevin King mis-timed a leap to defend the pass.
The Packers first drive resulted in zero points for only the third time all season as Shaq Barrett sacked Rodgers for eight yards on third down.
On the Bucs’ first series they went to Leonard Fournette to carry the load, this time they gave the Packers a heavy dose of Ronald Jones. Kevin King tackled Scotty Miller on second-and-nine for a five yard loss, however, Godwin converted that on a screen pass as the Bucs’ went five for five on third down to begin the game.
However, on their next third down Kenny Clark sacked Brady forcing the Bucs to punt.
Just as you thought it couldn’t get much worse than starting the next drive from the 10-yard line, Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Rodgers on second down for seven yards.
Facing third-and-15 Rodgers ran to the right of his own end zone to find Allen Lazard to convert with a 23-yard pass.
A 15-yard catch and run by Davante Adams and a five-yard grab by Robert Tonyan ended the first quarter, and just two plays into the second quarter the Packers fired back. On third-and-three Rodgers threw deep to the right finding Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 50-yard TD to tie the game at seven each.
The Bucs fired straight back on their next drive in what looked to be a shootout between two of the best QB’s of all time.
On third-and-nine Brady threw a deep ball to Godwin who bobbled the ball but was able to bring in the 52-yard pass for the first down, then Fournette broke multiple tackles on the next play, before running to the outside beating Adrian Amos with a spin move and going over for the TD to make it 14-7 Bucs.
While the Bucs were unstoppable on third down so far, on the next drive the Packers converted four second downs in a row to help put the Packers into the end-zone thanks to catches from Valdes-Scantling, 12-yard runs from both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams and a five yard screen pass to Jones.
As Jones ran the ball a couple more times to put the Packers within goal, Rodgers attempted to find Adams in the end-zone. Adams just failed to bring the ball in on first down and on third down he caught the pass at the back of the end-zone but was out of bounds, forcing the Packers to settle for a 24-yard Mason Crosby field goal.
On the next drive the Packers finally stopped Brady on third down, forcing a Bradley Pinion punt.
Coming to the end of the half, the Packers converted a third-and-six through Lazard. However, Pierre-Paul got his second sack of the game forcing Green Bay into second-and-18.
Then Rodgers’ throw to Lazard down the middle was intercepted by Sean Murphy-Bunting. Lazard would have every right to feel aggrieved as Murphy-Bunting was holding his shoulder pad, however, that didn’t get called, giving Tampa Bay the chance to put some more points on the board before half-time.
After failing to convert third down it looked like Tampa were going to punt, however, after taking a timeout they changed their mind and were able to convert fourth-and-three, then Brady found Scotty Miller deep for a 39-yard TD pass with a second left in the half for a 21-10 lead.
The second half
The Packers received the ball to begin the second half, and it couldn’t have began any worse as on third-and-five, Jones received a screen pass then Jordan Whitehead laid the timber, forcing Jones to fumble which was recovered by Devin White.
On the very next play with goal-to-go, Brady found Cameron Brate at the back of the endzone for eight-yards to make it 28-10.
With two TD’s within just over a minute of playing time, momentum was on the side of the Bucs, but with plenty of time left you can never count Rodgers out.
In a blow to the Packers hopes, Jones left the game with a chest injury after the Whitehead tackle which forced the fumble. However, this didn’t stop the Packers scoring on their next drive. This time it was Robert Tonyan with an eight-yard TD catch down the middle to reduce the Bucs’ lead to 28-17.
On the Bucs’ next drive with eight minutes left, Brady threw the first of three interceptions. Looking for Evans down the right, Amos ran in from the safety position to intercept, giving the Packers hope that they could mount a comeback.
The Packers scored a TD in a drive that lasted half a quarter to bring the lead down to just five points. After converting on third down several times including a spin move by A.J. Dillon which mirrored Fournette’s earlier run, Adams was open in the end-zone on first-and-three after a helmet to helmet hit by Carlton Davis on Adams a few plays before.
The Packers went for two to make it a three-point game, however, Equanimeous St Brown open in the endzone dropped the pass. Buccaneers lead 28-23.
The Bucs next two drives also resulted in two interceptions by Jaire Alexander but ultimately it was the Packers’ inability to turn these into points that would cost them as the Bucs forced two three-and-outs following these interceptions. Barrett had a sack in each of these drives to contribute for the Tampa Bay defense.
The next drive saw Rob Gronkowski’s only target and catch of the match, but his 29-yard catch and run was vital as Ryan Succop kicked a 46-yard field goal to finish the drive and give the Bucs an eight point lead.
With 4:33 left in the fourth quarter, and a chance to tie the game you wouldn’t bet against Rodgers. The second play of the drive saw a 29-yard pass to Valdes-Scantling to put the Packers on Tampa Bay’s 30-yard line.
Consecutive passes to Adams for nine and 11 yards and a brutal stiff arm to Davis put the Packers at Tampa Bay’s eight-yard line. However, misses to Lazard and Adams put the Packers at third-and-goal, and the next couple of plays effectively decided the game.
Rodgers with acres of space infront of him as the pocket collapsed elected to throw across the middle to Adams rather than try to run in himself down the right, that pass was incomplete.
Then with 2:09 left rather than go for it on fourth down, Crosby came out to hit the 26-yard field goal to make it 31-26. The logic being that they had all three timeouts and the two minute warning to come, if they could get the three-and-out they’d have a chance to win the game.
On third-and-four with 1:46 left, Brady’s pass to Tyler Johnson missed but King was called for pass interference, clearly grabbing Johnson’s shirt and ending the game.