Green Bay Packers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Conference Championship Sunday opened with a bang at the frosty Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered the NFC conference championship with chips on their shoulders. For Brady, it was to prove to the world that he was the greatest of all time by winning the conference in his first year with a new team. For the organization, it was to make a mark in the playoff history book after their last playoff appearance in 2007. They have not won or appeared in a Super Bowl since 2002, where they beat the Oakland Raiders.
The Buccaneers concluded the season with a 11-5 record and punched a ticket to the playoffs with the 5th seed. They had key wins in this year’s playoffs against the Washington football team in the Wild Card round and the Saints in the divisional round. Next was their toughest matchup yet: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Rodgers and the Packers were 1-3 in NFC championship games going into this battle, so there were some nerves in Green Bay. But remember, it’s Aaron Rodgers; does he really get nervous? The Packers, once again, had an immaculate regular season, going 13-3 and topping the NFC North and the conference, which allowed them to snag the number one seed. The Packers organization has had 60 total playoff wins since the establishment of the league. There was nothing surprising about seeing the Green and Yellow here again. But could Rogers turn around his conference championship record and his reputation at this stage in the playoffs?
On the first drive of the game, Brady was playing his usual game. There were big 3rd down conversions with passes to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans setting up a 15-yard fade to Mike Evans for the first touchdown score of the game. The end of the first quarter ended with a 7-0 score with the Buccaneers on top.
But Green Bay came out gunning in the second quarter. Their opening drive ended with a 50-yard catch and run by wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The game stood at 7-7.
Brady and the Buccaneers came right back. Runningback Leonard Fournette bullied his way into the endzone on a 20-yard run to go up on the Packers by one score.
The Packers failed to convert the next drive as they targeted their star wide receiver, Davante Adams, three straight times in the red zone. They settled for a field goal to make the score 14-10 Buccaneers. The Packers got the ball back on a defensive stop, but Rodgers threw an interception that set the Buccaneers up at midfield.
Brady returned, taking shots at the end zone and almost throwing an interception himself. After converting a 4th and 3, Brady and the Buccaneers were outside field goal range with seven seconds left. The only thing the Packers had to do was protect the endzone. Then, Tom Brady connected with Scotty Miller for 39 yards and a touchdown. The clock read two seconds left in the first half. The Buccaneers lead the Packers 21-10 and the halfway mark.
The Packers got the first score in the second half. Aaron Jones fumbled on a shallow drag route, which was recovered by the Buccaneers and knocked on the door of another score. Brady hit tight end Cameron Brate on a play action pass on first and goal.
The Buccaneers led 28-10. The nerves in Green Bay rose. Luckily, the following drove Rodgers and the Packers finally crossed the goal line with a pass to tight end Robert Tonyan, Rodgers’ second favorite target after Adams.
Still, Green Bay had a lot of work to do, down 11 points now. The Packer defense finally showed up next drive with a lackluster throw by Brady. It was intercepted by safety Adrian Amos. The Packers began to creep back. After a methodical drive following the interception, Rodgers looked at none other than Davante Adams on a slant route. The Packers failed on their two-point conversion. The score now was 28-23.
Brady then came back and threw his second interception of the game. Green Bay had an opportunity to take the lead but was unsuccessful and had to punt the ball back to Brady. Then, Brady threw his third interception of the game, a rare sight by arguably the greatest ever. Rodgers had another opportunity but failed again. Kicker Ryan Succop came back and ended the Buccaneers’ last drive with a field goal to put Tampa on top 31-23.
Rodgers had a chance to tie it with a touchdown and a two-point conversion, but came up short in the red zone. The Packers made a questionable decision to kick a field goal on 4th and goal with two minutes and six seconds on the clock and only one timeout remaining. Mason Crosby tacked on another three points and cut into the lead, the scoreboard now reading 31-26.
With one timeout left, Green Bay could not afford to give up a first down and allow Tampa to run out the clock. The Packers forced the Buccaneers to third and four, but fell short when a pass interference was called on a jersey tug (a highly debatable call by the referees). Game, set, match: 31-26 Tampa Bay.
Nonetheless, Brady got his 10th Super Bowl appearance, looking for his seventh super bowl ring. The Buccaneers will be the first team ever to host a Super Bowl after a win over Rodgers and the Pack.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Buffalo Bills
The late game on Conference Championship Sunday was between Josh Allen and the Bills and Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City concluded their regular season at 14-2, on top of the NFL and the AFC in the playoffs.
At age 25, Mahomes looked to win his second Super Bowl in his second appearance. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce looked to improve their sidekick status to Mahomes and punch another ticket to the Super Bowl.
But first, the impressive Josh Allen and Buffalo Bills stood in their way. Josh Allen had one of the biggest improvements since entering the league. His first season, he threw just 10 touchdowns. Following that season, he threw 20; this season, he reached 40.
The Bills finished their regular season campaign at 13-3 and got the number two seed in the dance. They looked to upset Mahomes and the Chiefs and reach their fifth Super Bowl in franchise history to gain their first Super Bowl win.
Allen and Buffalo received first and capped the drive with a 51-yard field goes by Tyler Bass. Mahomes and the Chiefs came up short on the next possession and gave the ball back to the Bills.
The Bills were forced to punt. However, Chiefs returner Mecole Hardman muffed the ball at his own two-yard line and set up the Bills for a first and goal. Allen then found his tight end, Dawson Knox, on first down for a four-yard touchdown reception. After a missed extra point, the Bills lead 9-0.
Hardman and the Chiefs had a chance to redeem themselves on the next drive. That is exactly what happened. After a solid drive with connections to Kelce and Hill, Hardman caught a three-yard screen pass and ran into the endzone to make the score 9-7.
Hardman again made a positive impact on the next drive with nearly a 60-yard run to get the ball inside the Bill’s 40-yard line. Mahomes then connected with Kelce to set up a first and goal. Running back Darryl Williams ended the impressive drive with a seven-yard touchdown run. Kansas City took the lead 14-9.
Kansas City forced the Bills to punt again. Mahomes played his top game and punched it into the endzone. This time, it was rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire with a one-yard run — his first touchdown since week one.
With the score 21-9, Allen and the Bills knew they needed something to cut into that deficit. They ended with another field goal 20 yards out from Tyler Bass to make the score 21-12 going into halftime.
The Chiefs got the ball first in the second half and drove down the field with completions to Tyreek Hill. They kicked a 45-yard field goal to go up 24-12 on Buffalo. The next drive was finished with another field goal to make the score 24-15.