Tampa Bay’s victory within the NFC championship was one for the aged.
Bruce Arians, 68, earned a shot at changing into the oldest head coach ever to win a Tremendous Bowl after he outcoached 40-year-old Matt LaFleur within the Bucs’ 31-26 victory at Lambeau Discipline on Sunday.
The Bucs’ victory over the Packers that despatched them dwelling to Raymond James Stadium for Tremendous Bowl 55 towards defending champion Kansas Metropolis got here down to 2 pivotal calls, one by every coach.
The primary one got here with 13 seconds left within the first half following a Inexperienced Bay turnover when Arians summoned his punt crew again to the sideline and despatched Brady and the offense again out to go for it on fourth-and-Four from the Inexperienced Bay 45.
”We did not come right here to not take probabilities to win the sport,” Arians defined.
Brady hit Leonard Fournette for six yards with eight seconds remaining and Tampa Bay main 14-10.
On the following play, cornerback Kevin King inexplicably allowed Scotty Miller to race previous him in single protection and Brady hit his receiver for a 39-yard landing with 1 second left for a 21-10 halftime lead.
”We had been going to attempt to heave it like a Hail Mary kind factor,” Miller mentioned. ”They performed me just about man-to-man and my man did not get an excessive amount of depth, so I used to be capable of simply run proper by him. Then Tom put a terrific ball on me like he at all times does. It was a particular second. I do not even know if I may have dreamed of it as a child. It is simply so loopy.”
”Yeah, it was man protection. Positively not the appropriate name for the scenario,” LaFleur mentioned.
The aggressive transfer by Arians was in step with what the Bucs’ teaching employees had promised the gamers.
Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich ”instructed us all week we’ll be aggressive, we’ll go at them, we’ll take probabilities,” Miller mentioned. ”That is what we do. We have so many playmakers. We have Tom on the helm.
”It was a threat on the time,” Miller added, ”however there was solely 13 seconds left, so if we ran a play and did not get it, we in all probability waste six (seconds). Then they in all probability must throw a Hail Mary as properly, so why not us do it?”
The second important name was LaFleur’s head-scratching choice to kick a discipline objective somewhat than go for the tying landing and 2-point conversion on fourth-and-goal from the eight with 2:05 remaining and the Packers trailing 31-23.
With a spot within the Tremendous Bowl on the road, he selected to place the sport not within the fingers of his All-Professional quarterback who’s the MVP favourite, however in these of his protection.
”The best way our protection was taking part in, it felt like the appropriate choice to do,” LaFleur mentioned. ”It simply did not work out.”
Rodgers by no means obtained the ball again as Brady clinched his 10th journey to the Tremendous Bowl and despatched Rodgers to his fourth straight convention championship loss one week after ending Drew Brees’ season and possibly his profession with a win at New Orleans.
The Packers had rallied from 18 factors down and had been in place to tie it with a landing and a 2-point conversion. On first-and-goal, Rodgers threw an incomplete cross to Allen Lazard adopted by a misfire to Davante Adams.
Rodgers might need been capable of run it in himself on third down, however pulled up and misfired once more to Adams.
No worries, he thought, figuring he’d get a fourth crack at it.
Fail, and at the least Brady and the Bucs could be backed up.
Rodgers, nonetheless, turned to see Mason Crosby trotting out for a discipline objective as an alternative.
”That wasn’t my choice,” Rodgers mentioned as diplomatically as he may. ”However I perceive the considering … .”
Bucs edge rusher Shaq Barrett positive did not.
”I could not consider it, truthfully,” Barrett mentioned, ”as a result of there isn’t any assure they are going to make it again down there once more.”
In any case, Brady is likely one of the recreation’s biggest closers, particularly when all he wants is a primary down or two to enter victory formation.
”Our offense has been fairly superb in four-minute offense this yr, not giving the crew again the ball so I had the utmost confidence in them,” Barrett mentioned. ”If he may take it again he in all probability would not try this subsequent time however I admire it.”
Sure, LaFleur was kicking himself for kicking it.
”Yeah, any time it does not work out, you at all times remorse it, proper?” LaFleur mentioned. ”But it surely was the circumstances of getting three pictures and coming away with no yards and understanding that you just not solely want the landing, however you want the 2-point (conversion). We basically had 4 timeouts with the two-minute warning. We knew we wanted to get a cease.”
They could not.
King was known as for cross interference on third down with 1:41 left and Tampa Bay sealed the win moments in a while a third-down run by Chris Godwin.
That left Brady with one NFC title to go along with the 9 AFC championships he gained in New England. Rodgers has one NFC championship in 13 seasons as a starter in Inexperienced Bay and Brees has one in 15 seasons because the Saints beginning QB.
”This one does sting,” LaFleur mentioned. ”It may take a very long time getting over this one.”
Rodgers admitted he wasn’t positive the right way to transfer on from the disheartening defeat, saying, ”A variety of guys’ futures are unsure, myself included.”
”There’s numerous unknowns going into this offseason now. I will must take a while away for positive to clear my head and see what is going on on with every thing,” Rodgers mentioned. ”But it surely’s actually powerful proper now, particularly desirous about the blokes who might or might not be right here subsequent yr.”
LaFleur is praying that does not embody Rodgers.
Requested if he thinks he’ll get one other likelihood to work with Rodgers subsequent season, LaFleur mentioned, ”I positive as hell hope so. I imply, the man’s the MVP of this league. He is the guts and soul of our soccer crew. So, hell yeah, he higher be again right here. He is our chief.
”Simply so appreciative of him shopping for into what we’re making an attempt to get executed round right here and main that group. His voice carries numerous weight in that locker room. And simply , I really feel for him, to be on this scenario and for us not get it executed, man, that hurts.”
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