Sun Jan 24 8:07pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby (2) kicks a 26-yard field goal against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of the NFC championship NFL football game in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) walks off the field after the NFC championship NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. The Buccaneers defeated the Packers 31-26 to advance to the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur reacts after a pass interference call was made against Green Bay during the second half of the NFC championship NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
Matt LaFleur put the game in the hands of his defense instead of All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a decision that will be questioned in Green Bay for years.
With a spot in the Super Bowl on the line, LaFleur opted for a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 8 when trailing by eight points with just over two minutes remaining in the NFC championship game.
Rodgers never got the ball back in his fourth straight title game loss as Tom Brady and Tampa Bay ran out the clock in a 31-26 win Sunday.
''The way our defense was playing it felt like the right decision to do,'' LaFleur said. ''It just didn't work out.''
The key moment came after Green Bay rallied from 18 points down in the second half to get into position to send the game into overtime late in regulation.
The Packers drove down to the 8-yard line with 2:22 to play before Rodgers threw an incomplete pass to Allen Lazard followed by two more to Davante Adams.
That left LaFleur with a decision to make with 2:09 to play and he went with the field goal instead of another shot into the end zone for a possible TD and 2-point conversion to tie the game.
''Any time it doesn't work out, you always regret it,'' LaFleur said. ''It was the circumstances of having three shots and coming away with no yards and knowing that not only you need the touchdown, but you need the 2-point (conversion). We essentially had four timeouts with the two-minute warning. We knew we needed to get a stop.''
Rodgers never had a chance to lobby his coach to go for it as soon as he saw the field-goal team run on the field.
''I didn't have a decision on that one,'' Rodgers said before pausing. ''That wasn't my decision, but I understand the thinking, above two minutes with all of our timeouts, but it wasn't my decision.''
The analytics were against the move with EdjSports win probability model saying LaFleur's decision reduced Green Bay's chances of winning the game from 10.8% to 7.8%. LaFleur had been one of the best coaches when it comes to decision-making by EdjSports model, ranking third best this season.
The decision was extremely rare as no team had attempted a field goal in the final three minutes of a game when trailing by between four and eight points since the Falcons in 2015. LaFleur was an assistant on Dan Quinn's staff in Atlanta for that game.
''I couldn't believe it, honestly, because there's no guarantee they're going to make it back down there again,'' Buccaneers edge rusher Shaquil Barrett said.
''Our offense has been pretty amazing in four-minute offense this year, not giving the team back the ball so I had the utmost confidence in them. ... If he could take it back he probably wouldn't do that next time but I appreciate it.''
Mason Crosby made the field goal, but the Packers couldn't get the defensive stop they needed to give Rodgers another chance.
Kevin King was penalized for pass interference against Tyler Johnson on a third-down pass with 1:41 to play to extend the drive and Tampa Bay sealed the win on a third-down run by Chris Godwin.
''This one does sting,'' LaFleur said. ''It's going to take a long time to get over this one.''
Interview with a Champ
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense played another strong game in a 31-26 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. Tampa Bay sacked Aaron Rodgers five times, forcing one interception and a fumble in the huge win. The Buccaneers' pass rush was fueled by two players- linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who had three sacks and four quarterback hits, and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who had two sacks. Rising star Devin White led the team in tackles with 15, as he was a thorn in the side of the Packers' offensive plans all game long. Tampa Bay's defense will have its hands full in the Super Bowl against either Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, though this unit is playing some excellent football at the right time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski caught just one pass for 29 yards in his team's 31-26 win over the Packers. Gronkowski went catch-less through three quarters before picking up 29 yards on a screen pass in the fourth quarter, setting up Tampa Bay for a field goal. The former Patriot has nearly been an every-down player for the Buccaneers in the playoffs but has done little as a pass-catcher, as he's taken a backseat to fellow tight end Cameron Brate. No stranger to the big game, Gronkowski will get a chance to redeem himself in the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate played a key role in another playoff victory for his team. Brate produced just 19 total yards, though he caught a third-quarter touchdown that helped extend the Buccaneers' lead to 28-10. The Harvard product exceeded 50 yards just once in the regular season but has accomplished the feat twice in Tampa Bay's three playoff wins. Tom Brady clearly has a trust for Brate as a pass-catcher, something that appears likely to continue as Tampa Bay prepares to be the first team to host and play in the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Scotty Miller saw extended playing time with Antonio Brown (knee) sidelined and made the most of it. Miller caught two passes for 36 receiving yards and a touchdown in the NFC title game victory. He came up with a huge play at the very end of the first half, hauling in a 39-yard bomb from Tom Brady with just seconds left until halftime. Miller has shown a knack for making big plays when given the playing time, as he has three scores this year of 30 yards or more. His services may not be needed in the Super Bowl if Antonio Brown (knee) is healthy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin enjoyed a strong game in Sunday's NFC title game win over Green Bay. Godwin hauled in five of a team-high nine targets for 110 receiving yards. He came up with a huge, 52-yard grab that led to a Leonard Fournette touchdown in the first half. Godwin has exceeded 70 receiving yards in four of his last five contests and has led the Buccaneers in targets in each of their three playoff wins. While Antonio Brown (knee) will have a good chance of returning in time for the Super Bowl, Godwin should remain Brady's top target for the big game in Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II was stifled by the Green Bay defense, though his team will still be advancing to the Super Bowl. Jones carried the ball 10 times but produced just 16 yards, as he failed to find any room to run on the Packers' front. He's taken a backseat to Leonard Fournette during the playoffs, though the coaching staff seems committed to keeping this backfield as somewhat of a split. Jones should be well-positioned for a bounce-back performance in the Super Bowl regardless of opponent, as both the Bills and Chiefs have had their struggles stopping the run.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans caught three of eight targets for 51 yards and a touchdown. Most of Evans' production came in the first half, as he found himself free of Jaire Alexander's coverage on the first series of the game. He beat corner Kevin King in the end zone for a score, his 15th total touchdown of the season- including the playoffs. He did struggle with some drops, though he'll get a chance to rectify that in the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay will await the winner of the Chiefs-Bills game.
Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan caught four passes for only 22 yards in the team's 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. Tonyan led the NFL in the regular season, among tight ends, with 11 touchdowns but was held in check in this game. The Packers tried to get Tonyan on the run with some bootleg passes but the Buccaneers did an excellent job tackling on the edges. The 26-year-old enjoyed a breakout campaign but could be over-valued heading into the offseason due to touchdown-regression next season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette carried the ball 12 times for 55 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 31-26 win over the Packers. Fournette added five catches for 19 yards. The star back delivered a highlight-reel touchdown in the first half, bouncing a run to the outside and pulling off an impressive spin move en route to the end zone. He's been very productive for Tampa Bay during their playoff run- averaging 20.7 touches and 104.3 scrimmage yards per game along with three scores in three contests. Fournette should continue to operate as the 1a to Ronald Jones II's 1b when Tampa Bay plays in the Super Bowl.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard caught three passes for 62 yards in the team's 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. Lazard saw six targets in the game and made some nice contributions as the Packers played from behind most of the game. Lazard got off to a solid start this season but injuries prevented him from taking his game to another level. The 25-year-old finished the regular season with 33 receptions for 451 yards with three touchdowns. But the Packers head into the offseason still looking for a true complementary receiver to produce alongside star receiver Davante Adams. Whether Lazard can step into that role will depend on his development during the offseason.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams caught nine passes for 67 yards with one touchdown in the team's 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. Tampa Bay did all it could to contain Adams and, for the most part, did a solid job. But Adams is too talented to be shut down for long and picked up his 20th (regular season and playoffs combined) touchdown of the season. The elite receiver was able to move the chains on some smaller receptions but was unable to truly bust out. Adams finished the regular season with 115 receptions for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns.. He then backed that up with 18 receptions and two touchdowns in two playoff games. Adams will sit atop the fantasy charts among wide receivers heading into the offseason.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught four passes for 115 yards and one touchdown in the Packers 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Title Game. With Tampa Bay focusing on stopping star receiver Davante Adams, Valdes-Scantling stepped up early and often. The 26-year-old got the Packers on the board by catching a 50-yard bomb from quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a touchdown. Valdes-Scantling would come up with some huge chunk plays in the second half as Green Bay played from behind. Valdes-Scantling scored six touchdowns during the regular season but inconsistency plagued his fantasy value all year. Green Bay will continue to look to find a receiver that can produce consistently alongside Adams next season. Whether that can be Valdes-Scantling will be something to monitor.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady completed 20 of 36 passes for 280 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in a 31-26 win over the Packers. Brady was excellent in the first half, as he tossed two beautiful touchdowns, one to Mike Evans and the other a deep ball to Scotty Miller with just seconds left on the clock in the second quarter. The veteran signal-caller did have to contend with drops again, but he himself was a bit off in the second half, as he threw three picks. Still, it was a good enough performance for Brady to reach his 10th Super Bowl, this time in new threads. Tampa Bay will become the first team to host the big game and play in it, as they await the winner of Buffalo and Kansas City in the AFC title game.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 33-of-48 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the Packers 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. Rodgers may be heading towards an MVP award this season and he played that way most of this game. The veteran shook off a couple of shaky early drives to connect with Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 50-yard touchdown to get the Packers on the board. Rodgers took five sacks in the game but kept making plays, delivering two passing touchdowns in the third quarter to keep the game close. The biggest question mark heading into the offseason will be, however, why head coach Matt LaFleur elected to kick a field goal in the final minutes with the Packers in the red zone and a chance to tie the game. The game was in the hands of a quarterback who posted 50-plus touchdowns during the regular season and playoffs and now LaFleur's decision will certainly come with criticism. What cannot be debated is the performance Rodgers has displayed all season long and is back in the top-five category among fantasy passers heading into the offseason.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (chest) left the team's NFC Championship Game against the Buccaneers and did not return. Jones posted only 27 rushing yards in the first half of the game and became involved in a game-swinging moment at the end of the second quarter. The talented back caught a pass from Aaron Rodgers, turned up field and fumbled the ball at midfield. Jones was injured on the play and the Buccaneers picked up a crucial touchdown before the half. The 2020 Packers will be remembered for its passing attack but Jones posted 10-plus total touchdowns for the second straight season. Jones heads into the offseason as a free agent and returning to the Packers next season is certainly up in the air moving forward.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is significantly more expensive in DFS than the other tight ends on Sunday's slate, but with the Buffalo Bills allowing the eighth-most fantasy points in the regular season to the position, it makes sense to pay up for Kelce. That's not even factoring in his regular-season game against them in which Kelce caught five passes for 65 yards and two touchdowns. The veteran tight end had 11 regular season touchdown receptions plus another score in the playoff opener against Cleveland.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill only had 20 receiving yards in the first meeting between the Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills, but his role has continued to expand since that game. He's been targeted 10 or more times in seven of the last 10 games and is the highest upside wide receiver play on Sunday's Championship Game slate. While the Bills Defense will offer a little more trouble for Kansas City than Cleveland did last week, Hill's connection with quarterback Patrick Mahomes is impossible to ignore when building a lineup.
Green Bay Packers cornerback Kevin King (back) will be active for the NFC Championship game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday despite being listed as questionable to play. King popped up on the injury report on Friday, which is usually never a good sign, but he will be active. The 25-year-old missed the team's Week 6 loss to these same Buccaneers. Top cornerback Jaire Alexander should be matched up with Tampa's No. 1 wideout in Mike Evans for most of the game, which could leave King left to defend Scotty Miller or rookie Tyler Johnson with Antonio Brown (knee) out. The Packers Defense allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing receivers, so Tom Brady and the Bucs passing attack will have their work cut out for them minus Brown.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones is a strong fantasy option most weeks, but Sunday's NFC Championship game against Tampa could be one of those games where you don't want Jones in your lineup. His worst game of the season came against Tampa when he was held to just 15 rushing yards on 10 carries. He found the end zone that week, but with Tampa allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per game this year to the position, you're probably going to be betting on a touchdown to get any value from Jones this week. There are better DFS plays, even on a two-game slate.
While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense has been really good and even shut the Packers down earlier this season, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams is simply too good to downgrade too much in this matchup. He was targeted 10 times the last time these teams faced, catching six passes for 61 yards. It was one of just three games this season where he didn't find the end zone. Adams is one of the NFL's most consistently good wideouts, and while his floor might be lower than normal this week, his ceiling remains very high. Don't be overexposed to him in DFS, but don't ignore Adams on this slate.