After trailing by 18 points, the Green Bay Packers had a chance late to tie Sunday’s NFC championship game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
They came up painfully short.
Aaron Rodgers drove the Packers 58 yards to set Green Bay up inside the Tampa Bay 10-yard line. On third-and-goal at the 8-yard line with 2:15 remaining in the game, Rodgers took a shotgun snap and faced immediate pressure from a Bucs front that gave him fits all day.
He stepped up in the pocket, where he found a wide-open running lane on his right to the end zone. He instead looked left to Davante Adams at the goal line. The Bucs had two defenders on Adams, and Rodgers’ pass fell haplessly to the turf.
Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur then made a questionable decision to kick a field goal that ended up being the final score in a 31-26 Bucs win to secure a spot in the Super Bowl.
Why didn’t Rodgers run?
Should Rodgers have run the ball? He’s a capable runner. And once he escaped pressure, there was plenty of room to run for the right pylon.
Reaching the end zone before getting tackled wasn’t a sure thing for Rodgers but it was a better bet than the hopeless pass to Adams in double coverage. And even if he would have come up short, a fourth down inside the 2- or 3-yard line would have given LaFleur a more palatable situation to go for it on fourth down.
Rodgers didn’t run. LaFleur didn’t go for it. Mason Crosby kicked a field goal. And the Bucs are going to the Super Bowl.
Multiple missed chances for Packers late
It was one of a handful of missed opportunities for the Packers that saw Rodgers’ likely MVP season fall painfully short of the Super Bowl in devastating fashion. Sure, Brady and the Bucs caught more than their share of breaks in the game. But the Packers didn’t capitalize in the second half when they had their chances.
After threatening to run away with the game with a third-quarter touchdown to take a 28-10 lead, the Bucs let the Packers back in. Rodgers responded by leading a touchdown drive on Green Bay’s next possession to cut the deficit to 28-17.
Then Brady collapsed.
Packers don’t capitalize on Brady mistakes
The six-time Super Bowl winner threw interceptions on each of the next three Bucs drives. Rodgers responded to the first by throwing his third touchdown of the day on a drive that cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 28-23.
Brady’s next two interceptions? Green Bay responded with a three-and-out.
Rodgers was excellent most of the day. He completed 33 of 48 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that should have been negated by a pass interference penalty on Tampa Bay that the refs missed.
But the Packers offense couldn’t convert when it mattered most late.
And for the fourth straight time, Rodgers came up painfully short in an NFC championship game, this time watching Brady punch his ticket to a 10th Super Bowl.
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