Tom Brady may have moved to a new team this past season, but the result is still the same: another trip to the Super Bowl.
The 43-year-old quarterback will make a record-breaking 10th Super Bowl appearance after reaching this stage nine times with the New England Patriots.
In the win over Green Bay, Brady completed 20-of-36 passed for 286 yards and three touchdowns. The veteran did throw three interceptions, however, thanks to the Tampa Bay defense, the game wasn’t as close or in doubt as the score indicated. Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul combined for five sacks to help the Bucs hang on for a franchise-record eighth road victories in a season.
“Tom is the GOAT (greatest of all time),” said Bucs receiver Scotty Miller, who caught a 39-yard touchdown pass with 1 second left until halftime. “Last year, we ended 7-9. This year, we’re going to the Super Bowl. He’s the biggest reason.”
Brady, who has six NFL titles, will become the first quarterback to play a Super Bowl on his team’s home field.
“It’s great to get another road win and now we got a home game, and who would have ever thought a home Super Bowl for us,” Brady said. “But we did it.”
The Bucs (14-5) will face the Kansas City Chiefs (16-2) at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7. It’s the first time in NFL history that the home team ended up hosting the game.
“We’re coming home,” said Bucs coach Bruce Arians, whose first NFL coaching job was as an assistant in 1989 with Kansas City, and won two league Coach of the Year awards, with Indianapolis in 2012, Arizona in 2014. He will make his first trip to the Super Bowl as a head coach. “We’re coming home to win.”
For a team that had just one winning record in the last nine seasons, reaching the Super Bowl is a huge step for the franchise.
In the win, the Bucs snapped Green Bay’s seven-game winning streak. They were helped by a strange decision from Packers coach Matt LaFleur with just over two minutes remaining in a 31-23 game.
After three straight incompletions, the Packers were facing fourth-and-goal from the 8-yeard line. Instead of going for the touchdown, the Packers elected to kick a field goal to get within five.
“Anytime it doesn’t work out you always regret it, right?” LaFleur said. “It was just circumstance of having three shots and coming away with no yards. And knowing that you not only need the touchdown but you’d need the 2-point. The way I was looking at it is we essentially had four timeouts with the 2-minute warning, we knew we needed to get a stop.”
Tampa Bay then ran out the clock on the Packers (14-4).
“I understand the thinking — above two minutes with all of our timeouts — but it wasn’t my decision,” said Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers lost in the NFC championship game for the fourth time in the last seven seasons. Green Bay hasn’t reached the Super Bowl since its 2010 championship season.
Rodgers, went 33-of-48 for 346 yards with three touchdowns in the loss. The star quarterback also fell to 1-4 in conference championship games as a starting quarterback. The Packers had the NFL’s best red-zone offense this season, but they twice settled for field goals after having a first-and-goal Sunday.
“I’m just pretty gutted,” Rodgers said. “It’s a long season. You put so much into it to get to this point. We had our chances.”