It’s time for PewterReport.com’s 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game. The Buccaneers advanced to Super Bowl LV, which will be held in Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium on February 7, by beating the Packers in Green Bay, 31-26. Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes while Tampa Bay’s defense sacked Aaron Rodgers five times and forced two takeaways in the NFC Championship Game victory.

2 BIG STATEMENTS

STATEMENT 1. Happy Homecoming For Brady And The Bucs

Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians recruited legendary quarterback Tom Brady for one reason – to win a Super Bowl.

In Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at Green Bay, Brady delivered the Bucs to Super Bowl LV with a great first half performance, outdueling Aaron Rodgers in a 31-26 upset win over the Packers at Lambeau Field. In the span of two weeks, Brady helped retire New Orleans’ icon Drew Brees, and might have ended the Packers career of the 37-year old Rodgers.

That’s legendary.

The fact that Brady waltzes into Tampa Bay in the offseason after 20 years in New England and now has just as many NFC Championship wins as Brees and Rodgers is also legendary.

Brady was magnificent in the first half, completing 13-of-22 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, including a 39-yard touchdown pass with one second left before halftime. After Sean Murphy-Bunting picked off Rodgers with 28 seconds left in the first half, Arians decided to put his “no risk it, no biscuit” mantra to the test, and went for it on fourth-and-4 from the Green Bay 45.

Bucs QB Tom Brady

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

Brady hit Leonard Fournette with a 6-yard pass to set up first-and-10 from the Packers’ 39 with eight seconds left. Instead of trying a long field goal, Arians opted for Brady to let it fly right before halftime, and the greatest quarterback of all time made one of his greatest throws of all time, hitting Scotty Miller with a 39-yard scoring strike to push Tampa Bay’s lead to 21-10 with one second left.

Miller blew by Packers cornerback Kevin King, just as Mike Evans did on his 15-yard touchdown catch to give the Bucs an early 7-0 lead on their first offensive possession.

Brady would add another touchdown in the third quarter, an 8-yard catch by tight end Cameron Brate, to give the Bucs a 28-10 lead after linebacker Devin White recovered an Aaron Jones fumble that was forced by Jordan Whitehead.

But Brady would not play as flawlessly as he did in Tampa Bay’s first two playoff games. Packers safety Adrian Amos picked off Brady in the third quarter and that led to a Green Bay touchdown, which cut the Bucs’ 28-10 lead to 28-17. The Bucs drove down to the Packers’ 28-yard line but a high throw bounced off Evans’ hands and into the waiting arms of cornerback Jaire Alexander at the 24-yard line in the fourth quarter.

After a three-and-out by the Bucs defense, Brady threw another interception to Alexander, who stepped in front of Evans on an underthrown ball as Tampa Bay’s quarterback was under duress from a Green Bay blitz. But by then the damage had been done. Brady and Tampa Bay’s offense had put 28 points on the board by the third quarter and added a field goal in the fourth to put the game away.

The Bucs return to Tampa Bay as NFC champions for just the second time in franchise history, and they’ll be home for good as Raymond James Stadium will host Super Bowl LV. Brady and the Bucs were 9-2 on the road this year, winning seven straight road games, including the last three in the playoffs. Tampa Bay finished the 2020 season 5-3 at home.

“That’s the scary thing about coming to the Super Bowl at home – we’ve been playing so [well] on the road,” Arians said.

Bucs QB Tom Brady and head coach Bruce Arians

Bucs QB Tom Brady and head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: USA Today

Brady is elated to be on the first team to ever play in a Super Bowl that the city hosts.

“I think it’s hard to envision,” Brady said. “This is a goal, but at the same time it’s a week-to-week league. We were at 7-5 seven games ago, not feeling great. We felt like we needed to find our rhythm and [we] played four great games down the stretch the last quarter of the season. After that, it was all bonus. We just had to go play well. We played well in Washington, we played well all the way around in New Orleans against a great football team and then came up here knowing we had to play great. The guys came through, everyone stepped up to the challenge and again, just a great [win]. Football is the ultimate team sport and it takes everybody. Everybody plays a role, just so proud of this whole team and again, just blessed to be a part of it.”

STATEMENT 2. Bucs Defense Came Alive After The Bye Week

Tampa Bay’s defense is for real. Todd Bowles’ unit has dominated in the postseason and become a takeaway machine, creating 48 points off eight takeaways in three playoff games. A week after the Bucs defense created four takeaways in a 30-20 win at New Orleans in last week’s divisional playoff game, Tampa Bay’s defense added two more in Green Bay.

Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting

Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting – Photo by: USA Today

Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting had the Bucs’ first takeaway, stepping in front of Allen Lazard to pick off Aaron Rodgers with less than a minute before halftime. That interception led to Tom Brady’s 39-yard touchdown strike to Scotty Miller right before halftime to help the Bucs build a 21-10 lead.

Then safety Jordan Whitehead forced his second fumble of the game, drilling Aaron Jones after a catch and knocking the ball loose. For the second week in a row, linebacker Devin White recovered a fumble and advanced it to the Green Bay 8-yard line. On the next play, Brady hit tight end Cameron Brate with an 8-yard touchdown to increase the Bucs’ lead to 28-10 in the third quarter.

Tampa Bay sacked Rodgers five times in its 38-10 win in Week 6, and came through with five more sacks on Sunday. Outside linebacker Shaq Barrett had three and Jason Pierre-Paul had two and as the return of nose tackle Vita Vea helped Tampa Bay’s pass rush. Vea played 33 snaps on Sunday and those came mostly on pass rushing downs, as he helped the collapse the pocket and force Rodgers from stepping up and avoiding the edge rush.

Not only has Bowles’ defense stepped up in terms of sack production and takeaways since the bye week, the Bucs have clamped down opponents’ scoring. Over the last seven games since the bye, Tampa Bay has allowed an average of just 20.5 points per game, while the Bucs offense has averaged scoring 34.2 points per game. By the way, Green Bay had the league’s top scoring offense in 2020, averaging 31.8 points per game.

No wonder the Bucs are winners of seven straight and are headed to the Super Bowl.

“Yeah, they played incredible,” Arians said. “I thought the defense was spectacular and they’ve been that way all year. They have a great front, great linebackers, [they] play their butts off in the secondary. Some guys went down with injuries and other guys stepped in. It was an incredible effort by the defense and what they did today was amazing against, really, an incredible offense.”

2 PROBING QUESTIONS

QUESTION 1: What Bucs Records Fell In The NFC Championship Game?

Plenty. Let’s start with quarterback Tom Brady, who threw three touchdowns and now has seven in the postseason as a Buccaneer, surpassing Brad Johnson’s five TD passes from the 2002 season. Brady now has 81 postseason passing touchdowns, which is 36 ahead of Joe Montana in NFL history. Sunday’s performance marked the 11th time that Brady has thrown three or more TD passes in a postseason game. Montana had nine during his illustrious NFL career.

Bucs WR Mike Evans

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: USA Today

Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans had a 15-yard touchdown catch to give the team a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and now has two postseason scores, which ties him with Keenan McCardell for the most TD catches in Tampa Bay’s postseason history. Running back Leonard Fournette has a touchdown in all three of the Bucs’ playoff games this year and ranks second behind Mike Alstott’s seven TDs for the most in Tampa Bay postseason history. Fournette has 313 yards from scrimmage over the last three games, which is the most in a single postseason in Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting joined Pro Football Hall of Famers Aeneas Williams (four-consecutive games) and Ed Reed, as well as Jason Sehorn, as the only four players in the Super Bowl era with an interception in each of their first three career postseason games. Murphy-Bunting’s three playoff interceptions are tied for the most in team history with Donnie Abraham, Dexter Jackson and Dwight Smith.

Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett brought down Aaron Rodgers three times in the NFC Championship Game, joining Warren Sapp as the only players in team history with three or more sacks in a playoff game. Sapp sacked Brett Favre three times at Lambeau Field on January, 4, 1998 in a divisional playoff game. The Bucs’ five sacks of Rodgers tied the single-game postseason record. Tampa Bay recorded five sacks in a playoff game at Dallas during the 1982 season and against Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII during the 2002 campaign.

Tampa Bay linebacker Devin White tied the single-game playoff record with 11 tackles last week at New Orleans and then broke that mark with 15 stops on Sunday at Green Bay. And finally, kicker Ryan Succop made a key 46-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, which was his eighth field goal of the 2020 playoffs. That ranks second in Tampa Bay’s all-time postseason record books right behind Martin Gramatica’s 11.

QUESTION 2: Will The Bucs Be At Full Strength For Super Bowl LV?

They should be. Safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. injured his ankle in practice and was a game-time scratch, but should be ready to go in two weeks when Tampa Bay plays Kansas City. Mike Edwards started in place of Winfield and played well. The same could be said for wide receiver Antonio Brown, who missed the game due to a minor knee injury he suffered in the first half at New Orleans last Sunday. Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson filled in for the injured Brown at Green Bay and came up with some clutch catches for the second straight week.

Bucs SS Jordan Whitehead and Packers RB Aaron Jones

Bucs SS Jordan Whitehead and Packers RB Aaron Jones – Photo by: USA Today

The only real question mark for Tampa Bay from an injury standpoint is safety Jordan Whitehead, who suffered a shoulder injury shortly after forcing a fumble in the third quarter on a big hit on running back Aaron Jones. Whitehead, who was replaced by Andrew Adams in the second half, told reporters that he should be ready to go for Super Bowl LV. On Monday, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said it was too early to tell if Whitehead suffered any damage to his shoulder that would keep him out of action in two weeks.

Bucs nose tackle Vita Vea returned to action from a fractured ankle and didn’t show any ill effects from that injury on Sunday. Vea was supposed to play 20-25 snaps in first action since Week 5 in October, but wound up playing 33 snaps, which is a great sign for his usage in Super Bowl LV.

2 BOLD PREDICTIONS

PREDICTION 1: Bucs Will Win Super Bowl LV If They Can Score 30 Points

Tampa Bay remains undefeated when scoring 30 points or more this season. The Bucs have scored 30 points or more in 11 victories this season, including the last six games where the team has hit that point total. Tampa Bay lost to Kansas City, 27-24, in Week 12. Scoring 30 points or more is the key to defeating Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. If the Bucs hit that number they’ll be Super Bowl champs once again.

PREDICTION 2: Bucs Edge Rushers Will Continue To Steal The Show

Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett

Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett – Photo by: USA Today

Kansas City lost starting left tackle Eric Fisher to a torn Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game. That was a big blow as the Chiefs are still without starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who is on injured reserve with a back injury. Mike Remmers had to move from right tackle to left tackle to replace Fisher and should get the start in Super Bowl LV.

The Packers were in a similar boat without starting left tackle David Bakhtiari, and Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul tore up Green Bay’s reshuffled offensive line for five sacks on Sunday. Barrett and Pierre-Paul each had a sack of Patrick Mahomes in Week 12 and I suspect they could have even more in the rematch in two weeks, especially with nose tackle Vita Vea in the lineup. The Chiefs didn’t have to face Vea last time and his ability to push the pocket proved to be a difference-maker in Green Bay as Aaron Rodgers was flushed right into the waiting arms of Barrett and JPP several times. Look for Tampa Bay’s edge defenders to steal the show in Super Bowl LV.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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ScottC543
6 months ago

If we win the turnover battle we win the game.

It’s all about pressuring the QB. We’ll do it in spades. They’ll have big problems.

Look out, Chiefs.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  ScottC543
6 months ago

I’m with you Scott. Tampa will be a tough out at home.

plopes808
6 months ago

The only downside is if Brady and Arians decided to retire after getting the Lombardi this year. They both seem like they’d be interested in sticking around so let’s hope that happens.

Naplesfan
Reply to  plopes808
6 months ago

Don’t know about Arians, but Brady is definitely NOT retiring after this game. He’s stated repeatedly he plans to play to at least age 45 – which is another two seasons. He’s also told others he’d like to keep playing to age 50 if his body holds up.

NaplesFan2.0
6 months ago

If ANY of you fools pick the Chiefs to win, I’m unfollowing this site lol. I kid, as this will be Tampa’s toughest test, but I’m sure one they will be ready for. If everyone is back healthy and we don’t turn the ball over, we are one of the toughest outs in the league. Apparently we’re tough if we do turn it over, as shown by the last game!! Bucs SB win otw!

TBChucky
6 months ago

Seems we score 30 or more even when we’re off a little on offense! KC hasn’t turned the ball over in the post season as of yet. The Bucs have been great at turning opposing TO’s into points. Hopefully between Vea’s pocket collapsing, and Shaq and JPP’s relentless pursuit we’ll be able to make Mahomes throw a few balls he regrets! Hopefully Whitehead is back for Th e SB.. Defense is on a roll!

GO BUCS!!

Naplesfan
Reply to  TBChucky
6 months ago

People say that Mahomes doesn’t turn the ball over, and won’t. Neither did Rodgers, except when he was playing the Bucs. He had a mere 6 INTs this past season and playoffs – and 3 of those were to the Bucs.

MikeJ813
6 months ago

Chiefs offense is so explosive and creative. For me I would for sure double hill and kelce, keep dev or Antoine spying Mahomes, only rush 4 keep everyone else in coverage. Chiefs would have to try to beat me with their running game and I trust our front 7 in that matchup. Agree the offense will have to put on a show as well. I’ll say 5 offensive TDs and 3 forced turnovers is the formula. Go Bucs! Let’s finish the job! 🙏🏾

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  MikeJ813
6 months ago

If there is one knock on Mahomes, its that he has too much talent, to be able to make every play. He holds the ball longer than most qbs and forces some throws here and there. That may be an accurate prediction.

76Buc
6 months ago

Yep, win the T/O battle and score 30. I’ll add 3 sacks. That should do it.

RW
RW
6 months ago

The best news for the Bucs is that Eric Fisher, Chiefs all pro LT, is out. Combine that with Vea being back and the Bucs can shut down the Chiefs running and get after Mahomes. Maybe extra pressure makes him throw a pic or causes a fumble. But they have a better chance to slow him down enough that the Bucs O can outscore them. Bucs D needs to hold him to 30pts or under.

Buc76
6 months ago

This game needs to be the crowning moment. They need to put it all together. If they play their best game we will win. Also you have to give Succop some props. That field goal he made was big to get us to 31 points

Spitfire
6 months ago

I hate the “Tough Out” sentiment. It implies we shouldn’t win. We haven’t been at full strength all year. We had 1 bad quarter against KC in week 12, were missing Marpet, and were still getting the ball bad and 3 points away from tying the game. KCs line will be hurt, we should be at 100% full strength and ready to rock on the biggest stage there is. Our guys are gonna show up and we won’t just be an easy out, we will win if we don’t beat ourselves.

Spitfire
Reply to  Spitfire
6 months ago

Mahomes Turf Toe won’t be 100% in 2 weeks either. Our Defense is going to make him have to run and he’s not gonna have as much mobility. Even despite their injury issues, I have no doubt we can beat them straight up.

Naplesfan
Reply to  Spitfire
6 months ago

We didn’t have Vita Vea in that game either, and Antonio Brown was still getting up to speed after a long layoff from football.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  Spitfire
6 months ago

I think that’s really all every team is trying to be in the playoffs Spitfire. Sports are incredibly unpredictable at times, so the best you can do is be tough to beat. It doesn’t mean they’re not trying to win the game. I think we will be better than the last game against the Chiefs, and hopefully healthier also.

bucballer
6 months ago

If the Buc’s Defense gets to Mahomes 3 or more times, then I think the Bucs win the game.

Madman
6 months ago

Fournette has 313 yards from scrimmage over the last three games, which is the most in a single postseason in Tampa Bay.
damn

Naplesfan
6 months ago

Since every matchup in every game is unpredictable, including final game outcomes, nobody can claim with any authority that “If the Bucs do ____ they will win the game” or “If the Bucs don’t do ____ they will win the game”, and vice versa. How many of us predicted a week ago that the Bucs would lose the turnover battle to Green Bay and still win the game? Zero, I believe. How many of us predicted a week ago that Tom Brady would throw three picks to the Packers in the second half, and the Bucs would still win the… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Naplesfan
6 months ago

Teams find a way to win games when their heads are in it and they believe in themselves. Guys who hardly did squat all season suddenly make huge gamesaving plays in the playoffs … Tyler Johnson, Mike Edwards anybody? Guys who did well but not outstanding during most of the regular season suddenly become monsters in December and January – Devin White, anybody? All of this makes predictions pretty much useless – nobody knows who is going to make the big plays until the game is on, or over. How many here at PR remember who was the MVP of… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Naplesfan
German Buc
Reply to  Naplesfan
6 months ago

Brooks should have been the MVP – guess his pick-6 in SB came just 30 seconds too late…

scubog
Reply to  Naplesfan
6 months ago

Should have been Simeon Rice.

eaustinyoung
Reply to  Naplesfan
6 months ago

To look at it positively, a deep shot intercepted on 3rd down is analytically as useful as a punt. Just like that lame duck Brady threw against the Saints week 9. I don’t think they can do that in 2 weeks and win, BUT, at least it gave the Packers offense a shallow field position.

BucWhatYaHeard
5 months ago

Call me crazy but I am very stoked and even more,confident,that we win this game. Just like the fairy tale ending we deserve. LMAO