The Bucs went into a cold Lambeau Field on Sunday and claimed a 31-26 victory over the Packers, clinching Tampa Bay’s first Super Bowl berth since beating the Oakland Raiders and lifting the Lombardi Trophy in 2003.
After Green Bay won the toss and deferred to the second half, Tampa Bay jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead after quarterback Tom Brady converted three third downs as he moved the Bucs’ offense down the field, with the last coming by way of a 19-yard touchdown to Mike Evans. Later in the quarter a sack from Jason Pierre-Paul pushed Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense back inside their own 10-yard line but a huge conversion on third-and-long to Allen Lazard kept the drive. With a second chance on the drive, Rodgers found Marquez Valdes-Scantling deep down the right sideline for a 50-yard touchdown to tie the game. On the Bucs’ ensuing drive, Tampa Bay moved down the field with a 52-yard completion to Chris Godwin before Leonard Fournette found the end zone on the next play by way of a 20-yard rushing touchdown.
Green Bay answered with a field goal and then forced a punt to take over with 2:10 remaining in the first half, trailing 14-10, with a chance to go down the field one last time and take a lead into the locker room for halftime. Tampa Bay’s defense held strong though and Pierre-Paul got to Rodgers for another big sack on first-and-10 to the Green Bay 40-yard line. On the next play Sean Murphy-Bunting came up with his third interception of the playoffs and the Bucs were aggressively able to convert on fourth-and-short from the 45-yard line with eight seconds before Brady found a streaking Scotty Miller down the left sideline for an improbably 39-yard touchdown with one second left on the clock, giving Tampa Bay a 21-10 lead at the half.
Green Bay took over for the third quarter and Tampa Bay’s defense wasted no time setting the Bucs up for more breathing room as Jordan Whitehead quickly forced a fumble from running back Aaron Jones, recovered by Devin White to the Green Bay eight-yard line, before Brady found tight end Cam Brate for touchdown on the first play of the short drive to give Tampa Bay a 28-10 lead. Rodgers responded brilliantly, leading a long touchdown drive before the Bucs seemingly hit rock bottom. Tampa Bay’s next three drives were ended by interceptions for Brady but the Bucs’ defense, as they did against New Orleans, stood tall and conceded just seven points on the three resulting Green Bay drives. Clinging on to a five-point lead, Tampa Bay was able to get three more points and an eight-point advantage from Ryan Succop. The Packers needed an answer and it looked as though they would have one, driving inside the Bucs’ 10-yard line before ultimately settling for a field goal with 2:05 and three points remaining. Tampa Bay was ultimately able to run out the clock and ensure a spot in the Super Bowl.
With Sunday’s win, the Bucs will head back to Raymond James and become the first team in NFL history to play for a Super Bowl in their own home stadium. The Bucs will find out their opponent when the AFC Championship between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs concludes on Sunday night.