By Adam Roberts – 1/25/2021
If for whatever reason you want to hear me popping off on yesterday’s NFC Championship earlier this morning on COW97, I made my argument for why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winners yesterday 31-26 over the Packers, thoroughly deserved to be heading to a Super Bowl after doing what they needed to do to surround 43-year-old Tom Brady with the weapons he needed to win.
A combination of drafting two All-Rookies in right tackle Tristan Warfs and safety Antoine Winfield Jr, supplying Brady with a familiar piece in Rob Gronkowski, and developing a hyper-aggressive pass rush spearheaded by second-year linebacker Devin White and veterans Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh has put the Bucs back in the big game for the first time since the 2002 season. And on the other side, it will be another offseason of Green Bay struggling to figure out why they haven’t been able to seal the deal in now four tries since the 2010 championship season. While Peter Bukowski makes a decent counterargument that there were some pieces added to bolster the roster, that Jordan Love selection still looms large. There were a number of excellent cornerbacks and wide receivers available when the Packers made their pick that would have helped more yesterday than a guy like Love who, despite having done literally nothing wrong, was wearing a headset yesterday.
After the contest, quarterback Aaron Rodgers sounded like a man who didn’t know what to say or where to turn. He was a dejected man at the postgame presser, and said the loss left him feeling “gutted”. As I said in the above clip, I can’t fathom the team moving on from Rodgers this offseason, given his MVP-like performance this year and the lack of depth behind him at the position. However, who knows what Rodgers himself wants to do with the time he has left in the league. This morning on ESPN’s Get Up, Pat McAfee said we might not hear much from Rodgers this offseason as he contemplates things, and I think that’s the most likely course of action and will end up with Aaron back in Green Bay for 2021 but with a great deal of uneasiness if another offseason of little adjustment occurs (on a side note, let’s cool it with the day-after ‘Rodgers goes to ______’ talk; McAfee wants him with the Colts and others have indicated LA or San Francisco. Please let’s just cool it.)
As for the tangible numbers from yesterday, they are not great for Green Bay:
- Rodgers was sacked five times; the Tampa defense sacked Aaron 10 times this year, compared to the 15 sacks against Rodgers in every other game this regular and postseason.
- Rodgers had to be the hero with no run game to compliment him; he went 33-48 with 346 yards, 3 scores, and a pick, while the run game racked up just 67 yards and no scores, not to mention a costly Aaron Jones fumble in what might have been his final game as a Packer.
- Despite better secondary play in the second half, the Packer offense converted three Brady INTs into just six points.
- Two drops loomed large in the final box score. The first was on a quick out to Davante Adams on what ended up being the Packers’ first field goal. Rodgers knew he’d be open given the lax coverage on Adams in that situation and Davante just dropped the ball. The second was on an attempted two-point conversion intended for Equanimeous St. Brown that eventually allowed Tampa to go up 31-23 instead of 31-24.
And then there are the intangibles. From the above questionable choice to go for two by head coach Matt LaFleur, to the even more questionable 4th and 8 field goal decision, to the awful defensive play call at the end of the first half that allowed a Scotty Miller touchdown, to the lack of penalties on suspect holding no-calls until the very final play that mattered with a DPI on Kevin King, it was just a cluster-bleep all over the place.
I guess little will change, because GM Brian Gutekunst and team president Mark Murphy won’t complain about back-to-back 13-3 seasons with NFC Championship Game appearances. But as the modern fan, I wouldn’t mind at least hearing that another instance of coming up just short and looking flat when it matters most won’t be tolerated going forward.