NFL 2020-2021 Conference Title Games Recap

NFL 2020-2021 Conference Title Games Recap

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers was the NFC Title Game in the afternoon. Tom Brady was in the postseason for the 18th straight year and in his 20th straight winning season. He led the 11-5 Buccaneers in his first season with them to road playoff wins over Washington and 12-4 New Orleans. Aaron Rodgers is in his fourth NFC Title Game but only his first one at home as the 13-3 NFC North champions hosted this game. The Buccaneers began the game facing 3rd and 4 from their own 40. Brady went deep to Mike Evans for 27 yards. On 3rd and 9 from the Green Bay 32, Brady went to Godwin for 14. On 3rd and 7 from the Green Bay 15, Brady went to Evans for the touchdown and he 7-0 Packers lead. Late in the first quarter a sack of Rodgers had the Packers facing 3rd and 15 from their own 5. Rodgers went to Lazard for 23, Devontae Adams for 15 and Robert Tonyan for 5. The second quarter began with the Packers facing 3rd and 3 from midfield. Rodgers went deep to Marques Valdes-Scantling, who out-jumped the defender, broke the tackle and glided into the end zone for the touchdown and the 7-7 game. 

The Buccaneers soon faced 3rd and 9 from their own 28. Brady went deep and Chris Godwin did his impersonation of Lynn Swann in the Super Bowl, making a juggling catch for a 52 yard gain. On the next play Leonard Fournette appeared bottled up but bounced to the outside and dove over a body pass the pylon for the touchdown and the 14-7 Buccaneers lead. After a touchback, Rodgers hit Valdes-Scantling for 12. Williams ran for 12. Jones ran for 12. Rodgers hit Marcedes Lewis for 9. Jones ran for 5 and fumbled, but Tonyan recovered as the Packers retained possession. Jones ran for one, 7, and on 3rd and 2 from the Tampa Bay 10, 4 more. On 1st and goal at the 6, a back shoulder throw to the end zone was dropped. On 3rd and goal, a high pass over the middle was caught out the back of the end zone. Despite the 15 play, 69 yard, 7 1/2 minute drive, 3 straight incompletions had the Packers settling for a 24 yard Mason Crosby field goal and a 14-10 Packers deficit. 

Late in the half, Rodgers was intercepted. With 18 seconds left in the half, the Buccaneers faced 3rd and 4 from the Packers 45. A deep ball should have been intercepted but was dropped. After initially deciding to punt, Bruce Arians changed his mind and decided to go for it on 4th and 4. Brady went to Fournette for 6. With 6 seconds left, rather than play for a field goal, Brady went for the bomb and hit Scotty Miller for the 39 yard touchdown. It was a completely inexcusable defensive breakdown as the Packers had no deep help. The Buccaneers led 21-10 at the half in front of a stunned Green Bay crowd. The Packers went from bad to worse as they began the third quarter facing 3rd and 5 from their own 30. Rodgers hit Jones for a 2 yard gain when Jordan Whitehead put his helmet on the ball and forced a fumble. White picked it up for the defense and rumbled 21 yards to the Green Bay 8 yard line. Brady immediately fired over the middle to Cameron Brate for the touchdown and the 28-10 Buccaneers lead. 

The Packers were on the ropes facing 3rd and 3 from their own 32. Rodgers fired to Tonyan for 10, Valdez-Scantling for 24, St. Brown for 10, Lazard for 16, and Tonyan for the 8 yard touchdown. The Packers were within 28-17, but now it was up to their defense to try and stop Brady. The Buccaneers got it back at their own 24. From their own 38, Brady went deep and was intercepted by Amos at the Green Bay 32. On 3rd and 3 from their own 39, Rodgers hit Adams for 4, Dillon for 13, Tonyan for 7, Lewis for 5, and on 3rd and 2 from the Bucs 24, Williams for 11. On 2nd and 9 from the Bucs 12, Rodgers hit Adams for 7, with a defensive personal foul for lowering the head to initiate contact adding 3 more yards to make it 1st and goal at the 2. On 3rd and goal, Rodgers hit Adams for the score. Matt Lafleur went for 2 rather than just kick the extra point. Rodgers’s pass was tipped but still should have been caught. St. Brown just dropped it as the Packers trailed 28-23 after three quarters.

A strong kickoff return had the Buccaneers taking over at their own 45. The Buccaneers easily moved to a 2nd and 11 at the Green Bay 28. The Packers had no answers on defense, but dumb luck was on their side. Brady went deep to Evans. The ball bounced off of his fingertips and was intercepted by Alexander at the Green Bay 3 yard line. Alexander returned it 16 yards as the Packers took over at their own 19 with 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation. Yet on 3rd and 5, Rodgers was sacked. The Buccaneers faced 3rd and 2 at their own 46. Under heavy pressure with a man about to sack him, Brady threw a deep duck that was intercepted. Three straight drives resulted in Brady being intercepted as the Packers took over at their own 24. A pass on 3rd and 11 was dropped as the Packers again wasted the opportunity. 

The Buccaneers took over at their own 28. Brady hit Godwin for 11 and Rob Gronkowski for 29. On 3rd and 8 from the Green Bay 28, Brady threw the ball into the ground. Ryan Succop hit the 46 yard field goal. The Buccaneers led 31-23 with 4: 42 to play as the failed 2 point conversion loomed large. A tough kickoff return had the Packers taking over at their own 34. Dillon ran for 9 and Rodgers hit Valdes-Scantling over the middle for 29 more. Rodgers hit Adams for 9. On 3rd and 1 from the Bucs 19, Rodgers hit Adams in the flat for 11. After 3 straight incompletions, Matt LaFleur made another bizarre decision. On 4th and goal at the 8 with 2:15 to play, he opted for the field goal rather than try to tie the game. Crosby hit from 26 but the Packers were still down by 5. The Buccaneers took over at their own 17 with 2:02 left. The Packers had all 3 timeouts left on defense. 

When the Buccaneers gained 9 yards on 1st down to take the clock to the 2 minute warning, the Packers purposely jumped offside rather than try and defend 2nd and 1. They still had all 3 timeouts as the Buccaneers faced 1st and 10 at their own 31. On 3rd and 4 from their own 37 with everything upon the line, Brady threw incomplete. A very late flag for defensive pass interference was a horrendous call. There was mild contact, but the officials had been letting the players play all day. Now they helped decide the game. For 20 years Brady has gotten virtually every call. He began his career with the Tuck Rule and was now benefitting from a late phantom call. On 3rd and 5 from the Packers 43, Godwin took the pitchout gained 6 yards, and slid down inbounds. Brady was going to his 10th Super Bowl. Bruce Arians was going to his first. Rodgers lost his 4th NFC Championship Game in 5 tries, including 2 years in a row. As for LaFleur, he surrendered as a Frenchman does. 31-26 Buccaneers

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs was the AFC Title Game at night. The 13-3 AFC East champion Bills took on the 14-2 AFC West champion Chiefs. The Chiefs were hosting the AFC Title Game for the 3rd straight time, the first AFC team to ever do that. Walrus Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes were there for all 3 of them. After a touchback, the Bills soon faced 4th and 1 from the Chiefs 48. Sean McDermott decided to set the tone early on by going for it. Allen hit Knox for 8 yards. On 2nd and 3 from the Chiefs 33, Allen threw incomplete twice including a 3rd down deep ball that should have been intercepted. Tyler Bass snuck the 51 yard field goal inside the right upright for a 3-0 Bills lead. The first big break came when the Chiefs fumbled a punt and the Bills recovered at the Chiefs 3 yard line. Josh Allen found Knox in the flat, and Knox got to the corner and past the pylon for the touchdown and the 19-0 Bills lead. The extra point doinked off the right upright no good. The Chiefs overcame multiple double digit playoff deficits last year. They fell behind Houston 24-0 but led by halftime, outscoring them 51-7 the rest of the way. 

The Chiefs took over at their own 20. Mahomes hit Travis Kelce for 9, Mecole Hardman for one, Kelce for 11, Tyreek Hill for 11, and Kelce for 16. On 3rd and 12 from th Buffalo 34, Mahomes hit Pringle for 11. On 4th and 1 from the Buffalo 23, Walrus Andy Reid went for it. Mahomes hit Williams for 9 and Hill for 8. The second quarter began with Mahomes hitting Hardman for a 3 yard touchdown to get the Chiefs within 9-7. The Chiefs got it back at their own 18. Hardman took a pitchout 50 yards. Mahomes hit Pringle for 5 and Kelce for 15. Williams took a handoff up the gut and stretched the ball over the pylon for the 6 yard touchdown and the 14-9 Chiefs lead. The Chiefs got it back and faced 3rd and 1 from their own 32. Carl Edwards-Helaire gained 2. On 3rd and 6 from their own 38, Mahomes hit Kelce for 11, Hill for 33 and Kelce for 17 down to the one. Edwards-Helaire ran it in standing up as the Chiefs led 21-9 with 4 minutes left in the half. 

After a touchback, Allen hit Cole Beasley for 14, Knox for 12 and TY Yeldon for 20. Allen ran for 10. On 3rd and 3 from the Chiefs 12, Yeldon gained 4. With 21 seconds left in the half, the Bills faced 3rd and goal at the 4. Under heavy pressure, Allen hit Knox for 2. On 4th and goal at the 2 on the road, Sean McDermott decided not to gamble. Bass hit the 20 yard field goal to get the Bills within 21-12. They also didn’t leave Mahomes enough time to do anything before the half. After a touchback to start the third quarter, Mahomes immediately connected with Hill for a 16 yard gain. Mahomes then went to Hill and Pringle for a pair of 5 yard gains. On 3rd and 5 from the Buffalo 43, Mahomes hit Hill for 9 and then 7 more. Yet on 3rd and 3 from the Buffalo 27, a completion gained nothing. Harrison Butker hit a 45 yard field goal to make it 24-12 Chiefs.  

After a touchback, Allen hit Beasley for 6, Brown for 17 and Beasley for 23. On 3rd and 6 from the Chiefs 20, Allen threw incomplete but defensive holding meant an automatic first down. On 3rd and 3 from the Chiefs 8,  Allen rolled out and under heavy pressure threw out the back of the end zone incomplete. Bass hit from 27 as the 10 play, 67 yard, 5 minute drive got the Bills within 24-15. After a touchback, Mahomes connected with Hill, who weaved through the entire field for a 71 yard gain. Defensive holding meant a 2 yard gain and first and goal at the one. Then came a new throw in Mahomes’s repertoire as he tossed an underhanded shovel pass to Kelce for the touchdown and the 31-15 Chiefs lead late in the third quarter. 

The Bills soon faced 3rd and 2 at thrown 33. Allen hit Stefan Diggs for 6 and 10 and Beasley for 6. A sack of Allen had the Bills facing 3rd and 14 at their own 45. Allen hit Beasley over the middle for 13 as the Bills began the fourth quarter facing 4th and 1 at the Chiefs 42. Sean McDermott went for it and McKenzie gained 4. Allen then scrambled for 18 more. On 2nd and 10 from the Chiefs 20, disaster struck the Bills. Allen threw a pass that bounced off of the receiver’s hands and was intercepted by Fenton. Fenton returned it 30 yards to the Chiefs 42. Homes hit Kelce for 12 and ran for 9 himself. On 3rd and 1 from the Buffalo 34, Williams gained 5. Mahomes hit Hill for 12. Williams gained 11. On 3rd and goal at the 5, Mahomes went to Kelce for the touchdown to make it 38-15 Chiefs midway through the fourth quarter. 

The Bills got a garbage touchdown with 4 minutes left but Sean McDermott inexplicably went for 2. The attempt failed. So even though the Bills recovered the onside kick, they were down by 17 at 38-21 rather than 16. Bass hit a 51 yard field goal to get the Bills within 14 but there would be no miracle Buffalo comeback like in 1993. The next onside kick failed. The defending champion Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl to try and become the first team since New England in 2003-2004 to win two straight Super Bowls. That quarterback was Brady, who in the 2018 AFC Title Game denied the Chiefs what in retrospect would be 3 straight Super Bowl trips. Nevertheless, returning to the big game makes Andy Reid a most happy Walrus indeed. 38-24 Chiefs

Super Bowl XL (55) is set for Sunday, February 7 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time on CBS. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFC) vs Kansas City Chiefs (AFC) will be played in Tampa, Florida.

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