GREEN BAY, Wis. — Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ road magic have them heading home to the Super Bowl, the first team to play in one on their home field.
Brady owns six Super Bowl rings with New England and now heads to his 10th NFL championship game with his new team. With help from a stifling pass rush and a curious late call on fourth and goal by the Packers, Brady and the Bucs beat top-seeded Green Bay 31-26 for the NFC title Sunday.
The Bucs (14-5) earned their franchise-record eighth consecutive road victory to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since their 2002 championship season.
They were helped by a strange decision by Packers coach Matt LaFleur with just over two minutes remaining and down by five points. On fourth-and-goal, he elected to kick a field goal. Tampa Bay then ran out the clock on the Packers (14-4).
The Bucs will face either the Kansas City Chiefs or Buffalo Bills at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7.
Green Bay trailed 31-23 and had first-and-goal from the 8 in the last few minutes. But after Aaron Rodgers threw three straight incompletions, the Packers settled for Mason Crosby’s 26-yard field goal with 2:05 left.
The Packers had all three timeouts left and were hoping their defense could force a punt. The Bucs foiled that plan, draining the rest of the clock, helped by a pass interference penalty on Kevin King.
Led by Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul combining for five sacks, Tampa Bay snapped Green Bay’s seven-game winning streak. 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 and one interception, but fell to 1-4 in conference championship games as a starting quarterback.
The Bucs built a 28-10 lead early in the third quarter thanks to Brady’s three touchdown passes, including a 39-yarder to Scotty Miller with 1 second left until halftime. Brady went 20 of 36 for 280 yards.
The Packers rallied as Brady threw interceptions on three straight drives for just the second time in his career. Green Bay cut the lead to 28-23 late in the third quarter on Rodgers’ touchdown passes to Robert Tonyan and Davante Adams.