Packers fall to Buccaneers in NFC title game, 31-26

Green Bay rally falls short; franchise denied a trip to Super Bowl

Packers defense

GREEN BAY – A horrible sequence of plays at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half doomed the Packers on Sunday as they lost the NFC Championship Game to the Buccaneers, 31-26 at Lambeau Field.

Tampa Bay scored on a long TD pass in the final seconds of the first half and then added another TD when the Packers fumbled on the opening drive of the second half, setting up QB Tom Brady with a short field.

The Buccaneers led at that point 28-10. Green Bay rallied with the help of three interceptions on defense, but the Packers only scored six points off those turnovers and came up short.

It's the fourth straight loss for the Packers in the NFC title game over a seven-year span.

On the day, QB Aaron Rodgers was 33-of-48 for 346 yards with three TDs, one interception and a 101.6 passer rating. WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught four passes for 115 yards, including a 50-yard TD. WR Davante Adams added nine catches for 67 yards and a TD.

RBs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams combined for 50 rushing yards on 13 attempts, with AJ Dillon adding 17 yards on three runs. Jones left the game with a chest injury early in the third quarter.

For Tampa Bay, Brady was 20-of-36 for 280 yards with three TDs and the three picks for a 73.8 passer rating. WR Chris Godwin had five catches for 110 yards. RBs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones combined for 71 yards on 22 carries, with Fournette scoring a TD on a 20-yard run.

Here's a recap of all the action:


Buccaneers lead Packers 7-0 after first quarter

The Packers won the opening coin toss and deferred. Green Bay forced Tampa Bay into three third-down situations but Tom Brady completed three passes for 56 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans to give the Buccaneers a 7-0 lead with 10 minutes, 59 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Packers converted their initial first down with a 14-yard pass to Marcedes Lewis in the middle of the field but would have to punt after Aaron Rodgers was sacked on third down.

With Tampa Bay facing third-and-10, Kenny Clark pushed Aaron Stinnie back to sack Brady for a 5-yard loss.

The Packers faced third-and-15 from their own five but Rodgers ran right to extend the play and found Allen Lazard near the sideline for a leaping 23-yard catch. Davante Adams then picked up 15 off a quick flare to end the first quarter.


Buccaneers lead 21-10 at halftime

The Packers tied the game at 7-7 with Rodgers hitting Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a 50-yard touchdown pass after the third-year receiver beat Carlton Davis down the sideline in single coverage.

Tampa Bay answered back, with Brady converting yet another third down with a 52-yard deep ball to Chris Godwin. On the next play, Leonard Fournette spun free of a tackle and pushed the ball in for a 20-yard touchdown run.

The Packers countered with Rodgers finding Valdes-Scantling on a slant for 12 yards against a blitz. Aaron Jones then followed the lead block of a motioning Dominique Dafney for a 12-yard gain into Buccaneers' territory.

The drive would stall at the Tampa Bay 6 with Mason Crosby's 24-yard field goal cutting the Bucs' lead to 14-10 with 4:59 left in the second quarter.

Linebacker Krys Barnes was shaken up on the next series, with Ty Summers replacing him as the Mike linebacker. The Bucs converted a third-and-2 but two Brady incompletions and a 1-yard pass to Fournette gave Green Bay the ball back at its own 13 with 2:17 remaining in the first half.

Rodgers hit Lazard for 23 yards on third-and-6 but was picked off two plays later by Sean Murphy-Bunting. The Buccaneers scored with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Miller to take a 21-10 lead into halftime.


Facing third-and-5 on the first drive of the second half, Rodgers hit Jones on a crosser for two yards before Jordan Whitehead forced the fumble. Devin White recovered the ball and returned it to the Green Bay 8. Jones was injured on the play.

Brady faked the handoff and hit Cam Brate in the back of the end zone for the 8-yard touchdown to push Tampa's lead to 28-10.

With Jones out of the game with a chest injury, Williams rushed for six yards on his first carry on the series. It helped set up a 10-yard slant to Davante Adams to move the chains.

The Packers got down to the Tampa 24 after a 24-yard pass to Valdes-Scantling and a 10-yard pass to Equanimeous St. Brown on back-to-back plays.

A 16-yard pass to Lazard set up first-and-goal from the Bucs' 8-yard line. Green Bay scored on the next play with Rodgers sniping a ball to Robert Tonyan for the touchdown.

The Packers finally got a takeaway of their own on the next series when Brady tried to force a pass to Evans, which Adrian Amos came over the top to pick off at the Green Bay 32.

Rodgers coaxed Ndamukong Suh into jumping offsides for the game's first penalty midway through the third quarter. A Williams 7-yard run, a 4-yard pass to Adams and an 11-yard pass to AJ Dillon moved Green Bay into Tampa territory.

An 11-yard pass to Williams on third-and-3 took the ball down the Buccaneers' 14. Adams caught another pass and took a shot to the helmet from Carlton Davis, setting up first-and-goal from the 2.

Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles sent the house at Rodgers on third-and-goal, and the two-time MVP found Adams on a quick slant for the touchdown to cut the deficit to 28-23 after the failed two-point conversion.


Buccaneers beat Packers 31-26

The defense propelled the Packers into the fourth quarter with Jaire Alexander intercepting Brady on back-to-back series. Unfortunately for Green Bay, the offense would go three-and-out on both possessions.

A 29-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski on second-and-11 set up a 46-yard field goal for Ryan Succop that pushed the Bucs' lead to 31-23 with 4:42 remaining.

The Packers took over at their own 34 with 4:33 left. AJ Dillon kicked off the drive with a 9-yard run. Valdes-Scantling moved over 100 yards receiving with a 29-yard pass down the middle of the field to the Tampa Bay 28.

Adams caught a pass for 11 yards to the Tampa Bay 8. The drive would stall there, resulting in a Crosby 26-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 31-26 with just over two minutes remaining.

Two Fournette runs set up third-and-4 with 1:46 remaining. Brady pulled back for playaction with Tyler Johnson drawing the defensive pass interference against Kevin King for the first down.