By Leo Haggerty


Tampa Bay completed a road warrior trifecta by defeating Green Bay 31-26 at Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon.  The victory allowed the Buccaneers to become the first franchise in National Football League history to play a Super Bowl in the friendly confines of the own stadium.

Nobody can accuse the Pewter Pirates of backing into Super Bowl LV.  Tampa has gone on the road to beat all conference champions starting with #4 seed Washington followed by defeating #2 New Orleans and finished it off by besting #1 Green Bay.

Tampa Bay put points up on the scoreboard just 4:01 into the contest.  After taking the opening kickoff, the Bucs moved 66 yards in nine plays with QB Tom Brady (20-of-36 for 280 yards and 3 TDs plus 3 INTs) connected with WR Mike Evans with a 15 yard strike in the left corner of the end zone. K Ryan Succop hit the PAT and the Buccaneers jumped out to an early 7-0 advantage.

The Packers finally dented the scoreboard at 14:07 of the second period.  QB Aaron Rodger (33-of-48 for 346 yards and 3 TDs along with 1 INT) found WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling down the right sideline for a 50 yard catch and run.  That closed out a 90 yard drive that took seven plays to go 3:42.  K Mason Crosby split the uprights to tie the score at 7 apiece.

It only took the Pewter Pirates 1:43 to retake the lead.  RB Leonard Fournette rambled 20 yards to pay dirt that traversed 73 yards in four plays.  Succop was good with the extra point and that put the Bucs back on top by a score of 14-7.

The Green & Gold cut into the Bucs advantage on their next possession.  Crosby converted a 24 yard field goal that culminated a 15 play drive that travelled 69 yards in 7:25.  That trimmed the Red & Pewter lead to 14-10.

It appeared that would be the final points scored in the first half but that changed quickly.  After Bucs DB Sean Murphy-Bunting picked off Rodgers at the Tampa Bay 49 yard line, Brady found WR Scotty Miller down the left side with a 39 yard aerial with just one tick left in the first half.  That ended a 51 yard drive in five plays that took only 27 seconds of clock time.  Succop successfully converted the PAT and the Bucs moved to a 21-10 advantage much to the chagrin of the shocked Cheesehead fans.

When Miller was asked if Green Bay had dropped into a prevent coverage, would he have run a short out route to move the pigskin closed for a possible field goal.  Miller emphatically responded, “I was going deep no matter what.  Like I said, I thought we were just going to throw it up there.  Then again they us a good look so we could take advantage of a go route ball.”

It went from bad to worse for the Packers after half time.  Just 62 seconds into the third period, the Buccaneers forced a fumble that was scooped up by LB Devin White and returned to Green Bay eight yard line.

It only took the Bucs one play and four seconds to convert the turnover into points at 13:54 of the third period.  Brady found TE Cameron Brate with an eight yard play action pass in the back of the end zone.  Succop’s kick was good again and that gave the Buccaneers what appeared to be an insurmountable 28-10 lead.

The problem was that no one told Rodgers and Company that the outcome was no longer in doubt.  Taking the ensuing kick, the Green & Gold marched 76 yards in eight plays taking 4:26 of clock time with Rodgers finding TE Robert Tonyan with an eight yard strike just over the goal line.  Crosby converted the PAT and that cut the Bucs lead to 28-17.

Green Bay trimmed the Pewter Pirates advantage even farther with just 24 seconds left in the third quarter.  Again, it was through the air as Rodgers found his favorite target in WR Davante Adams with a two yard flip.  That finished off a 13 play drive that traversed 60 yards in 7:30.  The two point play failed so the score stayed at 28-23 in favor of the Bucs.

Tampa Bay stretched it’s lead at 4:42 of the final quarter.  Succop ended an eight play drive that consumed 3:28 going 44 yards with a 46 yard three pointer.  That extended the Pewter Pirates lead to 31-23.

The Pack closed the gap with 2:07 left in regulation.  When the nine play drive that covered 58 yards in 2:37 stalled inside the 10 yard line, Crosby booted a 26 yard field goal that moved Green Bay to within 31-26.

That was the last time the Green & Gold would see the pigskin.  Tampa Bay ran out the clock to punch their ticket to Super Bowl LV and a return contest with the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Now, it’s hurry up and wait as there’s a two week gap until a franchise hoists the coveted Lombardi Trophy.  Look for Rob Kriete and myself to keep you updated as we get closer to kickoff.