We could argue until we're blue in the face about how it happened, what was more important and who deserves the most credit.
But the bottom line is this: Tom Brady is going to his 10th Super Bowl, this time with the Buccaneers after their 31-26 victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
That's just mind-boggling. And Brady is certainly a big reason why this happened, even in Green Bay.
Brady was terrific in the first half, as the Bucs built a 21-10 halftime lead and quickly upped it to 28-10 on their first play of the third quarter after the Packers' Aaron Jones fumbled and it was returned to the Tampa 8. Brady was 14 of 23 for 210 yards and 3 TDs to that point (passer rating of 130.4). The Bucs had converted 7 of 10 third downs, and not many were third-and-short:
3rd and 4
3rd and 9
3rd and 7 (15-yard TD)
3rd and 13
3rd and 9
3rd and 2
Ok, so Brady basically stunk in the second half after the 28-10 lead as he completed just 6 of 13 passes for 70 yards and 3 INTs (passer rating of 23.4). The Bucs don't win that game without Brady's heroics for the first two-plus quarters.
Let's also not gloss over the fact that the Packers had a mighty hand in this with their puzzling game management and then coverage before halftime, miscues, and Matt LaFleur's puzzling decisions (going for 2 and missing too early, kicking a field goal with 2:05 remaining instead of trying on fourth down with league MVP Aaron Rodgers and, at worst, leaving the Bucs at the 8-yard line).
That the Packers had issues had nothing to do with Brady being on the sideline as some sort of boogeyman. This is who they've been since winning the Super Bowl in 1996, save for the run in 2010, especially under Rodgers, when they've chronically underachieved. It's so much part of the fabric there now that even Rodgers talked after the game about how he needs to figure out what his future is: "There’s a lot of unknowns going into this offseason now. And I’m going to have to take some time away for sure and clear my head and just kind of see what’s going on with everything."
Translation: "I'm tired of losing in these spots, and the players and/or coaches around me aren't up to par. I'm sick of it. Maybe I need to go somewhere else to finish my career."
Sunday was like Groundhog Day for the Packers. Doesn't matter who the opponent or the quarterback was, the Packers find a way to underachieve. But, hey, enjoy the wins, points and MVP awards.
Have to give Brady a ton of credit. At 43, he left the ample bosom of New England and Bill Belchick, went to a foreign land, team, players and coaches, and still wound up in the Super Bowl. That's crazy. It certainly eclipses what Joe Montana (AFC Championship Game), Peyton Manning (divisional round) and Brett Favre (NFC Championship Game) did in their first seasons elsewhere.
Not a surprise, considering Brady is better than all of them, which we already knew.
Now let's get into the good stuff, my view of what happened in NFC and AFC championship games (sorry Bills and Josh Allen, pity...):
Buccaneers 31, Packers 26