(WFRV) – It’s been more than a decade since the Packers hosted an NFC Championship Game. For the Buccaneers it’s been even longer since they were even there.
On Sunday afternoon, the one time division rivals (remember the good old days of the NFC Central) square off with a trip to the Super Bowl in Tampa on the line.
Of course there are plenty of big storylines for a game of this magnitude. Starting under center with a pair of quarterbacks who will one day be enshrined in Canton, Ohio: Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
Both quarterbacks put up great stats in 2020, but Rodgers was slightly better than his Buccaneers counterpart. Rodgers appears poised for his third MVP award after tossing 48 touchdowns, a new career high and franchise record, and just five interceptions during the regular season. Add on another pair of TDs against the Rams in the divisional round, and Green Bay is back in the NFC Championship Game for the second straight year.
“This is just another one of those special moments in my career. It’s great obviously fodder for media outlets. Obviously, Tommy’s had an amazing career. I remember when I heard the news about him coming to the NFC I thought this was a real possibility, and I’m excited about the opportunity to play against him one more time,” said Aaron Rodgers.
Brady is no stranger to a conference championship game, just not this one, after reaching 13 AFC title games with the Patriots. Now Brady is looking for his seventh Super Bowl ring, but to get to the big game he has to go through Lambeau Field in the NFC.
“It gives us a great opportunity to go on the road again, to beat one of the great football teams in our league. Packers were in the NFC Championship Game last year and I know what kind of team they are, what they’re capable of. They’ve got a great offense, one of the best in the league, talented defense, really well-coached, so that’s how it should be, you know? The two best teams in the conference should be getting together and seeing how it all goes down,” said Tom Brady.
The two teams have already squared off this year with Tampa Bay taking the first meeting back in October. Brady got the better of the Packers, but only had to throw for 166 yards and a pair of scores to do it.
A major reason, a Buccaneers defense that picked off Rodgers twice. That could be considered significant because Rodgers threw just five all season.
“I think the Bucs defense is as balanced of a defense, they’ve got stars on all three levels, and they’re very, very aggressive,” said Packers head coach Matt LaFleur.
Protecting the Rock
Turnovers have been a big key to that defense. A week ago in the divisional round they got four turnovers against Drew Brees and the Saints offense. This week will be a different challenge heading into a game against the Packers team that has protected the ball all season. Turning it over just 11 times.
“This is a whole different football team that we’re about to face. We’re a different football team at our own right, but this is going to be a different ball game. A lot is at stake right here, so focus on the right now, that’s us getting better at practice today and whenever Sunday comes, we gotta be able to execute at a very high level,” said Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David.
“Put the focus on taking care of that football. because we know, these teams like this, this is where they thrive, taking that thing away and not just as a defense, but as a team, they’re gonna benefit from it because you get short fields off turnovers. Our awareness as far as how we go about taking care of the ball is gone up even more so than last time,” said Packers wide receiver Davante Adams.
Adams has been a big key for the Packers this season as Rodgers number one threat in the passing game. Accounting for 19 touchdowns, including the postseason, and more than 1,400 yards, Adams has been a key to the Green Bay’s success as an offense.
He was coming off an injury in the first meeting, and was held to just 66 yards on six receptions.
Green Bay Ground Game
A way to take some of the pressure off Adams, especially when it comes to playoff football, is with the ground game. Green Bay’s three headed monster of Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and rookie AJ Dillon has been huge down the stretch for the Packers offense.
“I’m used to the field, I know where I’m going, I know where I want to go, so I think I have the advantage, and like I said it’s our home field. We know what it is out there when we get out there,” said Aaron Jones.
Both Jones and Dillon had games of over 100 yards in the last two contests, and Williams averaged 5.4 yards a carry against Los Angeles a week ago.
The Packers defense has a new but familiar face in the secondary. Green Bay elevated cornerback Tramon Williams from the practice squad ahead of Sunday’s game after signing him earlier in the week after the veteran was released by Baltimore.
He will become the first player in NFL history to play for two different teams during a single postseason by taking the field against the Buccaneers on Sunday.
Williams, who spent the bulk of his 14 year NFL career with the Packers, provides depth and veteran leadership in a young secondary. That could be useful with cornerback Kevin King listed as questionable against Tampa Bay.