For the first time, a team will play a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
The Buccaneers defeated the Packers 31-26 in the NFC Championship Game, and will host Sunday’s winner of the AFC Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7.
But like another conference championship in recent memory, Sunday’s game was not without controversy.
The officials had largely kept their flags in their pockets throughout the game, calling just six penalties. But the most consequential came with 1:46 left.
On third-and-4 from the Tampa Bay 37, Tom Brady‘s pass over the middle to Tyler Johnson fell incomplete. But Packers cornerback Kevin King held the back of Johnson’s jersey and was called for pass interference. It gave the Buccaneers a free first down and effectively ended the game.
The Buccaneers had the ball because with 2:09 left, Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur elected to kick a field goal on fourth-and-8. The three points cut Tampa Bay’s lead from eight to five — meaning a touchdown would have put the Packers ahead even before the extra point. But LaFleur was also betting on his defense to stop Tampa Bay’s offense.
That proved to be a bad gamble.
Though Green Bay’s defense struggled at times to stop Brady, the club did pick off the quarterback three times. Brady hadn’t thrown three picks in a playoff game since losing to Baltimore in 2009.
But the Packers went three-and-out after both of their fourth-quarter interceptions, wasting the extra possessions.
Brady finished the game 20-of-36 passing for 280 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Aaron Rodgers finished 33-of-48 passing for 346 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. That pick was toward the end of the first half, and led to Brady’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Miller that gave Tampa Bay a 21-10 lead at the break.
Fortunately for the Buccaneers, the NFC is the home team for Super Bowl LV, which means they’ll be able to use their own locker room for the contest.