The Green Bay Packers won the toss to start the game and elected to receive. It meant Tom Brady and the Buccaneers had the first opportunity of the game.
They did not waste it.
Brady engineered a 66-yard drive, helped by two crucial third-down catches by both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin that took 4:01 off the clock and ended in the end zone. Brady hit Evans for 15 yards on a beautiful fade route right in the corner of the end zone. The good point after by Ryan Succop meant the Bucs took an early 7-0 lead with just under 11 minutes to go in the first quarter.
Green Bay's first possession would end after only a couple first downs. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' backs got them to their own 42-yard line before they ran into the brick wall that is the Bucs' run defense. Two straight stops brought up third down and 10 when none other than nose tackle Vita Vea helped to collapse the pocket from the interior, forcing Rodgers on the run where he ran into outside linebacker Shaq Barrett for the sack. The Packers would punt and the Bucs would take over with 7:33 left in the first quarter.
The next Bucs' drive got as far as midfield before they were stalled by a couple incompletions and then a big third-down sack of Brady by nose tackle Kenny Clark. A good punt by Pinion then pinned the Packers at their own 10 with 2:49 remaining in the first quarter.
The Packers were able to continue their next drive despite the Bucs forcing them into a third and 17 from their own five-yard line thanks to another sack on Rodgers by Jason Pierre-Paul. They then took that drive all the way down the field as Rodgers delivered a bomb to Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 50-yard touchdown less than a minute into the second quarter. The good point after by Mason Crosby tied the game at seven-all with 14:07 left in the half.
Tampa Bay wouldn't take that lying down as Brady came up huge on third down as he aired it out for Godwin, who made a circus catch of his own, gaining 52 yards in the process. One play later and Fournette was in the end zone for another Buccaneers touchdown after just 1:43. Tampa Bay increased took back the lead, 14-7, with 12:24 left in the second quarter.
The Packers would take their next drive all the way to the six-yard line thanks to a well-balanced mix of rushes and passes. The Bucs' defense stood up though and forced the Packers to settle for a field goal after forcing back to back incompletions from Rodgers to Adams. The Bucs hung onto their lead, 14-10, halfway through the second quarter.
The next drive for the Buccaneers would stall despite another incredible first-down catch by Godwin. Tampa Bay got stopped around midfield and was forced to punt, giving the ball back to the Packers just before the two-minute warning.
The next Green Bay drive would end abruptly. After Pierre-Paul got his second sack on Rodgers on first down, Rodgers was then intercepted on second and 17 when cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting wrestled the ball away from Lazard.
The Bucs went tried three times for a first down and didn't get it. They then sent the punt team out with 13 seconds on the clock but then took a timeout to think it over. The offense trotted back out and went for it on fourth down and four. Brady got Fournette on a checkdown and then with eight seconds left, aired the ball out for Scotty Miller, who blew right past Packers cornerback Kevin King and caught the 39-yard score in the end zone. The Bucs went into halftime up 21-10.
The Packers' next drive would again end abruptly as Jones fumbled the ball after a short pass from Rodgers. It was forced by safety Jordan Whitehead for his second of the game but this time it was recovered by Devin White, giving him two fumble recoveries in two straight games. White returned it to the eight-yard-line.
The very first play of the drive was a play-action pass by Brady to Brate in the back of the end zone for the score. It put the Bucs up 28-10 with 13:54 in the third quarter.
This time, the Packers would answer, driving the length of the field thanks to some finesse by Rodgers. The scoring drive ended in an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Robert Tonyan to cut into the Bucs' lead. The Bucs got the ball back leading 28-17 with 9:28 left in the third quarter.
Then, it was the Packers' turn to end a Bucs' drive short as safety Adrian Amos picked off Brady. It was Brady's first interception on the road since Week One in New Orleans. The Packers then took 7:30 off the clock in a 13-play drive that ended in a Rodgers to Adams touchdown. It didn't help that the Bucs were now playing with backup safeties Mike Edwards and Andrew Adams after Jordan Whitehead suffered a shoulder injury. The Packers went for two on the play and St. Brown dropped the ball in the end zone to keep the score 28-23 near the end of the third quarter.
Mickens returned the ensuing kickoff 43 yards and the Bucs started with good field position. The Bucs' offense threatened to score when Brady went to Evans but the ball was a little high. It went off Evans' fingertips and was then intercepted to prevent the Bucs from scoring. Green Bay took over at their own 19 with 12:20 left in the game.
The Bucs' defense stood up on the next drive and forced the Packers into a three and out after Shaq Barrett got his second sack on Rodgers, dropping him for a loss of 10 on third down. The Packers punted and the Bucs would start the next drive at their own 38-yard line with 10:39 remaining in the game.
View photos of Tampa Bay's NFC Championship Game vs. the Green Bay Packers.
Tampa Bay started with good field position but then the drive ended abruptly again. Brady was under pressure and he let the ball go deep to Evans on third and short but underthrew him. It was picked by Jaire Alexander to give the Packers the ball back at their own 24-yard line.
The defense held up AGAIN and forced a three-and-out thanks in large part to another sack on Rodgers from Barrett. That made three sacks for Shaq and five total on Rodgers, matching the most he'd been sacked all season. The Packers punted, down 28-23 to the Bucs, with 8:10 left in the game.
The Bucs would run the clock down to 4:42 on their next drive but would stall in Green Bay territory. They settled for a 46-yard field goal try which was good thanks to Succop. It put the Bucs up 31-23 with 4:42 to go in the game. A confusing return would have the Packers starting at their own 34-yard line. They'd get as far as the Bucs' eight-yard-line before the defense would stop the Packers three straight times. Crosby then kicked the 26-yard field goal on fourth down and the Packers gave the ball back to the Bucs with 2:02 left in the game still down 31-26.
The first play of the Bucs' drive was a play action pass to Evans, taking the game to the two-minute warning. Green Bay got called for encroachment and gave the Bucs the first down then let them run the ball with all three timeouts. Bucs ran again. Green Bay took another time out. Then, the Packers got called for defensive pass interference on third down, gifting the Bucs a fresh set of down with 1:32 to go. Tampa Bay ran the ball on first down and the refs deemed that the Packers had 12-men on the field. It gave the Packers their last timeout back which they took on the next play. It was second and six for the Bucs with 1:32 left and they ran it again. Fournette got one yard to make it third and five. Bucs took their first timeout of the half to think it over a bit after draining the clock. There was 48 seconds left on the clock and the Bucs had third and five and they gave the ball to Godwin on an end around who got a first down. A kneel down later and the Bucs won, 31-26 to earn a Super Bowl berth in their own stadium.