Bucs 31 Packers 26

Tough pill to swallow, Green Bay.

Jim Rome
January 25, 2021 - 9:19 am
Matt LaFleur

USA Today

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Yesterday was a really rough day for Bill Belichick, Tom Brady haters, and the Green Bay Packers. Really, really rough. Because Tom Brady and his new team are going back to the Super Bowl again and Bill Belichick is sitting at home, grumbling and muttering.

Over the next two weeks, there is going to be a lot to say about Brady and the Bucs, so I’m actually going to keep it brief today, but I don’t care how much you hate the guy and his LAME  social media, you have to admit, what he’s done this season is pretty damn impressive.

Yes, I know that he handpicked a team that is loaded with weapons on offense and has a ton of talent on defense. I know that he went to the best spot he could find. And that he got his old tight end out of retirement. And brought in Mr. Big Chest. I know there is more talent on this Bucs team than on this year’s Pats team. But still, he’s going back to the Super Bowl. Again. In his first season. With a new team. And a new coach. And a new scheme.  And no offseason or preseason to speak of.

And if you’re really being honest, at times in the first half yesterday, he looked younger and fresher and stronger than ever. It was a laser show. I see that and I’m swearing off nightshades for the rest of my life.  I see that, and I’m wondering is dude still selling his recovery pajamas.  And how much do they cost.? Hell I don’t care what they cost.  I have to get some.  Oh and that 200 dollar coffee book table: gimme a couple of those.  I ‘m watching this guy in the first half, at 43, on the road, in the NFC title game and I’m thinking, how the hell is that even possible?

And then, when he started handing out interceptions like they were avocado ice cream cones, his defense bailed him out, time and time again. Which reminds me, you better start giving Todd Bowles some love, because his defense has carried has picked that team up time and time again.

And yes, even though the refs let both teams play, they sure did come out with a really convenient flag for Tampa when they needed it most. I’m not saying that wasn’t pass interference by Kevin King on 3rd and four with 1:46 to go in the game and the Packers needing a stop to get the ball back.

But I am saying that wasn’t pass interference for the 58 minutes that came before it.

Again, there will be plenty of time to talk about Brady and the Bucs and what they’ve done. There is a very high risk of hitting Jerome Bettis is From Detroit levels of talk about Brady and the Bucs and the fact that they’re playing the Super Bowl at home.  We’ll get to that. All of that. Because we have two weeks for that. 

But for now, and I hate to do this Packer fans, we’ve got to talk about two moments from yesterday, what they meant to the game, and what they might mean to the future of the team.

And you know the moments I’m talking about. The first one came with 34 seconds left in the first half, when Sean Murphy-Bunting picked off Aaron Rodgers at midfield. Not an ideal outcome given that Green Bay had hoped to get points at the end of the half and then get the ball to start the second.

But the defense came up with stops on first, second, and third down. And then came fourth down and Tampa Bay’s decision not to punt and instead to try to pick up the first down.  Not surprising at all that they’d try. The shock was initially, when it looked as if they were going to punt. Of course they were going to go for it. Why would you punt there? Why would you even send the punt team onto the field?

But then it got worse for Green Bay, so much worse.

Because not only did the Bucs get the first down, they got this:

No risk it, no biscuit. And Brady was shoveling biscuits into his face like they were made of alkalizing vegetables.

That throw from Brady was as good as that coverage was terrible. I am really not sure what defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was thinking by dialing that up on the final play of the half. What did you think was going to happen there.

I’m not going to say it was the worst call ever, but Tony Dungy will. Keep in mind, this is Tony Dungy: Tony Dungy is not known for slinging lava: or delivering the straight fire. That’s not his deal. But it was after he saw how the half ended: he grabbed his phone and thumbed out the following: That may be the worst defensive design I’ve ever seen with 8 seconds and no timeouts left. Green Bay—I’m not sure how you play inside technique man to man and not just play zone and protect the sideline and the end zone? Amazing.

You know you’ve messed up when Tony Dungy is ripping your play call on twitter and calling it “the worst defensive design I’ve ever seen.” If Tony Dungy is unloading on you, you know you’ve done something really stupid. If you see a tweet like that, from that guy, and you’re the guy who dialed up that play, you just shake everyone’s hand and pack up your office. Triple G, Gregg Williams couldn’t believe that play call. And neither could Packers head coach Matt LaFleur who said: "It was man coverage -- definitely not the right call for the situation." The head coach just running his dee coordinator under the bus. And understandably so, because it really was that bad. 

But then, in the second half, LaFleur pushed Pettine aside and said, hold my beer. Because with just over two minutes left in the game, LaFleur made the call that may very well haunt him for the rest of his career. And may change the course of this franchise.

Fourth and goal from the eight, down by eight, LaFleur elected to kick a field goal instead of attempting to tie the game. And I know the offense had stalled out on the previous three plays. I know there may have been opportunities for Rodgers to scramble on one or two of those plays, but that fourth down call is going down in history.

Because you simply cannot make that call. You cannot elect to give the ball back to Tom Brady and dare him to run just over two minutes off the clock to get to a Super Bowl. I don’t care that he’d thrown interceptions on three straight drives in the fourth quarter, this is Tom Brady. You give the ball to him, and you’re not getting the ball back. That’s just a fact. It’s not happening. Especially if you take the ball out of your own MVP’s hands.  Think about that: you just ripped the ball from the soon to be league MVP and one the greatest to ever do it, to give it to the actual greatest to ever do it.?! The hell is that?? Is there anyone, anywhere, not named Matt LaFleur who thought that Aaron Rodgers was going to touch the ball again after that decision?  Hell no.

So what do you have to say for yourself, coach? I know they had three timeouts and the two-minute warning. I know they thought they could get a stop and they nearly did. But you are talking about giving the ball back to Brady with a Super Bowl trip on the line. You know how this goes. Or at least you should.

And it’s not just that he took the field goal over the chance at a touchdown, it’s that he went with his defense over Aaron Rodgers. And that is the kind of thing that is going to leave a mark.

Here is Rodgers talking about that decision.

It wasn’t my decision. That is one hell of a statement. And it’s completely correct. Not only was the fourth down not his decision, but if he knew LaFleur was going to kick a field goal, he probably would’ve been more aggressive on third down.

As he said, "I thought maybe we were gonna have four chances to go.” But he never got that fourth chance. He thought it was two down territory. I don’t know Matty. Maybe you actually communicate to your hall of famer: maybe you tell him, before third down: big dude, this is NOT two down territory, punch it right now, because if you don’t, I’m taking the points. But apparently that’s not what he did. Rodgers had to be what the bleep when he saw Mason Crosby and the field goal team come out. 

No wonder Rodgers wasn’t exactly enthusiastic when discussing his future with the team after the game. Can you blame him??! He probably had John L Smith running through his head on repeat. Of course, he was no mood to discuss his future with the team after that went down: "[The Packers have] a lot of guys' futures that are uncertain -- myself included. That's what's sad about it, most, getting this far. Obviously, it's going to be an end at some point, whether we make it past this one or not, but just the uncertainty's tough and finality of it all."

He was also asked how the team will take the next step. 

“I don’t know, I really don’t. 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. But it’s pretty tough right now, especially thinking about the guys that may or may not be here next year. There’s always change. That’s the only constant in this business.”

I get that guys are going to be, as Rodgers said, “Gutted” after a loss like that. It was completely and totally gutting. So I’m not going to hold him to what he says in an emotional time like that. But honestly, and I never thought I’d say this, I would understand if he wanted to leave.

He and the team battled through so much this year just to get to this point, he passed for 48 tds and 5 interceptions, he’s the league MVP, and even while he was facing the most pressure he’s ever faced in a playoff game, he still threw for nearly 350 yards, three touchdowns, and just one pick. Brady is going to get all this glory and adulation, and understandably, but Rodgers absolutely was the better player on the field: is the better player right how. And did everything he was supposed to do. 

And he just had another trip to the Super Bowl ripped from him in brutal fashion. And he’s got to be wondering if his coach believes in him. And the fact that the team used a first round pick, that might’ve come in handy yesterday, on a quarterback who was holding a clipboard.

You see that and then you see what happened when Brady went to a new situation and is now going to a Super Bowl, and you might start looking elsewhere. I would hate to see him leave. It would just feel wrong. But I would completely get it if he did. I would love to see this start and finish in the same place: but if they’re not all in on him, how can you expect him to be all in on them?! 

Just Know this – he’s not done. He’s not even close to done. He just played arguably the greatest season of his career. He might really have played his last down in Green Bay, but this guy isn’t anywhere close to done. Question is, do the Packers run it back again and this time do right by him? Because if they’re not going to, someone else might. And he owes to himself to find out who it is. Because he doesn’t have to look any further than the guy who he just outplayed, who has exactly what he wants: another shot at the trophy. I can’t imagine seeing Aaron Rodgers in someone else’s gear. But maybe it’s time. And not because of anything he said or did. He did his job. He always does.