7:00 A.M. (EASTERN TIME)
- Rob Demovsky
- Packers for the Green Bay Press Gazette from 1997 to 2013.
- Two-time Wisconsin Sportswriter of the Year, selected by the National Association of Sports Broadcasters and Editors.
- Jenna Lane.
- Covers the Buccaneers since 2009.
- With ESPN since 2016
For years, the Super Bowl was the only hope for Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers to meet. When Rodgers did, Brady of the New England Patriots was knocked out by the New York Jets…. Jets! – in the divisional round after the 2010 season.
They went nine times in the same season, but never met.
All it took was Brady going to the NFC this season, and here they are. Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in the battle for Super Bowl eligibility (Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET, Fox).
I remember when I heard the news that he was joining the NFC, I thought it was a real possibility, Rodgers said this week. And I look forward to the chance to play his role again.
If they couldn’t meet in the Super Bowl, that would be for the best, given everything they have in common – except Super Bowl titles, of course.
You are one of the most effective quarterbacks in NFL history. Rodgers has eight seasons with 4,000 yards and fewer than 10 interceptions. Brady has six. No one has had more than two in NFL history.
Three quarterbacks have led the NFL in interception percentage at least four times: Sammy Baugh (five times), Rodgers (five times) and Brady (four times).
They totaled 130,449 career yards and 993 touchdown passes, the most in a conference championship that began in the quarterfinals. And their combined age of 80 years and 227 days is the oldest starting quarterback ever seen in a conference championship.
Rogers, 37, will start in the fifth conference and Brady, 43, in the 14th.
They met at the start of the sixth week of the season, just the third time in the regular season. They finally met in the post-season.
Better chance to make the playoffs this year
Season 2011: The Packers were the reigning Super Bowl champions in 2011 and confirmed it in the regular season with a 15-1 victory. The Patriots were 13-3 and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. New England contributed by passing the Ravens in the conference championship game, but the Packers were swept in the divisional round by Eli Manning and the Giants, beating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
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Season 2014: Three years later, in the second half of the 2014 NFC title game in Seattle, the Packers led 16-0 and still by 12 points when Morgan Burnett’s interception gave them the ball back with five minutes left – a lead they lost in overtime. The Patriots beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.
Season 2016: Two years later, the Packers were down 4-6 and then, as Rodgers said, they advanced to the NFC championship game. But they were defeated by the Falcons, who took a 28-3 lead over the Patriots in Super Bowl LI in the third quarter.
The most amazing statistics
Brady: 34 Completions on routes of 20 or more airports. There has been a lot of talk this season about whether Brady had the strength to out perform Bruce Arians very high level. No risk, no attack on the cookie. It was such a stark contrast to what he was doing in New England. But Brady’s 34 targets on passes over 20 yards in the air led the NFL. It was also a career high. Just as impressive: Brady made 21 more attempts than Chief Patrick Mahomes, and their completion percentages were nearly identical: Mahomes is 38.8% and Brady is 38.6%. — Lane.
Aaron Rodgers of the Packers has averaged less than seven interceptions per season during his 13 years as a starter. Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports
Rodgers: 412 touchdowns and 89 interceptions in his career. When Rodgers threw 400 touchdown passes this season, he had thrown just 88 pitches in his career – the lowest number of quarterbacks at the time of his 400th career touchdown. That’s an average of just under seven interceptions over his 13-year career. However, Rodgers made more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (eight) against the Buccaneers, the only team to show such a disparity with Rodgers. This includes two 38-10 losses against the Bucs in Week 6, one of three Rodgers has ever pitched (two of them against the Bucs). — Demovsky
The biggest challenge of the season to get here
Brady: Because he didn’t work the offseason, Brady didn’t have much time to hang out with his teammates and work with the Arians. On several occasions during the season, the offense seemed disjointed and the secondary couldn’t carry its weight. By the end of the season, the Bucs had only beaten one team with a record of wins – the Packers in Week 6. They were swept aside by the New Orleans Saints by a 46-point margin and lost by three points to the Los Angeles Rams and Chiefs in Weeks 11 and 12, respectively. They won four straight to finish the season with the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs, but those wins came against teams that finished the year with a combined score of 20-44. — Lane.
Ryan Clark looks to Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in the game for the NFC title. He says they are two of the best quarterbacks he has ever seen.
Rogers: Injuries to his offensive line. The Packers had one of the best offensive lines in the game with two All-Pro selections – left tackle David Bakhtiari and center-half Corey Linsley. Bakhtiary missed three games due to broken ribs in the middle of the season and then lost the ACL the week of the regular season finale. Linsley missed three games before hurting his knee. This all happened after Lane Taylor injured his knee at the season opener and was ruled out for the year. During all that time, Rodgers was only discharged 20 times and was never reported injured, or even limited to a single practice. After Saturday’s win over the Rams, he called the game a star on the line and pointed to Billy Turner – who has played right guard and both tackle positions this season – as an unsung hero. — Demovsky
Brady: He took perhaps the biggest professional risk of his career when he joined Tampa Bay, a team that hadn’t been in the postseason for 13 years before his arrival. The fact that they are here and playing in the NFC Championship game is so illogical and absurd without the offseason and as a wild card team on the road. But Brady won’t be happy if it ends here. He wants to build on his seventh Super Bowl title and his legacy as the best quarterback of all time. Many have attributed its success over the years to Bill Belichick and the Patriots system. Critics pointed to his age and said he would not be able to function in an Aryan passing offense. Brady is grateful for the time he spent in New England, but this was his chance to get out of that period. — Lane.
Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers totaled 130,449 career passes and 993 TD passes, the most passes in a conference championship starting QB game. AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio
Rogers: Everything Rogers has done has been compared to Brett Favre. Rodgers will crown the MVP, assuming Rodgers wins third as planned. He is tied with Favre for total Super Bowl victories (one), but Favre still managed to get to his second Super Bowl, and his heroics took place in two consecutive seasons. Rodgers would have the longest gap between two Super Bowls as a quarterback in NFL history if he made another one (nine seasons). Mr. Rodgers is the only multiple MVP award winner who has not participated in several Super Bowl/NFL championships. — Demovsky
Why every BQ should be confident of its chances
Here’s what’s possible for Tom Brady with a win on Sunday:
– Participation in the 10. Super Bowl (already has the most time)
– Won the seventh Super Bowl (already has the most time of any player)
– Oldest player in any position to play the Super Bowl
– Only a 40-year-old QB to ever start in the Super Bowl, and he has done so twice
– Third QB, To play the title game in three decades (Johnny Unitas, Norm Van Brocklin)
– Fourth QB to start Super Bowl for multiple franchises (Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Craig Morton)
– Second QB to start Super Bowl for multiple franchises (Peyton Manning)
Brady: They’ve already beaten the Packers this season. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has one of his best called games, and the second is this team’s Achilles’ heel – perhaps the biggest game of the season against New Orleans. The Saints finished their offense on the field as the Bucs’ receivers were very well covered, but the Tampa Bay defense forced four turnovers and held Drew Brees to just 57.1 percent. Temperatures are expected to hover around 20 degrees on Sunday, which would seem to favor the Packers, but Brady outscored the Packers 34-8 in the regular season and postseason, with temperatures of 32 degrees or less during the game. It looks like the Bucs found something on the floor on one of Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette’s two punts. They also now have another receiving gun in Antonio Brown, which was not on their list in week six. He led the Bucs to goals in the final five weeks of the season, though his status was pending with a knee injury. — Lane.
Rogers: Should Rodgers be? If it were any other team, their confidence would be priceless considering they are the most productive offense in the NFL. Last week, against the league’s most prolific defense, they defeated the 32 Rams in the divisional playoff round. But don’t forget what the Bucs did to him in week six. At 10-0, Rogers’ pick-6 (from Jamel Dean) opened the floodgates. Lavonte’s quick inside combinations David and Devin White dominated the game. Rodgers was sacked four times, one of only two games of the season in which he was sacked more than twice. — Demovsky
What are their prospects for 2021 and beyond?
Brady: Brady is in the second year of a two-year, $50 million contract. Arians is entering his third five-year contract. Sources tell ESPN he has time to train Brady. The organization is determined to give Brady what he needs. Rob Gronkowski has already agreed to return next season. Brown and Fournette said how much they enjoy being a part of this team. The Bucs will have a $30 million salary cap and will also have to re-sign receiver Chris Godwin to give Brady his full arsenal, in addition to outside linebackers Shaq Barrett and David. If they can get those key pieces back, they will surely surpass what they did this season. — Lane.
Tom Brady led the Buccaneers to their first NFC championship game since the 2002 season, when they won the Super Bowl. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Rogers: In his own words, Rodgers’ future is a wonderful mystery. It’s impossible to imagine the Packers dropping Rodgers after a season like this, but how many years does he have left in Green Bay with Jordan Love in town? Maybe love will be what Jimmy Garoppolo was to Brady in New England: exchanging bait. Brady was 37 years old when Garoppolo was a rookie in New England, and Brady outperformed him there. Rogers turned 37 last month. He acknowledged that the Packers’ decision to date Love means he may not be able to leave Green Bay on his own terms, but he should have at least one more year – and another Super Bowl appearance – around here. — Demovsky
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