|.Tom Brady threw for 157 yards on third down against the Packers
Tom Brady needs another Super Bowl appearance as much as he needs another fistful of dollars.
The greatest quarterback to ever play the game will get both
as Tampa Bay fended off the Packers 31-26 at Lambeau Field. Green Bay’s
supposed home-field advantage failed to materialize as the Buccaneers, who
never trailed, secured the right to play into February.
Some athletes never seem to be denied. Sprinter Usain Bolt
is an eight-time Olympic gold medalist. Tennis ace Rafael Nadal captured 12
French Open singles titles. Hurdler Edwin Moses prevailed in 122 consecutive
Brady, despite throwing picks on three consecutive
second-half possessions, has now ascended to the league’s greatest stage for a record
10th time. He will be the first quarterback to compete for the Vince Lombardi
trophy on his home field. And, according to Athlon Sports, he and his teammates
will receive $59,000 apiece for having won the NFC championship game.
All is right in the universe.
The 43-year-old’s stat line on Sunday’s was far from other-worldly.
In compiling a passer rating of 73.8, the former Patriot completed 20 of 36
passes for 280 yards while pitching three touchdowns and three interceptions.
But it was Brady’s mastery of third down in the first half that
gave Tampa the upper hand. He torched Green Bay as never before in the
Brady converted three third downs on the Buccaneers’ opening
drive. He floated a 27-yarder to Mike Evans on 3rd-and-4, he hit Chris Godwin
near the sideline for 14 on 3rd-and-9, and he lofted a 15-yarder to Evans over
cornerback Kevin King for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The ageless wonder then converted one third down on each of
Tampa’s next three advances. Godwin was his accomplice each time, hauling in a
long of 52 that set up Leonard Fournette’s 20-yard touchdown run that sent the
Buccaneers out front for good at 14-7.
Those third-down connections made up for deficiencies
elsewhere. Drops by Fournette and others became immaterial. A running attack limited to just one gain of more than four yards in the first half never became a
Brady’s third-down string ended with just over two minutes
remaining in the second quarter. With linebacker Za’Darius Smith bearing down,
Brady failed to hit tight end Cameron Brate near the Packers’ 40-yard line. Bradley
Pinion then punted for a second time.
By then, the damage had been done. Brady’s six third-down
passes accounted for 141 of Tampa’s 235 first-half yards. In less than 30
minutes of game time, he had accumulated more passing yards on that down than
any other quarterback had in 59 previous playoff games against Green Bay.
Then, for good measure, Brady struck once more. He found
rookie receiver Tyler Johnson for 16 on third down early in the fourth quarter.
In all, Brady completed seven of 11 third-down throws for
157 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Cornerback Jaire Alexander came
away with the pick on Brady’s final third-down attempt.
Brady joins Daunte Culpepper (106), Don Meredith (101) and
Matt Ryan (101) as the only players to have thrown for 100 or more yards on
third down in a playoff game against the Packers. He is the first to have completed
his first six throws.
Brady’s proficiency meant Tampa gained more yards on third
down (160) than it down on first (118) or second down (67). The two other teams
to have done that against Green Bay in the playoffs – the Giants in 1962 and
the 49ers in 1997 – both lost.
Speaking of third down, Aaron Rodgers enjoyed a decent
outing as well. The veteran connected on 8-of-11 throws for 129 yards and two
With those scores, Rodgers became the first Packers player
to throw two TDs on third down in more than one postseason outing. He also
fired two against Dallas in a 26-21 win at Lambeau Field on Jan. 11, 2015.
Unfortunately, Rodgers became the only Packer to have
launched two in defeat. The others – Arnie Herber (1936) and Lynn Dickey (1983)
– did so in victory.
Yards Name Team Date Result
157 Tom Brady Buccaneers Jan. 24, 2021 GB lost, 26-31
106 Daunte Culpepper Vikings Jan. 9, 2005 GB lost, 17-31
101 Don Meredith Cowboys Jan. 1, 1967 GB won, 34-27
101 Matt Ryan Falcons Jan. 22, 2017 GB lost, 21-44