Monday, January 25, 2021

Third Down Gets Tampa Going in Win at Green Bay

 By Eric Goska
.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 races.

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 postseason.

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 liability.

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 touchdowns.

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.


Quarterbacks who passed for 100 or more yards on third down in a playoff game against the Packers.
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


  1. Have you done a blog post about Otto Graham, the first starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns? As far as I know, he's the only player to have reached Brady's level of success, playing in 10 Championship Games, 4 consecutive in the All-American Football Conference (winning them all), and six straight in the NFL (winning three).

  2. You have to wonder if LaFleur had confidence in the offense by kicking the FG, rather than going for the TD.

    They needed eight points either way but couldnt stop TB from running out the clock. Rodgers probably should have ran closer to the goalline but hindsight is 20/20 ... Until next season.