GREEN BAY, Wis. — With the MVP favorite under center, fourth down, and less than three minutes to go in the NFC Championship Game, the Green Bay Packers decided to kick.
Green Bay trailed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 31-23, when head coach Matt LaFleur called for his team to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the eight-yard-line, rather than give quarterback Aaron Rodgers one more shot at the endzone. Rodgers’ previous three passes inside the 10 on the drive had all been incomplete.
“It’s going to take a long time to get over this one,” LaFleur said after the loss.
Even if the Packers made the field goal — they did — they knew they would have to stop Tom Brady and the Bucs on the ensuing drive. With the two-minute warning and three timeouts by their side, the odds favored the Packers that they would get one more shot with the ball — and a chance to win the game with just six points via a touchdown — if they could get a stop. Due to a pass interference call on third down during the possession, the Packers would never get to touch the ball again, leaving the field goal try questioned by many after the Packers’ loss, while it sends Brady to his record-10th Super Bowl.
“I didn’t have a decision on that one, but I understand the thinking,” Rodgers said after the game.
Some of the Buccaneers players were surprised with LaFleur’s decision after the game, as well.
“I couldn’t believe it, honestly,” said Tampa Bay linebacker Shaq Barrett. “I know if they could take that back, they probably wouldn’t do that next time.”
With the loss, LaFleur becomes the second coach to lose in the Conference Championship game in each of his first two seasons. Rex Ryan a decade ago with the New York Jets is the other.
Super Bowl LV is scheduled to be played Sunday, Feb. 7. It will air on WISC-TV.
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