Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans

Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Lions fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 at Green Bay Packers 26

Scott Spratt: The Bucs love to throw deep on third-and-short. But on the first set of downs on the first series, it actually worked! Mike Evans puts the Bucs in Packers territory.

Aaron Schatz: Chandon Sullivan has been the Packers cornerback in coverage on both of the third-down conversions to start this first drive. Cornerback depth is not a Green Bay strength.

Aaron Schatz: At least the touchdown to Mike Evans wasn't on Chandon Sullivan. That was on Kevin King, the other cornerback who is not Jaire Alexander.

Bryan Knowles: First drive for the Buccaneers, Leonard Fournette was the target man on five plays. Result: 10 yards and two dropped passes. The Packers are fine if Fournette keeps getting that sort of usage.

Sullivan is going to be a problem, though -- that was a very poor start, and it led to a quick seven.

Scott Spratt: Good call, Bryan. Including the playoffs, Leonard Fournette had the sixth-highest drop rate of 15.1% among running backs with 20-plus targets. Sadly for Tampa Bay, Ronald Jones is fifth at 15.2%

Cale Clinton: The difference in performance between early downs and third downs was staggering on that first drive.

  • Early downs: 6 plays, 10 yards, -0.44 EPA/play (per RBSDM)
  • Late Downs: 3 plays, 56 yards, 2.76 EPA/play (per RBSDM)

Leonard Fournette being as involved in Tampa Bay's passing attack as he was on that drive really made for some head-scratching moments. Two targets, both bouncing squarely off his hands.

Vince Verhei: Bucs converted each of their first five third-down plays, which is a very good way to win football games. On the sixth, Kenny Clark picks up a sack on a bull rush to force a punt. That's the first time in 11 dropbacks the Green Bay pass rush has even sniffed Brady.

Scott Spratt: It could continue though, Vince, since the Bucs are stuck playing Aaron Stinnie at right guard with Alex Cappa out with a fractured ankle. That would be huge for the Packers defense since Brady doesn't have a ton of mobility and struggles with interior pass pressure.

Vince Verhei: Packers are pinned deep late in the first quarter when Jason Pierre-Paul beats Not David Bakhtiari for a sack to set up third-and-long. No matter -- Green Bay uses the NFL's most underutilized play, the designed rollout, and Aaron Rodgers runs away from Not David Bakhtiari and finds Allen Lazard for a big conversion. Green Bay is throwing a ton of smoke/screen routes to beat that Tampa Bay pass rush, and Davante Adams gets a 15-yard catch-and-run has them threatening to cross midfield at the end of the quarter.

Scott Spratt: Speaking of third-and-shorts, Marquez Valdes-Scantling just beat Carlton Davis for a 50-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.

Bryan Knowles: That third-down conversion feels like it's going to be a significant turning point in this game, Vince. The Adams play gets them just about to midfield, and then Rodgers finds Marquez Valdes-Scantling in one-on-one coverage on third-and-short and throws a beautiful deep ball -- Valdes-Scantling had to slow down maybe a half-step, but you can't throw it much more accurately than that. 50-yard touchdown, and we have a tie game.

Vince Verhei: This is a sick, sick, sick throw by Rodgers. Accuracy like this is cheating.

Aaron Schatz: What a play by Chris Godwin to nudge Darnell Savage out of the way and catch a 52-yard bomb on third-and-9. Then Leonard Fournette spins out of early tackles and gets a lane on the right side to go 20 yards for a touchdown. Two plays, 72 yards. This third-and-long performance by the Bucs is miraculous and unsustainable, but it has given them a 14-7 lead.

Bryan Knowles: This is becoming a bit of the battle of heavyweights, at least on third-and-longs. After Chris Godwin drops an easy slant, Brady goes back to him on third-and-9 and hooks up for 52 yards, with Godwin making a great leaping catch and boxing out Darnell Savage. Leonard Fournette gets the ball the next play, the entire Packers defense forgets how to tackle, and it's a 14-7 Bucs lead.

Good show, so far.

Aaron Schatz: Video on the Godwin catch:

Dave Bernreuther: I was worried that the first-down incompletion that preceded the Bucs' punt would reinforce Bruce Arians/Byron Leftwich's love for first-down runs, and on the ensuing drive, they went straight back to it for nothing. But given this third-and-long performance so far, maybe they're just aiming for style points.

Scott Spratt: What an awesome kickoff there by Ryan Succop! It landed right on/near the front line of the end zone with golf wedge-like backspin. Jamaal Williams thoroughly planned to let it bounce through the end zone, but he was so surprised by the action, he caught it off the bounce and advanced it barely past the 10-yard line. The question will be whether it actually hit the line now since that would make it a touchback.

Vince Verhei: Green Bay challenges the play and wins, so they start at the 25, but ... I'm still torn on whether that's a good challenge. It's first-and-10 either way. I guess the play was obvious enough that you go ahead and review it, but if they HAD lost that would have been disastrous.

Carl Yedor: So this is a somewhat weird challenge by Matt LaFleur here. I get that the ball bounced on the end line, but is 12 yards of field position at the start of a first-half drive worth using one of your two challenges for the entire game? My gut is telling me no, though I can sympathize with being frustrated that the correct call was not made originally. Green Bay now needs to get its next challenge correct if they want to have access to two challenges from this point forward.

I guess that also raises a larger question about challenges: how much is each challenge worth? Some are obviously much more influential (spot challenges on fourth down, receivers getting both feet down in bounds on third down, etc.) than others, but I haven't personally seen anything recently. (Kevin Meers, formerly of the Browns analytics department, did some research ages ago looking at the 2012 season.)

Vince Verhei: Interesting note about both teams: the secondary running backs during the season have taken over during the playoffs. Leonard Fournette has just taken over Ronald Jones' job as the lead rusher in Tampa Bay. For Green Bay, the split between Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams has been more even, but Williams has been the more consistent performer -- Jones has more yards, but outside of the 60-yarder last week hasn't done much. And then he had a fumble on a reception that Green Bay was fortunate to recover.

And then something very weird happens: Rodgers throws three straight goal-to-go incompletions. Two of them should have been caught by Davante Adams for touchdowns, but the first one he dropped, and the second the throw was late and he couldn't get down in bounds. So Green Bay kicks the field goal to make it 14-10. Aside from that Jones fumble, feels like every close play has gone Tampa Bay's way so far.

Bryan Knowles: The number-one offense in the red zone -- 55.2% DVOA! -- can't get in from the 6-yard line. Three Davante Adams targets, all of them close, but the Packers have to settle for a sub-30-yard field goal instead. I'm not saying they should have gone for fourth-and-goal from the 6, but settling for short field goals like that is a killer.

Scott Spratt: Davante Adams' first-down touchdown drop may be the story of that disappointing Packers field goal, but watch him burn safety Mike Edwards on a third-down catch that he couldn't keep in bounds.

He's amazing even when it doesn't count.

Dave Bernreuther: That's a horrible missed opportunity for the Packers. That first-down "drop" was mainly a function of Rodgers throwing what would've been a perfect ball if Adams had spun the other direction, and the next two plays were better defended.

Given the lack of pressure the Packers have been getting, those lost points could be huge.

Vince Verhei: Bucs get yet another third-down conversion, this one a sweet play-fake on third-and-2 that lets Godwin slip into the flat virtually uncovered for a 19-yard gain. Next third-and-10, though, pressure finally gets to Brady and he basically throws the ball away to set up a punt. Bucs are now up to Star Trek: Voyager on third downs, converting seven of nine.

Bryan Knowles: And, much like Star Trek: Voyager, the Buccaneers' offense has been inconsistent today, with occasional splash plays making the whole feel better than the sum of its individual parts.

Aaron Schatz: Refs are clearly letting them play today. Billy Turner just jumped early, and there was no false start whistled, and Jason Pierre-Paul beat him for a sack on Rodgers anyway. Next play, Sean Murphy-Bunting is holding Allen Lazard, no call, and Murphy-Bunting gets the rare pick of Aaron Rodgers.

Scott Spratt: I like that the Bucs are going for this fourth-and-4 near midfield with 13 seconds left. But it does open the door for the Rodgers Hail Mary if the Bucs can't convert.

Dave Bernreuther: That's Jets vs. Henry Ruggs-level bad defense. In the playoffs against Tom Brady. Goodness.

Bryan Knowles: No risk it, Scott, no biscuit. And, after converting fourth down, Scotty Miller just runs right past Kevin King to convert the bomb of their own for the touchdown. I don't know WHAT King was doing there, but it wasn't pass coverage. 21-10 Bucs, and the Packers are a little woozy here.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like King actually slowed down a little. I don't understand how you can let the Bucs receivers get deep on you in that situation.

Vince Verhei: My goodness, what a collapse for Green Bay at the end of the half. Rodgers gets sacked, which leads to the Murphy-Bunting interception, which leads to the fourth-down conversion, which leads to the "How do you let that happen?" touchdown, all in the last 40 seconds of the second quarter.

Scott Spratt: Just to add a bit of color to Aaron's and others' points about the Packers' lack of cornerback depth: Jaire Alexander allowed 4.4 yards per target, Chandon Sullivan allowed 6.3 yards per target, and Kevin King allowed 8.4 yards per target this regular season.

Bryan Knowles: I would really like to know what the heck the Packers' defensive call was on that last play. With only eight seconds on the clock, you don't really care about any completion in the field of play -- sure, it might make a field goal easier, but meh. The one thing, the only thing you can't do is let someone get behind you -- and King stumbles, and there's no safety help behind him. What on earth is the idea?

Dave Bernreuther: Ordinarily I'd be jumping up and down with excitement because Arians sent the offense back out on fourth-and-4 (and I'm proud to say that I have enough friends that are wise that only one person looked at me sideways when I said "put the offense back on the field" before they did) and say that they deserved points for that call ... but after that egregious non-call on the interception (which reminded me a LOT of 2008 Rashean Mathis yanking Marvin Harrison out of the way to steal a game for the Jags in Lucas Oil Stadium's inaugural season), I'm not sure that one was entirely deserved. Still, a tip of the Kangol to Bruce Arians. Absolutely the right call there.

Vince Verhei: Kevin King's first half was, um, bad.

Gonna be tough for Green Bay to pick themselves up after that. We're all sitting here gobsmacked -- they have to go out and play football.

Scott Spratt: Did the Bucs call a superfluous timeout with the clock stopped on fourth-and-4 with 13 seconds left? I mean, I guess you can argue that's an important fourth-down decision, but I feel like coaching staffs should be prepared for those scenarios. If that hadn't happened, I bet the Bucs would just have tried to gain 5 or 10 yards for a field goal there. And honestly, that makes that coverage decision even worse for the Packers. The Bucs could only really work the sidelines, shallow or deep.

Bryan Knowles: There's plenty of time left, of course, and we shouldn't expect Tampa Bay's third-down success to necessarily continue -- the Bucs have seven third-down conversions for 143 yards -- but man, that's a back-breaking end of the half for the Packers. The win probability graphs basically have a straight line.

And yeah, Dave, the non-call on the hold kind of sours that last sequence a little bit, but it's not like they have been throwing flags all over the place. Zero flags in the first half.

I guess if you're the Packers and Ricky Wagner, that means you should try holding a little bit more -- the refs clearly don't want to call anything today!

Vince Verhei: Dots on that last touchdown. King definitely played it badly, but what the hell is going on with the rest of the defense? He's out there one-on-one with Miller while Godwin is triple-covered in the middle of the field, and there are two defenders left picking their noses with nothing else to do in the hook zones.

Carl Yedor: I mean, I can understand keeping at least one of the two hook defenders near the line in case the back leaks out for a short gain to the sidelines, but that doesn't seem like a two-person job. The good news for Green Bay is that they're getting the ball now with a chance to immediately take a bite of their deficit.

Tom Gower: Bucs up 21-10 at the half.

Some teams do what they do. Some teams hammer the opponent's weakness over and over again. The Packers are much worse at CB2 and CB3 than they are at CB1, so it makes sense to repeatedly attack Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan in coverage while regularly avoiding Jaire Alexander. That's exactly what the Buccaneers have done, and they have gotten three touchdowns in five possessions out of it. That includes, yes, whatever King was doing in coverage on Scotty Miller on the touchdown, and notwithstanding Bruce Arians' continued insistence on normally ineffective runs on early downs. And, yes, kudos to Arians for actually trying on fourth down instead of playing scared and punting to remove the threat of an Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary that could have given the Packers an ineffective halftime lead.

The Packers offensive line, outside of Billy Turner, has been OK, better than I thought they were back in Week 6. But that "outside of Billy Turner" caveat is an important one. It has been a noticeable and significant downgrade from David Bakhtiari in pass protection, to the Packers' detriment. In a different sort of game, we'd be talking a lot about Rodgers converting that third-and-15 from his own end zone after a Turner-caused sack. But the Packers failed in goal-to-go, Rodgers got picked in the two-minute drill (we're playing this game under playoff rules, with almost no post-snap flags and -- given Turner's movement -- maybe not any pre-snap flags either), and the Bucs cashed in their extra possession in the most dramatic way. Monumental possession to start the second half, and on third down, Aaron Jones fumbles and the Bucs have the ball inside the 10, so that might be about that barring a sudden change.

Carl Yedor: Um. So, never mind. Green Bay runs a pick play that looks similar to mesh (though not identical) to free up Aaron Jones in space on a third-and-medium. Tampa Bay covers it up well, and Jordan Whitehead delivers a strong hit on Jones that ends up knocking the ball free. The Bucs recover and return it to the Green Bay 8, setting up a first-and-goal. So much for cutting into Tampa Bay's halftime lead right away.

Aaron Schatz: First play after the fumble, play-action, nobody covers Cameron Brate, easy touchdown. Whoever was supposed to cover Brate (Adrian Amos, it looks like) jumped the fake.

Bryan Knowles: And, on the ensuing play, the Packers decide covering Cameron Brate is overrated, and it's an easy pitch-and-catch for the touchdown -- Adrian Amos just sort of ushed Brate past him into the end zone.

At 28-10 ... I mean, there's plenty of time left, but I'm not sure I trust the Packers' defense to put up enough stops for the offense to come back.

Scott Spratt: I know, Carl. When the Packers took possession with just over two minutes left in the first half, I thought they might do the classic Brady Pats move and score 10 or 14 unanswered getting the ball to start the second half. Instead, the Bucs just scored 14.

Carl Yedor: That drive was more in line with what I was expecting. Green Bay responds to the quick Tampa Bay touchdown with an efficient drive down the field, with Robert Tonyan capping off the drive with the touchdown reception after finding a hole in the zone coverage. 28-17 now with a long way to go in this one.

Aaron Schatz: Well, now we've got a game. After a deep pick by Brady throwing to a covered Mike Evans, the Packers don't panic and they don't just take deep shots. They play their game and matriculate the ball up the field in small chunks. Davante Adams can't get away from Carlton Davis on second-and-goal, but he slants in and gets the pass on third-and-goal for the touchdown. Equanimeous St. Brown drops the ball on the two-point conversion so we're now at 28-23 Bucs.

Bryan Knowles: I think we were all waiting to see what the Packers would do with it, but Green Bay has now clawed their way back into the game.

After the Tonyan touchdown, Tom Brady floated a fairly ugly pass in the direction of Mike Evans; Adrian Amos makes up a bit for the olé! play on Brate earlier in the half by coming down with the ball. That's a stop, boys and girls, and a rare one for the Packers defense today.

As Aaron said, it wasn't big plays that brought Green Bay out, which surprises me -- now both Buccaneers safeties are out, with Jordan Whitehead headed for the locker room, so I was assuming the Packers would test the Bucs deep. Nope, lots of short gainers. Hey, whatever works!

And, sorry Cleveland fans -- the refs are calling helmet-to-helmet today, with the Bucs getting flagged for hitting Davante Adams around the goal line in one of those "both players dropped their helmet" plays. That put the ball at the 2-yard line, and the Packers got in three plays later. 28-23.

Vince Verhei: Indeed. you don't see a lot of touchdown drives with eight completions for only 51 yards.

Success rate would tell you the Packers have been by far the better team today -- at the end of the third quarter, they're up to 21 first downs to only 12 for Tampa Bay, and eight of those 12 have come on third or fourth down.

Bryan Knowles: The Buccaneers are up to eight third-down conversions this game.

Just for the record, there have been 12 playoff games since 1991 where a team converted at least 11 third downs. Six of them were quarterbacked by Tom Brady.

Bryan Knowles: But the Bucs don't get a chance to attempt third-down conversion No. 9, because Brady overthrows Mike Evans, Jaire Alexander comes down with it, and the Packers have the ball down one score.

The Packers were in trouble there, too -- giving up a long kickoff return, some bad tacking and coverage; it looked like the Bucs were in great shape to at least make this back into an eight-point game. Good time for a big play, that.

Vince Verhei: Terrible drive for Brady and Evans. Evans burns King (naturally) for what should have been a big gain, but Brady's pass is slightly underthrown and Evans can't react and ends up dropping the ball. Bucs convert anyway and reach field goal range. They pick up a Green Bay stunt perfectly and Brady has plenty of time in the pocket, but his pass to an open Evans is touch too high. Evans can't bring it in, and it's tipped to Alexander for the interception. Packers now have the ball down 28-23, early in the fourth.

Vince Verhei: Re-watching that interception -- Brady's pass isn't perfect, but Evans absolutely should have caught this.

Bryan Knowles: I have to disagree, Vince. I don't think Evans couldn't have caught it, but he had to stretch to even get his fingertips on it.

Scott Spratt: I wouldn't call the Evans-deflected interception a definite drop, but the first incompletion that hit his hands that drive certainly was. Drops have been a huge story on both sides of things today. I'm surprised about that for non-running back Bucs. Evans and Chris Godwin had just four drops apiece this regular season. Godwin has had that many the last two weeks.

Aaron Schatz: Tampa Bay's protection has been absolutely outstanding. Brady had forever to throw on that interception and overthrew it anyway. But not his offensive line's fault. On the other hand, the Bucs pressure has gotten to Aaron Rodgers plenty today, and the Bucs just sacked Rodgers on third-and-5 when three different Bucs pass-rushers beat the Packers blockers.

Aaron Schatz: From Seth Walder: Packers pass block win rate is 57% today. That's about league average, and a huge departure from their league leading 74% in the regular season.

Vince Verhei: OK, THAT interception is 100% on Brady. Darnell Savage is unblocked off the edge, but Brady is looking right at him and chooses to throw up an absolute duck down the sideline, Evans keeps running downfield where the ball is supposed to go, and Alexander gets a very easy interception. Brady looked like Drew Lock or something there the way he panicked under pressure.

But then yet another sack for Tampa Bay leads to yet another punt for Green Bay as the defenses have suddenly taken over.

Scott Spratt: I seriously hate how many deep shots the Bucs take on third-and-short.

Bryan Knowles: Under pressure, Brady throws up another duck, and it's intercepted. This is only the second time in his career Brady has thrown interceptions on three consecutive drives; you have to go back to Week 7, 2001, to find a streak that bad for him.

And again, it doesn't hurt the Buccaneers -- in the time it takes me to look that up, the Pack go three-and-out again.

Rivers McCown: Sean Murphy-Holding picked a hell of a game to be in the big spot for some officiating non-calls.

Scott Spratt: Why did Brady spike that pass so quickly on the third-down screen?

Aaron Schatz: Fantastic play call on second-and-11 with a screen to Rob Gronkowski, taking advantage of the fact that Gronk has been blocking most of the game. And then third-and-8 on the next series... uh, I have no idea what the Bucs were trying to do and why Brady threw it into the ground almost immediately. A screen to Chris Godwin that didn't set up right? Ryan Succop hits the 46-yard field goal and now we're at 31-23 and we can have some debates about whether the Packers should have gone for two after their last touchdown. (EdjSports model says yes, and they had the right play call except St. Brown dropped the pass.)

Vince Verhei: And that's after air-mailing a wide-open receiver on a crossing route that would have moved the sticks on second down. Brady looks totally rattled.

Scott Spratt: I guess the Packers are doing the football equivalent of the basketball two-and-one here. Just score outrageously quickly so they can get another possession after another possible Bucs scoring drive.

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, they aren't going quick ENOUGH given that they're only 50-50 to get the two-point conversion if they score a touchdown.

Vince Verhei: And they end up kicking the field goal just before the two-minute warning. That's two goal-to-go field goals and a dropped two-pointer for Green Bay -- if they lose, that's the biggest reason why.

Bryan Knowles: ... a field goal. Down eight points. With 2:05 left in the game. Inside the 10-yard line.

A field goal.

31-26, Buccaneers.

Aaron Schatz: I understand the idea that you want to get the ball back and be able to win without having to worry about a two-point conversion but the chances you can stop Brady AND get the ball back close enough to the end zone again are not good.

Scott Spratt: I loved the idea of the Jaydon Mickens slide to avoid the possible fumble. But if he could have stayed upright for two more seconds, he could have gotten to the two-minute warning on the kick return.

Aaron Schatz: EdjSports has the field goal as a -3.0% Game-Winning Chance error, going from 10.8% to 7.8%.

Bryan Knowles: Love the encroachment coming out of the two-minute warning. Second-and-1 is terrible; it allows the Buccaneers to burn an extra timeout with a new set of downs. The 5 yards and the first down are not nearly as important as the timeout.

Carl Yedor: Tampa Bay does a goofy thing and then a smart thing in quick succession. First, Jaydon Mickens slides down while returning the kick before the two-minute warning, resulting in the clock stopping at 2:02 and effectively giving Green Bay an additional clock stoppage. However, it also allows Tampa Bay to throw on first down without worrying about an incompletion stopping the clock because there is no way that the play would finish that fast. They take advantage of that freedom with a 9-yard completion to set up second-and-1. However, Green Bay then one-ups them by intentionally going offsides to give Tampa Bay the first down without having to burn a timeout. Tampa Bay chose to accept the penalty, as the broadcasters mentioned, which seems like an oversight in that situation.

Scott Spratt: Couldn't the Bucs have declined that though, Bryan? I wonder why they didn't.

Bryan Knowles: They could, Scott. Doesn't matter, of course, because the Buccaneers throw an incomplete pass on third down, and the Packers are going to ge...

... wait, what? The refs call pass interference on Kevin King, on a really late flag, on a day when they just aren't calling anything. What the hell?

Rivers McCown: Wouldn't be an NFC Championship Game without one.

Scott Spratt: Kevin King did a pretty major jersey pull there on Tyler Johnson though. It just seemed weird because it was so late.

Aaron Schatz: It was clearly pass interference on King, if they had been calling things all game. But they haven't been calling anything all game, and now they're going to end the game with a jersey tug?

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, it was pass interference, but they have been letting everything go in the secondary. That's ... I mean, I don't know how you call that after letting everything else go all day.

Vince Verhei: Stathead lists 40 field goals this century by teams that were down by seven or eight points in the fourth quarter and came back to win. The latest of those was kicked with 2:50 left in the game. Green Bay kicked theirs with 2:09 left. Green Bay kicking a field goal there, getting the ball back, and scoring a touchdown would have been unprecedented.

Scott Spratt: I don't know, Bryan. Johnson had no chance to catch that pass with the interference.

Bryan Knowles: I'm not arguing it's not interference, Scott. I'm just arguing that in a game where Murphy-Bunting got away with holding on his interception, calling that is odd. Consistency, is all I ask.

And yes, I'd argue that King's hold was longer than Murphy-Bunting's. I'm not sure I'd argue it did more to obstruct a reception, though that's very much in the eye of the beholder.

Tom Gower: Congrats to 345 Park Avenue. They got 58 minutes of murther most foul not being an infraction, and wait, hey, let's throw a flag on something blatant but no more blatant than many things that have gone uncalled to decide the game. This is why you set the rules before the game and then enforce them consistently once the game starts, for the entire game.

I need to cool down before I say anything else. What a terrible way to end an interesting game.

Tom Gower: OK, another game coming up soon, so bullet points:

  • One of Bill Walsh's keys to a winning team was a fourth-quarter pass rush. The Bucs got that today, beating both Packers offensive tackles to help shut down Green Bay's offense after Tom Brady interceptions that could have really changed the game.
  • Davante Adams' first-half drop on that back-shoulder that Troy Aikman called looms large.
  • I really doubted the Packers would come back, expecting something like a 45-31 final after 28-10, and the Packers success cutting the deficit later didn't make me think more of Green Bay's defense. But those three interceptions all count.
  • Troy Aikman loves quarterbacks, all of them, and they can do almost no wrong in his eyes.
  • How much of the second half comeback featured the Packers' base offense? It didn't seem like much.
  • The Bucs playing with two backup safeties could have been big. Todd Bowles ended up playing much more Man-2 coverage to protect them. That had a couple of implications. I've already noted one, that it puts more pressure on the front four to create, well, pressure on their own without blitzing. Second, it forces the Packers receivers to win more against man coverage. I've been highly critical of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but he had a strong game. But I think that was until the Bucs changed how they were covering. After that, I didn't see him win, aside from maybe Rodgers' outstanding seam throw over, I believe, Murphy-Bunting.
  • The Bucs continually donating downs by running the ball didn't really matter much, did it?
  • I'd fully react to Matt LaFleur's decision to trust his decision and kick the field goal down 31-23, but there may be preschool toys present. Even the generally more anti-analytics people I've seen haven't tried to defend that decision, and the most analytics-friendly defense is "that decision probably wasn't as bad as you thought, which isn't to say it was correct."

Tom Gower: We talked about updating Guts and Stomps earlier in the season as something to do, but the Bucs are a heck of an endorsement for Stomps being what matters. They crushed a bunch of bad teams, lost some mostly (but not all) close games against the better teams they played, and they have won three straight road games to make the Super Bowl.

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs

Vince Verhei: The Bills had zero handoffs in their first 20 plays last week. They handed off twice on their first drive, and nearly had a third on the fourth-and-1 RPO before Josh Allen pulled the ball away and threw to Dawson Knox for the conversion. But later in the drive, Allen's play-action pass on third-and-3 is nearly intercepted, and the Bills settle for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Bryan Knowles: Woah, shades of Kyle Williams. The Bills are forced to punt after Josh Allen sprints backwards for 20 yards before taking a sack -- but the ball bounces in and out of Mecole Hardman's hands. That's a killer -- Bills get the ball on the 3-yard line and throw to Dawson Knox in the flat for a score and a 10-0 lead. HUGE play.

Err … 9-0 lead. Tyler Bass misses the PAT. He's good on the long kicks; not so good on the shorter ones!

Scott Spratt: The fumbled punt return was the big play there, but the Chiefs are the No. 31 DVOA defense against tight ends. Dawson Knox caught the touchdown, and he could be involved the rest of this game.

Vince Verhei: Drops hurting Kansas City early. Tyreek Hill drops what would have been a big gain into Buffalo territory on third down. Bills get the ball back, but have to punt after a mega-sack on a defensive back blitz ... but Mecole Hardman muffs the punt, Bills take over at the 2, and Allen hits Knox for the touchdown. PAT is no good, Bills up 9-0.

Bryan Knowles: The Bills really have been playing with a bit of fire -- the dropped interception on third down that allowed them to kick the field goal, the dropped third-down bomb from Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill that forced the punt, the muffed punt. I'd assume Kansas City's execution will improve from here, but these nine points count!

Aaron Schatz: Buffalo is back to its strategy from the first game, lots of zones with two safeties back to prevent the big play by Kansas City. Travis Kelce can live in these underneath zones all day but the Bills will take it as long as their offense can score too.

Vince Verhei: And they're getting pressure too, but Mahomes has escaped and made throws anyway, even overcoming yet another drop, this one by Kelce.

Second quarter ends with the Chiefs having a second-and-2 in the red zone. That went by quickly -- this is still just their second drive of the game.

Bryan Knowles: Hardman's touchdown will help make up for his muffed punt, but the story of the Chiefs so far has been Travis Kelce. Aaron said earlier that the Bills were fine with Kelce catching a few passes underneath, but he's up to five catches already and seems to be open whenever Mahomes is looking that way.

Aaron Schatz: Brutal drop just now by Devin Singletary on an outlet pass; he had a ton of yardage in front of him if he had caught it. Then Allen gets big-blitzed, pulls an intentional grounding, and the Bills have to punt.

Aaron Schatz: Dots on the Mecole Hardman end around, with two offensive linemen way downfield looking for someone to block.

Bryan Knowles: OK, between the touchdown and the 50-yard end around, I think Hardman has made up for his muffed punt at this point.

And, hey, there's Tracis Kelce open again, bringing the ball into the red zone after another 15-plus-yard gain. There are soft zones, and then there's what the Bills are allowing Kelce today. Buffalo was above average against tight ends in the regular season, but, well, Kelce's slightly above above average.

Aaron Schatz: Game is getting away from the Bills early. Allen is pressing and just had two inaccurate passes, one a dropped interception, to lead to a three-and-out.

Carl Yedor: Josh Allen just had back-to-back poor throws on a three-and-out. Combined with the terrible sack previously, he's having a rough time. Frankly, at 3.3 yards per attempt in addition to the sack, he's looking like his 2019 self more than the 2020 version that lit up scoreboards for most of the year. It could just be jitters, and he definitely has it in him to play better. But Buffalo needs to figure it out fast.

Scott Spratt: It's such a joy watching Mahomes play. Even with his compromised foot, he just avoided dead-to-right sacks on the last two plays and converted new first downs. The Chiefs are about to score again, and the Bills are in a precarious position.

Bryan Knowles: The playoff record for receptions by a tight end is 13, shared by Shannon Sharpe and Kellen Winslow. Travis Kelce has nine with four minutes left in the first half.

I think it's safe to say the Chiefs have cleaned things up after a shaky start, yes?

Aaron Schatz: OK, it looks like "Chiefs weren't really trying at the end of the season and were going to flip the switch in the playoffs" turned out to be true. No NFL team had ever really done that before, but the Chiefs right now are totally dominating in a way they never did over the last couple months.

Scott Spratt: I'm less surprised by the Chiefs' offensive success the last two weeks, Aaron. But both the Browns and Bills have sabotaged their own offenses against them, to a certain extent. Last week's fumble-touchback is the big one there. But Josh Allen has been off-target tonight, and Devin Singletary at least dropped a critical pass.

Scott Spratt: Do you go for it on fourth-and-goal? I think I would. I feel like the Bills need to try to score 40 points.

Bryan Knowles: Absolutely, Scott. I don't get this field goal attempt at all.

The Chiefs have had five drives. One ended at the half. One ended with a dropped pass. The other three ended in touchdowns. I just don't think you can expect to beat Kansas City with field goals, especially right on the goal line.

Vince Verhei: Alright, I'm just gonna bullet-point that first half:

  • Chiefs lead 21-12.
  • Not counting Kansas City's end-of-half knee, the Bills had six drives, the Chiefs only had four. Chiefs are still up by two scores.
  • The only Kansas City punt came after a dropped pass on third down that would have moved the chains. It's one of several Kansas City drops tonight -- it doesn't even feel like they're playing very well.
  • Josh Allen looks like the 2018 or 2019 version of himself. Looks totally flustered, taking bad sacks and missing throws, with a bunch of passes that could have been intercepted. In his defense, nothing else Buffalo is doing is working either -- all their good plays have been Allen runs or scramble-drill passes.
  • Travis Kelce has nine passes. The Kansas City playoff record is 10, by Kelce last year in the win over Houston.
  • Chiefs get the ball first in the second half.

Tom Gower: Chiefs up 21-12 at halftime. Good callback to Neil Peart's passing during last year's playoffs. Bryan's email just stole what I was going to say: outside of a Tyreek Hill third-down drop, the Chiefs have scored a touchdown every possession, and without the benefit of good field position. Patrick Mahomes looks like the foot isn't bothering him too much. Their team speed is a lot to deal with. The Bills seem to be mostly successfully executing the "limit downfield passing plays" offense, and it hasn't mattered. The pigeon appears to be Tremaine Edmunds, with something like six targets in coverage, getting high-lowed between run support and pass coverage.

On the other side of the ball, well, the Bills scored a touchdown when they started at the Chiefs 3 after a punt. They had five other offensive possessions, all starting backed up, and once Sean McDermott made the decision to accept a two-score halftime deficit, they scored six points on those five possessions.

Math analysis:

  • Chiefs: four possessions on long fields, 21 points. Good.
  • Bills: five possessions on long fields, six points. Not good.

OK, part of that comes down to red zone execution, which may be subject to short-run variance. But that's not a winning equation for Buffalo when Kansas City is set to get the second-half kick.

Aaron Schatz: Tony Romo has been pointing it out, but the Kansas City defensive pass coverage has been outstanding today. That's the surprise, not that the offense is firing on all cylinders.

Scott Spratt: If there was any question about whether McDermott went for the field goal at the end of the first half because of the lack of time in case they didn't convert, that question is answered. The Bills just kicked a field goal from another fourth-and-3 in the red zone. I don't love that at all.

Bryan Knowles: What on earth is Sean McDermott doing? That's Bass' second sub-30-yard field goal. There's only 20 minutes left in your season, Buffalo; you're going to need to find the end zone!

Dave Bernreuther: Not that the alternative was a great option, but you aren't going to beat the Chiefs by kicking a bunch of field goals. 24-15 with a quarter and a half to play doesn't feel like a big win for the Bills after getting that close.

The defense needs a big win here.

Scott Spratt: Wow, Jordan Poyer just ran down Tyreek Hill at near full speed! I mean, it was still a massive Chiefs gain, but still amazing.

Dave Bernreuther: Tyreek Hill proves my point with a 71-yard run wherein his legs in motion looked like a cartoon blur. We've talked about Kyler Murray and his scampering ... that run looked like a Murray scamper with the fast-forward button being held.

Bryan Knowles: Travis Kelce's 11th reception of the day makes this a 31-15 Chiefs lead, and I think that's all she wrote. I do not understand why Sean McDermott, who has been so good all year, has gone back into a shell on his decision-making here.

Rivers McCown: The cowards have been properly punished today.

Vince Verhei: Barely two minutes after that Buffalo field goal, Kansas City gets a touchdown. Bills now need six more field goals to take the lead.

On Kansas City's first drive of the second half, there was another one of those "Is this a good challenge?" plays. The Bills challenged a Hill catch-and-run and won the challenge ... but it was still a first-and-10 for Kansas City, just 15 yards further back. The Chiefs ended up kicking a 45-yard field goal on fourth-and-3 on that drive; they probably would have gone for it rather than try a 60-yarder.

Carl Yedor: One play after Kansas City narrowly misses a pick where an Allen pass just clears the reach of a diving defender, the Chiefs finally get their hands on the interception that he has been trying to throw all night. The actual interception was not a particularly bad throw, but the ball was tipped up in the air as Allen was trying to hit John Brown and picked off by Rashad Fenton. If Kansas City scores a touchdown here, we should be able to call it a night barring a miracle.

Bryan Knowles: Travis Kelce just caught his 13th reception, tying Kellen Winslow and Shannon Sharpe for most receptions by a tight end in a postseason game. Only 118 yards, so it won't be the most valuable day or anything (I imagine that still belongs to Vernon Davis against the Saints after the 2011 season), but that's a hell of a number. The Bills have just been unable to slow him down at all.

Chiefs-Buccaneers Super Bowl. The best quarterback of the 2010s versus the leader in the clubhouse for best quarterback of the 2020s. I can get behind that.

Vince Verhei: The DYAR record, regular season or playoffs, is Kelce last year against Houston (10-12-134-3).

Bryan Knowles: One thing that did go wrong for the Chiefs today -- they have ruled out Eric Fisher very quickly with an Achilles injury. That's very specific and may not bode well for his availability in two weeks. We saw in the Packers game what missing your starting left tackle means against Tampa Bay's pass rush.

Tom Gower: The Chiefs are in position to kneel this out at the two-minute warning. This is their ninth technical possession of the game. One of those was the single kneeldown at the end of the first half. So, basically, they have had the ball seven times to 10 for the Buffalo Bills. In those respective possessions, the Chiefs scored 38 points and the Bills scored 24. We've been waiting for the world-destroying Kansas City Chiefs to show up for an entire game. They did, today, and the Bills will lose by two touchdowns even with the muffed punt, onside kick recovery, and getting the last legitimate possession of the first half.


170 comments, Last at 27 Jan 2021, 6:11pm

2 The big knock on Andy Reid…

The big knock on Andy Reid used to be his endgame/clock management. The Chiefs have been so good the past few years that they've largely obviated those concerns, but when he's had to manage the ends of games, he's been excellent. 

It's been discussed around here a lot how the Chiefs let a lot of teams back into games in the fourth quarter this year. The 2011-vintage Andy Reid probably loses a few of those games. 


12 I'm going to posit that it's…

I'm going to posit that it's a hell of a lot easier managing those end of game situations with a historically great qb (Belichick particularly insulated himself from a lot of criticism in the 10-year wander years the Pats had before SB 49 by already having a few rings, but there were several head-scratching decisions in there that any other coach would have been roasted over).  The astonishing thing to me, in retrospect, is just how consistently competitive Reid's teams managed to be for 20 years without a truly elite qb

17 Agreed

Andy Reid has gotten better with clock management but having Pat Mahomes vs. McNabb, Vick or even Alex Smith is a HUGE difference. Mahomes in particular erases some errors such as poor time outs etc. because he is so efficient and aware of the game situation.

33 This is partly the argument…

In reply to by Run dmc

This is partly the argument I've been making against Reid's "clock management" issues, which really get exemplified by the Super Bowl loss - I think there's a strong argument to be made that if Reid *had* rushed McNabb in those situations, they just would've failed. I mean, "McNabb struggled to learn the playbook" rumors aside, he was always more of an improvisational QB anyway - rapidly operating in structure wasn't exactly his strong suit.

I mean, if you think about it, "maybe we can stop the other team and get a lucky deep shot, or possibly hit a turnover or something" is probably more likely than "maybe my quarterback can suddenly become 10x faster in running the offense when he's shown no ability to do it before."

To me you're underselling the "Andy Reid has gotten better with clock management" bit. Find a game where you could criticize how long a late-game drive lasted, or not having timeouts at the end. It's been *forever* since that was an issue. Which, to me, just stresses that it's the quarterback, not the coach, that was causing those problems.

3 Some thoughts: It's a good…

Some thoughts:

It's a good thing Rodgers won his SB so early into his career or we would be hearing a never ending parade of narratives involving Rodgers and his inability to win when it matters most. Manning was dogged by these narratives for years even after winning the SB in 06. The point is not to bury Rodgers but to point out the fact that getting to an winning a SB is hard. The fact that he has only been to 1 is not evidence of a character flaw but more a sad reality of life in the NFL. 

That does not excuse his coach who made poor decision after poor decision. The first Fg was a bad decision. The second was certifiable. The 2 min drive situation was handled as poorly as you could imagine. Just an in game coaching disaster. A lesson in humility for one prominent Packers poster. Don't assume anything - always see the bullet coming!

As for Brady who is now in his 10th SB. A mind boggling number that is unlikely to be repeated in my lifetime. And yet, this run is ...strange. For Brady fans, I say this as a Manning fan...Brady is the goat. He more or less matched the primes of some of the greatest in the game but also has unparalleled longevity. The combo makes him the goat. And yet, it must be pointed out that no one wins games despite mistakes than Brady. 3 ints and 2 other int worthy plays should get you beat by a million points. And somehow, despite the different uniform and coaching staff, this voodoo continues. 


Chiefs Bills - it didnt matter, but Sean McDermott played to lose. Your defense is getting gored to death from jump...why the hell are you kicking field goals? Its time to accept that this is going to be a shootout.

Allen is a good qb. He might one day grow into a great one. But he has some serious flaws in his game. He needs to iron them out or this will be a thorn in his side in every matchup.

Mahomes is great, but my god...Kelce and Hill are just too much. Hill might be the most unusual receiver in NFL history - a savant at short shifty routes and electric at deep routes. He is like Desean Jackson and Wes Welker combined. And then you remember, you take away Hill and Kelce will rip you to pieces. 

9 Yes, it is a mistake

The average kickoff results in a team getting 1st and 10 at the 27 which is worth .3 points to the receiving team.  Having 1st and 10 at your own 6 is worth -1 points.

By a pure mathematical standpoint using expected points from advanced football analytics, 4th and 6 is approximately a 40% success rate.  Since a TD is worth 6.94 points, going for it gives you (.4 x 6.94) -.3 +(.6 x 1)= 3.08 expected points.  

A FG at 99% is (.99 x 3) -.3=2.67 expected points. The difference is .41 points.

There are approximately 150 plays in an average NFL game.  If you throw away .41 expected points per play you should expect to lose by over 61 points.

4th down has the highest leverage plays, these are the plays and the decisions that decide close games.  

If you are the underdog, it is also a risk reward scenario.  You need the TD if you expect to beat the Chiefs.  But early in the game, any team should go for the TD here.


18 Great Point

I also forget that pinning your opponent is another benefit in this situation.


Although I could counter argue it may not be that much of a value vs. Mahomes and the Chiefs in that they can get to Midfield in two easy plays.

But that really is another reason to go for the TD here, because defensive stops are so hard to come by against a Chiefs team that is not self-destructing.

15 ordinarily, no

The clock was the factor, though.  And the real thing that needed to be accounted for was the Bills' inability to stop the Chiefs' offense.  Their defense was Swiss cheese in the 2nd half.  

It was a solid, conventional decision that was wrong for the circumstances.

79 2nd half? 1st half too...

In reply to by RickD

Chiefs rolled through the Bills when they had the ball. Even the 3-out had a wide open perfect throw to Tyreek who just dropped it. If Mahomes is making the throws - the WRs end up correcting at some point.

7 I get why opposition fans…

I get why opposition fans are salty about Brady right now. He’s been blessed with great coaching/team-mate support at opportune moments throughout his career for sure. But there are enough playoff games he played well in, or lost due to some weird unlikely happening. From 2004-2014 it was beginning to look like he might even be somewhat cursed (Basically everything changed when Pete Carroll didn’t run the ball at the 1, LOL.) Also, let’s not write the headlines early, this win won’t mean a great deal if they end up getting pounded by the Chiefs. 

The game was weird yesterday. For three quarters it was great fun, not immaculately played, but back and forth. After looking down and out Rodgers delivered two sweet TD drives to pull within a score, the stage was set, and then....it just turned into a shitshow. Finally the Packers move the ball down the field, then totally botch the goal to go situation. The field goal attempt was preposterous - I was staring at the screen open-mouthed - but Rodgers takes his share of the blame, especially for failing to scramble on third down. 

Tremendous performance by the 2 Bucs pass rushers. More of the same needed in 2 weeks time I’d wager.  

We also saw the issues with refs not calling PI/holding etc. It undoubtedly contributed to the increasingly spluttering offence as defenders realised what they were being allowed to get away with. And it means that when the flags are eventually thrown, they are more high leverage than ever. That flag obviously wasn’t wrong, but the Packers are entitled to ask why numerous others weren’t thrown on similar incidents throughout the game. 

19 Disagree

I think this win means a lot even if the Bucs get pounded. Even if Brady plays as poorly as he did in this game the takeaway will be: The Chiefs are a better team, with a HOF Coach and a 25 year old QB who at this stage is better than 43 Yr Old Tom Brady.

With the win Brady cements his legacy that if anything

Yes Tampa has a nice roster - but they had a nice roster last year .. and Jamis Winston isn't that bad? or is he . I guess we will see next year.

Brady played amazing at 43 and made the rest of the team including the head coach better. It is remarkable to win 3 on the road and get to the SB regardless of the outcome.

Right now they are 3 point dogs I believe.

24 Winston threw 30 picks last year

In reply to by Run dmc

to Brady's 12 in the regular season this year. That's more than a possession a game.

Tampa Bay was a good team last year that needed a QB who cared about protecting the football to realize their potential. They now have that QB. 

40 Not throwing pics

If you are saying Brady is just a Game Manager and his sole benefit to Tampa is not throwing picks .. I would have to disagree.

I doubt a true game manager type like Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater would have the Bucs at this point. Brady was third in yards passed for in the NFL and first the NFC - 200 yards more than Aaron Rodgers.

Yes Jamis was awful .. but so was the coaching staff that allowed him to throw 30 Interceptions. Tampa was 7 - 9 last year.

At age 43 this is a tremendous accomplishment for Brady. To say otherwise is a bit silly.


43 "At age 43 this is a…

"At age 43 this is a tremendous accomplishment for Brady. To say otherwise is a bit silly."

It's also worth noting that the idea that "yeah, any QB would have success with Evans/Godwin/AB/Gronk" is also unfair. Adding more receivers doesn't necessarily make you better - the quarterback still has to *find* those guys, *and* have the arm strength to target all parts of the field. If the QB can only throw 20-30 yards, having 4 guys running routes isn't going to help.

Most quarterbacks at 43 have basically their arm strength falling off a cliff, so they just become more limited as to what they can target. That *totally* didn't happen with Brady this year. I mean, dear lord, the guy was 3rd in DYAR this year!

68 Doesn't mean it's far off…

Doesn't mean it's far off. Brees was 3rd last year; Manning was 3rd in 2014.

TB also has a solid line (sacks and APR often as much a measure of the QB as the line, but ALY and (to a lesser extent) power success rate are usually considered more a line metric than a back metric.) and a good defense. So he's got gobs of receiving talent, a good line, and a defense which can clean up his messier geriatric moments. 

You need a minimum level of mental competence (see also 2019 Jameis Winston) and arm talent (see also: 2020 Drew Brees) to make even that work, but it sure helps a lot.

It's odd to say, but on paper, TB's offense is probably more talented than KC's. KC just seems to be able to get more out of their paper talent.

83 It's admittedly an arbitrary…

It's admittedly an arbitrary measure, but I'd say the Bucs have "higher average talent" across the skill positions, but the parts of the Chiefs that are really good (Mahomes, Kelce, Hill), are INSANELY good.  Brady, Evans, Godwin, Brown, and Gronk is crazy, and throw in Cameron Brate as a solid pass-catcher and Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson as younger players who have shown a lot and that's a heck of an offense, but Tyreek Hill is basically a Madden cheat code in a red jersey, and Kelce's just such a solid target.  Mahomes just makes everyone so much better.

The players at the top of the Chiefs offense are just so insanely, ludicrously good that it changes everything.

87 I think there are three…

I think there are three concerns with this matchup that make me think its probably not going to be a good SB.

1) Like you said. Hill, Kelce, Mahomes + Reid and that scheme is like a cheat code. You need a combo of dominant front 4, great lbs to cover all of the shallow stuff, and a great secondary not to get torched when Mahomes buys time. The Bucs have 1 and 1/2 of that equation. Not great Bob

2) Brady has quietly(or not so quietly) been kind of bad these last two games. Its gone under the radar somewhat because they've scored off turnovers, but you can't expect that to continue.

3) Bowles and Arians appear to be joined at the hip in terms of philosophy. Bowles kept blitzing Rodgers and Rodgers normally eviscerates the blitz. If he does it against Mahomes....<cover your eyes and shield your baby>

93 The difference to me is that…

The difference to me is that Kelce and Hill are so good at what they do that the OL doesn't *need* to actually be "traditional" good. Then add in Mahomes's ability to get the ball to them even when the play's falling apart (which, again, I think Reid's been *begging* for all these years) and it's just perfect.

The fact that KC's line isn't quite as power-athletic doesn't surprise me at all, considering Reid's *always* focused more on athletic OL who can pull and get out in space to block for screens/swing passes.

The TB/KC Super Bowl will be *really* interesting schematically, as the two teams really don't look anything alike in terms of what they do on offense. 

110 "Reid's *always* focused…

"Reid's *always* focused more on athletic OL who can pull and get out in space to block for screens/swing passes" and end-arounds, 62 & 72 were blocking 35 yards downfield on Hardman's run. It was beautiful.

114 TB's pass rush is clearly…

TB's pass rush is clearly pretty good, and I just saw that Eric Fisher is out for the Super Bowl with an Achilles injury.  That's clearly a potential issue, as with just the front four (particularly now that Vea is back) the Bucs can cause some chaos.  Curious as to how well Fisher's backup is going to be able to hold up in the face of the rush.

118 Not new

KC's OL has been fairly average most of this season, and we can look back to last Super Bowl where the OL was overwhelmed much of the game.

Be it scheme, or the speed of the offense, or Mahomes ability to scramble and throw from anywhere, KC has been less susceptible to poor OL play hampering the overall team.

The Bucs should with the OL/DL matchup on that side. That may not be enough. If they don't win it, I don't see any way for them to win the game short of some 2013 Wild Card 44-45 type score.

120 I'd guess the common belief…

In reply to by dmstorm22

I'd guess the common belief is that a 45-44 kind of game is how the Bucs have a chance here, as it's not like the Chiefs tend to get slowed down.  Just looked at their schedule, and, in 18 games, they scored under 20 once, and 32 or more ten times.  Add to that how Carlton Davis probably still hasn't gotten out of the burn ward from what Hill did to him in that first matchup, and this feels either like one of those "Tom Brady wins MVP for throwing five TDs" kind of games or a throwback to 80s Super Bowls where the gap was 40 points at halftime.

127 I don't know, isn't this…

I don't know, isn't this sort of a similar matchup as last year, when the name was neither high-scoring nor low-scoring?  The Chiefs vs. a team with a great defense and an unbalanced offense?

129 I think 2019 SF defense was better

I could be made to look dumb for this but I think the 2019 SF defense was across the board better than this Tampa unit. Particularly in the back-end, but even their front was flat-out dominant, though I admit Tampa's is very good.

If Tampa wins the matchup against KC's OL to the extent the 49ers did last year, the Bucs will have a shot. I don't think they will to that extent.

137 Fair points all around.  The…

Fair points all around.  The Bucs' secondary is very young and certainly shown flashes, but Carlton Davis in particular has been utterly toasted multiple times this year (particularly against Tyreek Hill).  The real strength of the defense is in Devin White and Lavonte David, who are both just phenomenally good, and it's nice to see David in particular finally getting some recognition.  That does lead me to think Kelce may be a bit less of a threat than usual just because those two are fast and fluid enough to at least cover him partway down the field, but at some point he slips past them and you have to hope the secondary can handle it (they probably can't).

Though, with last year . . . well, there's a non-zero chance Tom Brady might be a better QB than Jimmy G.  Any drop-off in quality of defense from SF to the Bucs is balanced by a much better offense.  Also, there's the hidden X factor of the Bucs' playcalling in a Super Bowl not being handled by Kyle Shanahan.  Historically speaking, that . . . hasn't gone well.

124 "KC's OL has been fairly…

In reply to by dmstorm22

"KC's OL has been fairly average most of this season, and we can look back to last Super Bowl where the OL was overwhelmed much of the game."

That's what I meant by "differently talented" above, though - I'm not really convinced that they're *trying* to build a 'classically dominant' OL. It wouldn't make a ton of sense in Reid's offense - he's always targeted more athletic types that can block out in space.


145 This is a good point.  On…

This is a good point.  On the Hardeman jet sweep, two of the KC linemen were about 35 yards downfield still blocking in front of Hardeman.  That is both great effort and impressive athleticism.  The integration of talent and scheme is something few teams do as well.       

91 "Doesn't mean it's far off…

"Doesn't mean it's far off. Brees was 3rd last year; Manning was 3rd in 2014."

Yeah, except Drew Brees last year was 40, and Manning was 38 in 2014. Obviously the end comes fast, but even if Brady's arm falls off a cliff next year he's 4 years past Brees.

"It's odd to say, but on paper, TB's offense is probably more talented than KC's. KC just seems to be able to get more out of their paper talent."

Eh. It's more like they're "differently-talented." It's easy to see the difference in offensive styles, for instance, just looking at the WR body types and how they're used. KC's receivers are all speed/quickness open-field types, whereas TB's are larger, more traditional (?) receivers. I mean, KC's receivers have like 50% more YAC than Tampa Bay's, and a Bruce Arians WR actually running an end-around or something is basically a unicorn.

Similar issue with the lines and running backs - they're just used super-different. I mean, I *feel* like I'd want to give the edge to TB's offense, but Kelce and Hill are both just effing *unreal* in the roles they're used. It just feels like they're underrated by stuff like DYAR since if a WR runs a deep out with 30 air yards, that puts a *much* bigger strain on the QB/line than Tyreek Hill's "lemme catch a 5 yard slant that any idiot could block for and take it to the house."

98 Part of me wonders if that's…

Part of me wonders if that's why Antonio Brown didn't really explode onto the scene in Tampa - I mean, he had a decent year for only playing half the year and he is 32 now... but he's also a way different receiver than Godwin/Evans and not really one that Arians uses heavily.

72 I doubt a true game manager…

In reply to by Run dmc

I doubt a true game manager type like Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater would have the Bucs at this point.

It's not a crazy argument. The 2002 Bucs rode a good year from a game manager (Brad Johnson was 3rd in passing yards per game in the NFC) and a great defense to a SB. They didn't even have a great line. They couldn't really run the ball. Johnson was just really good at not throwing INTs or taking sacks, and that defense combined with an offense that didn't dig itself holes was good enough.

Those one-off teams usually do ride a hot year to a title, usually paired with a great defense and sometimes also with a good line.

11 Brady-Manning was a hell of…

Brady-Manning was a hell of an argument, right up to the point Manning retired.  Since Manning retired, Brady has been to an absurd 4 SBs in 5 seasons.  Think of what Brady could have accomplished without the Mannings knocking him off 5 times in the conference championship or later  (having said that, Mahomes is the best qb I've ever seen, just not the greatest, at least not yet, not for another half-decade at least)

21 Agreed on Mahomes

You really have to watch Mahomes play every week to appreciate his greatness. His highlight plays are ridiculous. He has many others that are also sublime but are dropped or just go for a minimal gain.

What I am most impressed with is his intelligence and game awareness. Example one time against the Lions he scrambled out of the pocket had plenty of room to run for the first down and he looked behind him to see if a flag was thrown for holding. In the middle of the play he had the presence of mind not to want to sprint for 30 yards if it was just going to be called back. There was no flag and he ran for a big gain.

Also as outlined in F.O. he is in his own category for taking advantage of free plays. 

And he and Kelce have a psychic connection that is remarkable. One time on the sideline you heard them talking .. and Kelce said how did you know I was going to turn that way (obviously it wasn't planned and Mahomes had to let go before Kelce had made his move) and Mahomes just said something to the effect I was hoping you would.

Add to that and he is just an excellent leader. Never throws his receivers under the bus etc.

44 I think the other thing with…

I think the other thing with Mahomes is that he flat out has the *perfect* coach for him, and I think Mahomes is the perfect QB for Reid, too. Reid's *always* tried to continually get guys in space so they can get yards after the catch, and Mahomes being able to throw off platform at any angle is just perfect for that.

Plus Mahomes is a freaking 4th year starter, and Reid's practically got a phone book of plays for him at this point, and he seems to just be like "yeah, sure, what else can we do? Oh, let's add an underhanded pass play! That'd be cool!"

51 I have a different take…

I have a different take. Having Kelce and Hill affords you this kind of creative playcalling. Especially when defenses are telegraphing exactly what they are going to do because of how terrified they are.

Mahomes is great but his weaponry is insane and it was on full display in this game. Buffalo was hell bent on not giving up big plays and yet gave up crushing big play after big play.

I can still remember being frustrated by Andy Reid during the Steelers loss. I think his "evolution" is more explained by the roster than it is about him.

37 "It's a good thing Rodgers…

"It's a good thing Rodgers won his SB so early into his career or we would be hearing a never ending parade of narratives involving Rodgers and his inability to win when it matters most."

This is the exact narrative Marino had to deal with post-1984.  Except he was unlucky enough to run into one of the greatest teams of all time in his SB appearance, and never got his ring.

61 Niners in '84

Joey-that Niners team in '84 got a whole lot better in '85 when they drafted Jerry Rice.  Marino's bigger problem in that S.B. game was the way HE played. According to P-F-R Dan gave his team a NEGATIVE Value in that game. Dan would do that exact same thing in his next 2 Conf. Championship games ('85 and '92).  Marino wasn't unlucky, he was bad at the worst times except for 1 great Conf. Champ. game ('84).

66 You really need to cite…

In reply to by Bob Smith

You really need to cite where you're getting that from, because it's not pfr.



71 ABSOLUTELY Pro-Football-Reference

Aaron-that was ABSOLUTELY a study done on P-F-R by Chase Stuart before he left P-F-R. He stated the study included the VALUE that a QB gave to his team IN THE PLAYOFFS from '67 thru '06. Doug Drinen did a study for the Reg. Season that is still being done today. You can't read that study by Chase anymore but I took notes for future reference.

75 That's your problem not mine

Then that's your problem not mine. It was a very interesting study that shed light on the performance levels of a lot of QB's pertaining to the playoffs. I just wish someone (looking at you Scott Kacsmar) would have picked up the ball and continued the study.

123 Marino's chart

Hey Gwilly-I can't seem to pull that up on my rather old computer. Marino's chart was also in the Comments section. If you zoom in on that chart you might be able to read the actual game by game Values. At first they were all there and I could read them easily, but Chase changed the size and the numbers went way off to the right. Could you see them ?

131 On second thought

In reply to by Bob Smith

Sorry about that but after some thought-you would have to zoom OUT to see more of Dan's chart.

132 yr rd att pyd ptd icp RY4.0…

In reply to by Bob Smith

yr rd att pyd ptd icp RY4.0 AY/A LgAvg Val WtVal

1984 c 32 421 4 1 0 13.00 5.73 233 465

1994 w 29 257 2 0 0 9.55 5.74 110 110

1994 d 38 262 3 0 0 7.68 5.74 74 74

1990 w 30 221 2 0 0 8.03 5.83 66 66

1992 d 29 167 3 0 0 6.79 5.50 37 37

1999 w 30 196 1 0 0 6.87 5.64 37 37

1984 d 34 262 3 2 0 5.94 5.73 7 7

1998 w 34 235 1 1 0 5.88 5.79 3 3

1990 d 49 323 3 2 8 5.37 5.83 - 15 - 15

1983 d 25 193 2 2 0 4.92 5.63 - 18 - 18

1985 d 45 238 1 1 0 4.51 5.58 - 48 - 48

1998 d 37 243 0 2 0 4.14 5.79 - 61 - 61

1995 w 64 422 2 3 0 4.80 5.79 - 64 - 64

1992 c 45 268 1 2 0 4.18 5.50 - 60 -119

1999 d 25 95 1 2 0 0.60 5.64 -126 -126

1984 s 50 318 1 2 0 4.76 5.73 - 48 -145

1985 c 48 248 2 2 0 3.71 5.58 - 90 -179

1997 w 43 141 0 2 0 1.19 5.71 -194 -194

135 Thanks a lot

Thanks. Now, for Aaron's sake and I guess mine also-could you verify that Marino's overall was NEGATIVE 156 and his Weighted was NEGATIVE 170.

144 So to recap methodology: Raw…

So to recap methodology:

Raw score = (Game AY/A-AllPlayerSeason AY/A)*attempts+RY(>4.0 YPC).
Weighted is the raw score * playoff week.

There is an interesting observation in the commentary


146 Take it up with Chase

You will have to discuss that with Chase. Yes, he was somewhat reluctant to do the study and called it a data dump, but he used that same methodology for every QB in that study, so if 1 guys numbers are worse or better than another's it reflects how each performed in the playoffs. My rather old computer won't pull it up anymore so my comments reflect what I remember reading back then.

81 Definitely a Negative Value

I will absolutely GUARANTEE you it was a Negative Value game, along with the 2 Conf. Champ. games I cited. Chase listed the actual numbers in Marino's chart, but I noted the 10 minus signs but not the actual numbers. Dan had 10 Negative value PO games and 2 others in the single digits, but that is the extent of my notes. I can give you other players overall however. Marino's overall was a terrible NEGATIVE 156.

116 Which goes to show the limitations of football stats

and their inability to extricate, for the most part, individual performance from team performance, especially in small samples.  The 49ers were getting pressure with 4 against slow developing offensive plays.  Even as great as Marino was, no one could have succeeded under those conditions, which were anomalous for that offense that year.

67 I know shitting on Dan…

In reply to by Bob Smith

I know shitting on Dan Marino is kind of your thing, but you're wrong about the 1984 and 1985 49ers.  The 1984 team was 15-1, and while we don't have DVOA for 1984 (yet!), their SRS was 12.75.  The 1985 team, Jerry Rice and all, had an SRS of 8.78 (and a DVOA of 26.1%).  Only the 1987 49ers had a higher SRS (13.31) than the 1984 team, and as FO has written, that 49ers team wasn't as hurt by the strike as some other teams, so their SRS is probably a bit higher than it should be.

74 Wrong

Eddo-you are completely mischaracterizing my position on Marino. I absolutely loved watching Marino play back in the day-what football fan wouldn't have back then. Dan was the only QB back then that was allowed to throw the ball aound an avg. of 35 times per game. That was so refreshing back then. I merely state Dan's stats and facts based on how he played.

78 I was merely pointing out…

In reply to by Bob Smith

I was merely pointing out that the 1984 49ers are probably the best 49ers team ever and didn't get better in 1985.

85 True

That is true, but they certainly got better a few years later and Jerry Rice was always a big factor.

70 "Marino wasn't unlucky, he…

In reply to by Bob Smith

"Marino wasn't unlucky, he was bad at the worst times except for 1 great Conf. Champ. game ('84)."

This is not intended as snark, but whenever I hear he was awful, unclutch, a choker and couldn't win games X, Y, and Z except for game W" to me this argument falls flat. The same is true in the opposite case - "This guy is clutch as hell except for ...".  

"Except for..." is basically having it both ways. If the guy was an unfailing choker, why the hell is there a need to insert this little escape clause? Isn't someone either a choker or a clutch artist?

157 "except for"... both ways

I had a psych professor in college who felt the same way about someone being "a softie" or "kindhearted" or "reliable" deep down.

His take was "oh, you mean infrequently."

The man could call bullshit on anybody with a smile and an iron-clad case.

This is the same thing.  Player A was BLANK, except for BLANK.  The "except for" part is the infrequent part.  

158 Well this gets back to the…

Well this gets back to the fact that no one has ever defined what clutch means. And too often it has become an ex-post narrative. 

How do we justify Aaron Rodgers being as good as he is and only winning one super bowl? If you have a very deterministic view of the world, you are forced to blame someone and that someone is either Aaron Rodgers himself or The supporting cast depending on your fan perspective.

If on the other hand you realize that football is played by more than just the trigger man, suddenly other explanations make a lot more sense than this nebulous hard to define term that no one can agree on 

159 Choker AND clutch artist

Hey Bobman-in slothook's post above he wonders if a QB has to be 1 or the other-choker or clutch artist. Is it possible that a QB could be BOTH in the same game ? Consider this: Brady is down by 5 with 1:30 to go in the game. It is 4th and goal and he has plenty of time to throw but he misses a wide open Gronk in the back of the endzone. What a choker!!     They fumble and Brady gets the ball back. It is 4th and goal with 2 seconds left. Brady is under tremendous pressure but hits a triple covered Gronk in the back of the endzone. What a clutch artist. 

161 One step further

Let's take it 1 step further. The above made-up example was the Conf. Cgamp. game. Now in the S.B. Brady is down by 5 with 1:30 to go. It is 4th and goal and Brady is under great pressure but he hits a triple covered Gronk in the back of the endzone.  What a clutch artist !!        They run back a kick-off for a TD. Now Brady has the ball down 5 again with a 4th and goal and 2 seconds left. He has plenty of time to throw but misses a wide open Gronk in the back of the endzone. What a choker. 

165 No "clutch" definition. Garbage time and DVOA

The concept of clutch has been rejected by baseball analytics.  If you have Justin Verlander pitching in his Cy Young years, he will likely pitch well if his team scores 10 runs in the top of the first or scores zero.  Hank Aaron had plenty of homers to break tie games and plenty when his team was down or up by 7 runs or more.

How clutch was Tom Brady when NE was winning every game in early 2007 by 3 TD's or more?  He never needed to do anything in the "clutch" as the closest the games usually got were at 0-0 at the opening kickoff.

Can Jacksonville or the Lions never have a clutch situation this year because they will finish in last place win or lose?

My favorite line about pressure regards Manna Acta manager of the Washington Nationals years ago. A reporter asked him in the post game press conference if his closer who had just lost the game could not handle the pressure.  His answer was, "How much pressure is there pitching on a last place team in a half empty stadium?"

We do not know what clutch is, but we know what garbage time is.  This has been a point of discussion on this website.  I believe that garbage time is predictive.  I will give an example, I was at Ben Roethlisberger's first  NFL game.  The Ravens led 20-0 when Tommy Maddox was knocked out of the game by a vicious hit (legal in 2004).  

Maddox had an awful game and here comes Big Ben with two garbage time TD's in the 4th quarter.  This is just one example, however, I do believe that garbage time should count for DVOA.    Players are still trying and competing for jobs.  Depth in the NFL is important and you do not have enough replacements so that many of your regular rotation players are playing in garbage time. 

The Steelers won 14 straight with Ben Roethlisberger in 2014 and he had an awfully good career (likely Hall of Fame).  If you discount garbage time, or worse yet, throw it in the garbage, things like this will be missed.

Here is the box score.


45 Mahomes is great, but my god…

Mahomes is great, but my god...Kelce and Hill are just too much.

And remember, this team was supposed to have Kareem Hunt in the backfield, too.

Without anyone noticing it, Andy Reid turned into Al Davis. I think Andy took a lot of lessons from the brief reign of Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson (and McCoy and Celek), and that tried to replicate that in a slightly more stable form in KC.

156 Oh, plenty of people noticed…

Oh, plenty of people noticed it. The Ringer had an article last year about Reid's evolution incorporating like... everything... from college.

Fundamentally it's still a "speed, space and balance" system (to quote Belichick on Reid - and note 'balance' here is run/pass balance, but not in the silly NFL definition) - you manipulate linebackers/safeties to create open space for playmakers to attack in the middle of the field. That part hasn't changed: Aaron used that phrasing back in the 2005 preseason.

What's changed are the sets of plays that they *use* to manipulate the defense.

4 I would also add - the way…

I would also add - the way this season played out is an indictment against the Packers front office. Rodgers had an MVP season. They returned to the championship game this time at home. If you thought this was a possibility as a front office, then spending a first rounder on a qb is a total waste. Rodgers isn't a 41 year old Drew Brees. He't not even a 38 year old Rivers. You don't sign your qb to a 4 year, bajillion dollar contract and then draft his replacement.

The front office escaped scathing criticism all year because the team was winning and some even hailed it as a genius stealth motivational move for Rodgers. I think that rationale speaks poorly of Rodgers(He needed this to motivate him?) and of the front office.  



8 The FOMBC lives!

The FOMBC lives! 'Matt LaFleur: Genius Coach' was too good an opportunity for it to let pass.

The three times when Rodgers has had an MVP-worthy season, the Packers offense has played a mediocre game in the playoffs. The defense has done its part in those games, with nine takeaways. But Rodgers has had five turnovers, and despite a few nice throws none of those performances will be a highlight on his HoF resume. I think that says more about the defenses and their gameplans than it does about Rodgers' clutchitude, but it shows there is a way to gameplan against him if you have a strong front four.

49 but it shows there is a way…

In reply to by ammek

but it shows there is a way to gameplan against him if you have a strong front four.

No one is immune to a strong front four.

Brady is 0-2 against the Giants because of strong fronts-four. Hell, the Eagles got just enough against him with a strong front four and essentially nothing else from their defense, in part of because Brady's DC was Matt Patricia.

If you can generate consistent pressure without having to bring extra guys or compromise on the back end, that's pretty much a cheat code for defenses.

57 You need three things…

You need three things. Pressure with 4, an ability to cover the hot routes and you need your safeties not to get burned quickly. All three in tandem is how you corral an offense. Unfortunately, no defense has all three this year, including Tampa

65 The risk with a guy like…

The risk with a guy like Mahomes, is even if you get all three things, he's liable to either take off and run for 20 yards, or run around behind the LOS for 20 yards and eventually one of his burners will shake free.

SF was pretty much a defense designed from the ground up to stop Mahomes, and he sure ground it up.

58 Packers have a very strange…

Packers have a very strange front office structure.  I am in agreement that the Packers front office should shoulder most of the blame for their inability to make it back to the SB over the past 9 seasons.  It seems as though they are willing to be an "also ran" contender with talent deficits compared to their opponents.  

2020: Bucs better WR/TEs, better front 7, and better secondary (toss up: RB, Offensive Line - w/o 69) 

2019: SF better Offensive line, better front 7, better secondary, better RBs, better WR/TEs (Kittle tips scale)

2016: Atlanta better WR/TEs, better RBs, Better front 7, better secondary (unsure Offensive Line)

2014: Seahawks better secondary, better front 7, better RB.  I believe GB had much more offensive talent (WR/TE; Offensive line) and should have won this game.  

I hope they have a wake-up call and realize they will not win another SB during AR career without an overhaul of their front office and talent evaluators.  Drafting less talented players has wasted the elite talent of AR.  

63 It's easy to blame the front…

It's easy to blame the front office. But the Packers have drafted well. It's a stretch to say they need to surround him with everything. Great receivers, great line, great front 7, secondary etc etc. By virtue of having Aaron Rodgers on your roster, you are going to be drafting in the lower rounds and having less access to cap.

The biggest issue is they've usually had to go on the road. Some of their defeats in the championship game probably swing their way if they are at home. And the one time they get HOF, it's a watered down version. This was a close game that they could have won. I don't blame the front office except for the fact that drafting a quarterback was a clear and obvious mistake.

Brady has warped all expectations and you need to remember that Mahomes did not go to a bad team with a clueless head coach. Those two are examples of when a superstar qb lands in the idealest of circumstances. Rodgers, like Manning, is instead on a team where he is given some talent but must round out the rough edges.


64 It's interesting that GB has…

It's interesting that GB has been very good for a long time, and of your list, only SEA was able to maintain that peak for any amount of time. They've run into a lot of teams built for that one specific great season, but that year was all-or-nothing.

96 Other than obviously these…

Other than obviously these Buccaneers, I don't know if any of the other NFC teams the Packers have lost to have been built just for one year, or with an extreme short-term mindset. I guess the Saints have been all-in these past few seasons, too, but the Packers haven't run into them in the playoffs (and the Saints haven't won anything anyway).

I think the NFC has just been really competitive at the top, and so the teams that have made it out of the conference have often done so in years where they were the best version of who they are, or the one season where it all lined up perfectly. Seattle I think was different because they hit the jackpot of franchise rookie QB and leveraged his contract to aggressively add veteran talent - kind of an all-in move, but at the early part of the cycle. And Seattle hasn't had nearly as much success since then in being aggressive to add veteran players.

6 Super Bowl the magic of two decades vs the magic of 3 years

This matchup is so appropriate.  The only reason that KC and Mahomes have not been in the Super Bowl for 3 straight years is because of a 37-31 loss in overtime to NE and Brady. It was a classic NE win the toss and score a TD, KC gets no chance in OT.  

Will this be the pass the baton of defying the odds, or will Brady defy the odds and father time?

Many have talked at length about "taking the field" is clearly the best choice.  Yet KC keeps beating the odds.  No one had ever won 6 straight one score games, then they win 7.  This is a team that could barely beat the Raiders (twice), Denver and the Chargers.  Trailing by multiple scores while being shut out to start 4 of their last 5 playoff games.  Yet they won all of those games and beat almost everyone in the regular season. 

I must agree with Vince regarding Josh Allen today, this was vintage 2018-2019 Allen as he went forward for 88 yards on 7 carries and backwards for 53 yards on 4 sacks, and then add to that the tremendous loss of yardage for the intentional grounding.  

And now for taking the field vs taking Tom Brady.  He has played 19 seasons, this is Super Bowl number 10.  So if you took the field in the conference, you are trailing 10-9.  I would love to see a FO analysis based upon the DVOA of each year at the start of the playoffs, the odds of Brady making 10 Super Bowls.  He must be astronomically beating the odds.  I will guess that if you randomly added 10 DVOA percentage points to every Brady team and subtracted 5 DVOA points from every Brady playoff opponent, he should still not make 10 Super Bowls.

Yes you are unlikely to see another player make it to 10 Super Bowls in your lifetime, even if you live to be 300 years old.

Yes. Brady is the GOAT, but you can be the GOAT and be the luckiest player in history.  This is not a knock on Brady.

The Tuck Rule, Adam Vinatieri breaking tie games with FG's, winning OT coin tosses so that the other team never gets the ball, Lee Evans game winning drop, Seattle getting intercepted on 1st and goal from the 1, Atlanta (fill in the endless things they did to mess up the Super Bowl game), Jacksonville blowing a 4th quarter lead and many more.  While its fresh in our minds, Drew Brees, Saints 4 turnovers, and Aaron Rodgers Packers 2,  that was 6 turnovers in 6 quarters plus a minute. Brady voodoo doll defense.

Of course, the one year he is out with an injury the team goes 11-5 and misses the playoffs on a tiebreaker.  No Brady, no magic.

You can not judge a player just on championships.  However, what Hall of Fame does this man belong in?  Peyton Manning is 2nd in the era with 4 appearances and two championships.  Future Hall of Famers Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, each have one Super Bowl appearance, a victory.  As does Brad Johnson, Joe Flacco and Nick Foles. The list of one Super Bowl appearance with a loss in the Brady era are Rich Gannon, Jake Delhomme, Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselback, Rex Grossman, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Jared Goff and Jimmy Garoppolo.  Missing from this list is Phillip Rivers who never made it to the Super Bowl, despite his team making the playoffs in 7 different season.

It can be argued that Brees and Rodgers are the anti-Brady as 13 other QB's have one Super Bowl appearance in the Brady era.  How did this happen?  Mahomes already has two.

The bottom line is that this is the defy all odds Super Bowl QB matchup.  And if TB wins, the Brady path would be to stop Brees, Rodgers, and Mahomes at a chance of a second Super Bowl victory.  

Who will win?:  The team that wins the coin toss in OT and drives the field and scores a TD.  And if that is KC, the baton has been passed.


16 Brady = lucky??

Is this Scott Kacsmar???

I see your consideration of luck doesn't include any of the bad luck from 2008: losing Stephen Neal on the first drive, Asante Samuel's dropped pick, or the luckiest catch in Super Bowl history by guy-whose-name-I-literally-cannot-remember.  (Tyree?)  

And some of the things you call "luck" are not luck at all - a rule being properly enforced, a kicker making FGs (???how is that 'luck'?) , Malcolm Butler making the play he was coached to make, etc.  


25 It's not all luck... but

In reply to by RickD

It's fair to lump it in with luck when the context of the conversation is how much individual praise a player is receiving for things that are, whether through luck or coaching, entirely outside of his control.

It shouldn't be controversial to say that Brady has been more fortunate - even including the weird Manning+Foles luck - more often than any other player. But for so many people, it is. It ends up like arguing politics, because even saying something like "he's great, but" gets your head torn off. Nothing short of genuflection is acceptable. And then we get saddled with ludicrous but common media narratives like "Brady willed his defense to play better" or "taking this team to the Super Bowl is the greatest sporting achievement of all time," as if he joined the 2-14 Yucks (both of which were actual things that actual media members said in the last few days), all celebrating one man while completely ignoring the exceptionally strong games his defense and teammates have played.

At least in my case, that's what bothers me. It's not Brady. I admire Brady. The narrative drives me INSANE though.

29 Yup, the dude almost blew an…

Yup, the dude almost blew an amazing performance by the defense by throwing 3 second half picks.  (He also threw what would be a pick 95% of the time right before the TD at the end of the half, which got immediately memory holed, and was bailed out of another first half arm punt by an insanely good play by Godwin.)  He was Jameis Winston last night, which is not all bad but kind of a lot bad.  Amazing, amazing career, but the narrative today ought to be about Todd Bowles and the Tampa Bay defense not winnersauce.  

31 I often find it’s the…

I often find it’s the opposite, where mentioning anything positive about Brady or the Patriots will get your head torn off by salty rival fans.

But anyway, we don’t need to discuss talk radio narratives in this space. It’s not controversial to suggest reaching 10 Super Bowls in 21 seasons might have involved above average luck. However, I would look upon the luck as being in the association with good organisations/coaches/teammates, rather than trying to come up with some ledger of every random bounce of the ball or refereeing call. Brady isn’t blessed from on high; he’s a ferocious worker, great player, who has benefitted from great surroundings - particularly at the beginning and end of his career when his abilities as a player were not at their peak.

34 "It’s not controversial to…

"It’s not controversial to suggest reaching 10 Super Bowls in 21 seasons might have involved above average luck."

I would love to agree with this, but the very thread your on started with someone jumping all over the initial comment that said, "Brady is the GOAT, but you can be the GOAT and be the luckiest player in history.  This is not a knock on Brady."

36 I often find it’s the…

I often find it’s the opposite, where mentioning anything positive about Brady or the Patriots will get your head torn off by salty rival fans.

This is exactly what makes it reminiscent of arguing politics with your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving.

Tanier's description of "Brady Fatigue" in yesterday's recap is very well-phrased, I think.

89 Brady fatigue

There's a lot of truth to it. My biggest complaint is that all the praise that's showered on him makes it seem like he was single handedly carrying this terrible franchise to unparalleled greatness when in reality, he's (at least) an above average QB who played two decades for a competent, stable organization under the GOAT head coach in a soft division. Is it really so surprising that a highly competent QB has lots of success in that situation? And really, who besides Mahomes might have a crack at playing for a stable organization, under a great HC in a relatively soft division for two decades? I feel like it should be okay to say that what makes Brady exceptional isn't just his talent but his circumstances as well.

55 I often find it’s the…

I often find it’s the opposite, where mentioning anything positive about Brady or the Patriots will get your head torn off by salty rival fans.

Which is like listening to someone complain that the weight of their wallet causes them back pain.

\quantum violins

80 Don't forget the luckiest thing of all...

In reply to by RickD

He was lucky to be drafted by Belichik. It's hard to think he'd have even played past his rookie contract if he'd been drafted by any other team, with maybe the exception of the eagles. That said, he did make the absolute most of opportunities, but it is also fair to say that he's had several significant advantages that no other QB in history has had.

86 The list of most-fortunate…

The list of most-fortunate QBs in pro football history probably includes Brady, Graham, and Montana, and probably Starr.

All were good QBs in isolation, but they fell into absolutely perfect circumstances.

\Bradshaw, Staubach, and Aikman's innate performance levels are more questionable, but they too fell into near-perfect circumstances.

102 Good points

Aaron-those are good points, but I think Brady and Bradshaw separate themselves a little because of the 4th quarter heroics and good play multiple times for both in S.B. games.

105 One more thing

In reply to by Bob Smith

Aaron-one more thing, Bradshaw's Value in Chase Stuart's study is just under Montana's and I am sure Brady's would be the best ever if that study was still going on today. Bradshaw 902, and Montana 1,292. They would be the best 3 overall. 

106 So how do you explain 17 pts…

In reply to by Bob Smith

So how do you explain 17 pts against the 14th ranked defense and the 21st ranked defense? Why were Tom Brady's heroics not on display then? 

This is not to shit on Tom Brady but to point out the absurdly inconsistent way this argument lives on. Tom Brady has won sbs scoring under 20 pts on offense and he's lost a sb scoring 33pts.   


Bob, to end this never ending difference between us, please just answer this question: In your mind, how is it that a qb can be clutch and still suck in a sb? How can those 2 both be true at the same time?

52 Yes you are unlikely to see…

Yes you are unlikely to see another player make it to 10 Super Bowls in your lifetime, even if you live to be 300 years old.

Maybe. Brady's not the 1st QB to reach 10 championship games. Otto Graham did it in each of his 10 seasons.

Mahomes has a shot. He's had a lead in the last minute of the AFCCG in every year he's been a starter.

103 Brady’s biggest break

No AFC East team ever found an answer at quarterback for two straight decades. Miami famously flunked Drew Brees for his physical. The Dolphins also blew the chance to draft Matt Ryan. The Bills blew the chance to draft Cam Newton. An extra loss or two in some critical years very likely would have knocked NE out of a bye or made them go on the road for the AFCCG. I’m pretty damn confident Brady wouldn’t be sitting on six SB wins and ten appearances if any of those things had happened. On the flip side, with some better luck (2006 AFCCG, Helmet Catch, late-game Philly sack, Plaxico nonsense), Brady might be taking aim at an 11-0 SB mark this year. 

121 300 Years ?

I would say it's at least a 10% possibility Mahomes makes it to 10. The guy has two at 25. That means he needs 8 in the next 15 years. That actually gives you an idea for the enormity of the task.

Yet KC seems to have everything in place New England had: Solid organization, HOF Coach, etc. But while NE seemed to get great defensive play and cut and paste offensive playmakers - it seems KC puts money into offensive weapons a few defensive stars and has done a good job with a budget secondary and offensive line.

Mahomes has been a starter for 3 years and has been to the AFC Championship all 3 years (and all three at home as well!).

The AFC West doesn't appear to be as lousy as the AFC East but only L.A. seems to have a QB that will give Mahomes trouble and that might actually help hone KC to a sharper edge.

So we will see!

138 Herbert

In reply to by Run dmc

Herbert is already better than every quarterback who played in the AFC East when Brady played there. So Mahomes is already behind the eight-ball on that count.

150 "Favre year..." 2008 season…

"Favre year..." 2008 season...more like 11 games...started off 8-3, finished 1-4...Mangini fired... Favre later stated he shouldn't have been playing with an injury from some point in there...

"brief Pennington heresy..." very brief... when the Jets behind Pennington destroyed the Colts 41-0 in the Wild Card game on 1/4/03...

155 Of course, that was as a…

Of course, that was as a Dolphin...Jets ownership (don't get me started on Johnson & Johnson) fell in love with the idea of Favre...I think Mangini didn't want him, but he got fired after the season crashed and burned due to Favre's injury...meanwhile, Pennington gets shipped to Miami, and has a great uninjured season...classic Jets zigging when they should've zagged...

164 We are back to the take the field vs one team argument

In reply to by Run dmc

Basically you are taking Patrick Mahomes vs the field for 15 years and saying that Mahomes will be a better bet than taking the AFC field in 10% of the cases.  This is why I will stick with the 300 years argument.  You can not project what the Chiefs will look like even in a few years, let alone 15 years from now.  

Even Mahomes may decline some, part of Brady's greatness is his durability and his lack of substantial decline.

10 I'd agree that it's unusual…

I'd agree that it's unusual in football to 'flip the switch' (yet very common in NBA), but this will be two straight seasons where, by your numbers with Mahomes in the game, Chiefs' offense is actually better in the postseason than it ever was in the regular season (your offensive dvoa charts from last season's SB preview had their best 2 games as their 2 playoff games, to that point).  Said it before, but they remind me of the KD Warriors more than any football team I've ever seen


As for the Bucs, your preview was dead-on;  both Brady and Rodgers played well but not very well, and the Bucs won by whipping the Pack offensive line in the trenches

13 GB/TB

was decided by line play on both sides (TB stoned GB's pass rush regularly), Kevin King and the GB special teams as per usual giving up lots of yards.  GB was unable to exploit the weaker points of TB (the backup guard, the backup safeties) while Tampa drilled the bejeezus out of GB's issues (the aforementioned King, both offensive tackles)


It's easy to point at Rodgers' misses because they are all clear on replays.  Not seeing Lazard.  Not seeing Adams on the offsides call.  Perhaps not trying to run it in late.  But as I wrote elsewhere if your gamplan to win relies on your qb being perfect you are not going to win many games.


Lost among the defensive holding not being called was also the offensive holding not called.  In both scenarios Tampa did a better job of leveraging the officiating approach.  Not claiming that Tampa cheats better.  Just that they clearly recognized sooner what was happening and worked that advantage as much as possible.  GB did not.


The ball at the end of the first half was a terrible pass that Redmond should have caught if he was a legit professional.  The Godwin catch was simply good fortune for TB.  The other interceptions were poor or flat out inexplicable throws.  Brady had all day most pass downs and was playing a defense that had multiple weak points.  He had a great season.  But in 'this' game he was pretty terrible and all praise should go to the Tampa defense.

22 There was a very blatant…

In reply to by big10freak

There was a very blatant hold by the Bucs’ RT on the play with the pass interference call that sealed the game. I understand “letting them play”, but calling a game deciding penalty when there was an obvious penalty by the other team is pretty poor form. 

14 End of the first half defensive play call

should almost certainly have been quarters.  Having any non-Alexander defensive back in single coverage the length of the field is madness.  


One wonders which of the two was the trigger for both not to return to GB?  Was King's self-implosion sinking Pettine or Pettine's playcall asking King to do what he cannot do sinking King?  Methinks both will be elsewhere come next season

77 I figure Pettine will be…

I figure Pettine will be gone. For a coach who was often willing to concede the run and shorter pass plays so they could stay in dime and not get burned over the top... they got burned over the top in back-breaking fashion at the end of the first half. Even if they nail a new DC hire though, I think it's going to be a challenge to get a lot better on defense right away. It seems like it's going be a difficult offseason for them to bring anyone in outside of the draft, and CB behind Alexander is such a huge weakness for them.

King... man. That's about as tough of a performance as you can possibly have in your last game before your rookie contract expires.

94 To Pettine's credit, his…

To Pettine's credit, his strategy vis a vis stopping the run changed dramatically at some point mid-season and the unit improved to something around league average (or at least it felt that way to me).

I haven't felt like King was worth re-signing at all unless he comes in close to the minimum and I hope this game puts that into perspective for management. He's not all that good when he's healthy and he's not healthy all that often.

20 I guess if you're the…

I guess if you're the Packers and Ricky Wagner, that means you should try holding a little bit more -- the refs clearly don't want to call anything today!

In retrospect, with 8 seconds left -- the refs aren't calling anything. Don't you just take a page out of the Ryan/Harbaugh playbook and just tackle every Bucs receiver at the LOS? That's only a 5 yard flag and it eats the rest of the clock. And if Brady grounds it in panic, it's even off-setting!

28 Regarding 3 interception games

I read that Brady’s teams are now 3-1 when the opposing teams intercepts 3 or more passes in  playoff contests.  

that is remarkable 

50 Brady's stats are just…

Brady's stats are just utterly insane no matter how you look at them. He has more playoff wins since turning 35 than another QB has, period. He has more playoff wins over the NFC than Drew Brees. He has as many losses in Super Bowls as to the Bills. You could chop his stats into three 7 year windows and all three would potentially make the Hall of Fame.


54 I think the point about the…

I think the point about the above comment is that in addition to Brady being an all time Qb and hard to beat, even when he plays poorly he somehow wins anyways.

Btw, both statements can be true at the same time Brady. Brady can be the goat and the luckiest qb of all time. 

30 Courtesy ESPN status

13 times in the last 20 years of playoffs a player has thrown 3 interceptions in a half.


Only two teams has the team throwing the interceptions won the game:  Yesterday and the Seahawks against the....................Packers in that infamous NFC Championship game 



32 Weird SB match up

This might be both a very exciting, and very dull match up in the sense I have zero rooting interest in either team. It's not like we're missing seeing Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. But I'm not sure I hate the Bucs Tom Brady even though I was bored to death with the Patriots Tom Brady:) The Chiefs were there last year so there's not a lot of that breaking a huge drought feeling this time around. It feels like the Bucs have more older Vets hanging on for a ring. They also feel like their window is exactly this year. It's hard to see how all those players fit under the cap in the future. It comes down to the Bucs having the better defense, but does that matter? KC already beat that defense once. IDK. I'll probably root the Florida team after rooting for KC last year. Despite the match up, I'm not sure I actually care who wins the Super Bowl and yet it's hard to deny, It's a good match up.  

38 I'm old enough to remember…

In reply to by johonny

I'm old enough to remember what a laughingstock the tangerine orange Bucs were, and it felt like they would never have a winning team (I remember how shocked people were at the time when Tony Dungy's '97 Buccaneers turned out to actually be good).  I also knew people at the time who remained loyal fans of the team (one of them even said, "I can't wait for the day when they raise the Lombardi while wearing their ridiculous orange uniforms with their fruity pirate logos!"). 

So I was pretty happy for them when they won in 2002, and I'll be happy for them again if they win in two weeks, after what they dealt with in the post-Gruden years.  Yes, I know on the face of it, thinking of a franchise helmed by Tom Brady as being downtrodden is completely ludicrous, but I'm taking more of a long view of it.

39 I'm probably in a similar…

I'm probably in a similar age bracket as you, but even by 2002, I had turned on the Bucs; Gruden and Sapp were not exactly likable if you weren't already a fan.  Kind of similar to this year, in that regard.

I was pretty surprised when I found myself rooting for them yesterday, but I guess the influx of annoying Packer fans here had an effect on me (sorry, ammek, DisplacedPackerFan, and all the regulars that I enjoy reading comments from).

41 To my knowledge

there is only one 'annoying' alleged Packers fan who of course today is conspicuously absent.


But then perhaps I am part of that number.  




42 There's only one that is so…

In reply to by big10freak

There's only one that is so smug and annoying and it's so strange because if he follows the Packers, he would have experienced so many disappointing losses so as to not be so presumptive.

I certainly never felt comfortable in any playoff game.

69 Don't worry, you're not…

In reply to by big10freak

Don't worry, you're not among that group :)

And while one was definitely the most prolific this year (and last year), it does seem like 3 or 4 more were out in full force the past month or so.

82 Phew

I like to think I am fairly objective about Green Bay.  But who knows how posts via chat forums get interpreted?

100 I never had much of a…

I never had much of a problem with Sapp or Gruden (although I really liked Dungy and wished he could have won a ring with that team), I found them entertaining.  

Yesterday, I was rooting for the Bucs more than rooting against the Packers, but there was a little bit of the latter.  Honestly, I wasn't even thinking about that particular Packers poster who constantly tries to invoke the FOMBC curse.  If I'm being completely honest with myself, it's latent envy coming to the forefront.  The Packers have been the class of the division for >90% of my football watching life.  Kind of the same way some Jets, Dolphins, and Bills fans would take pleasure in Patriots playoff losses.  It's a maladaptive and childish impulse, but I can't deny that it's there.  

154 Am I unique?

This lifelong Flatbush resident became a Lions fan when 8 year old me (the 1950's Roy, Gene and Hoppy fan) learned they drafted Howard "Hopalong" Cassady out of Ohio State, and a Jets fan when the Titans of NY came into existence in 1960...so yesterday's NFCCG featured my two most-loathed quarterbacks of all time...luckily, one had to lose, and I can root against the other in two weeks...


125 As a Bears fan (like Eddo),…

As a Bears fan (like Eddo), I am supposed to root for whoever the Packers are playing, even if it's the Army of Satan, but I enjoy watching Rodgers play so much (and enjoyed watching Favre) that I usually end up pulling for GB. And against Brady it was a no-brainer. But when things started to go south, I do admit my mind went to that NFCC preview thread...

142 Chiefs fan living in DC…

Chiefs fan living in DC where the local media hype ("WE'RE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!!! after every win or off-season move) and owner have driven me crazy for 20 years. My definition of a perfect Sunday:

1. Chiefs win

2. Broncos lose

3. Raiders lose

4. Chargers lose

5. WFT loses

Bonus points (better than perfect?) if 1 coincides with 2 thru 5.

163 You must watch WFT postgame live after a loss

After a loss the Brian Mitchell opening scowl will have you laughing for 5 minutes.

I hope that you like basketball because the Wizards are going to the playoffs after every year after every win or loss (they are 3-9).  As if it is such an accomplishment to make the playoffs in a league where more than half of the teams make the playoffs.  A feat rarely accomplished by the Wizards.

101 I'm old enough

I'm so old I remember when they used to call it the battle of the bays, the bay of pigs because Green bay and Tampa Bay were seemingly bad and bland year after year. That feels like a long time to go. As a  Dolphin fan I can't help but laugh that they have by far the longest by far play off drought in that state now. 

115 Pete Axthelm of ESPN coined …

In reply to by johonny

Pete Axthelm of ESPN coined "Bay of Pigs" in the Green Bay-Tampa Bay matchup.  They weren't just bland, they were bad.  It would usually be a battle between young Vinny Testaverde and whichever terrible quarterback the Packers would march out.  You could pretty much count on like 6-8 turnovers and multiple penalties on both teams.

47 Reid's real genius

I think one narrative deserving more discussion is Andy Reid's significant grasp of the psychology of a team and a game. The contrast between him and McDermott (who I generally love as a coach) was fully on display last night.

Take a couple contrasting examples:

Mecole Hardman makes an egregious mistake, fumbling inside his own 5 and setting the Bills up for a touchdown. Reid, recognizing that his guy might have the jitters, dials up some really simple plays to get him back into the game: The TD pass on a screen where he has to simply catch it and turn for the endzone, and then the end around. Hardman rewards him with a TD and a long gain that set up another TD. He not only schemes guys into a position to succeed, he's excellent at getting their heads right so they don't make repeated mental errors.

Meanwhile, Devin Singletary blows a routine 3rd down catch and ends up like Sonny Corleone's driver, ("Won't see him no more.") In a critical shootout game against the league's most athletic team, he insists on giving snap after snap to overmatched veterans like Josh Norman, TJ Yeldon, and Lee Smith because he can't bring himself to trust Knox, Singletary, Antonio Williams, Dane Jackson, etc. This isn't a new phenomenon either, before this season he would roll out guys like Mike Tolbert and Frank Gore in high-leverage situations as well. Similarly, he and Daboll seemingly struggle to get Josh Allen back under control once games start to get away from him. He was doing the same huge-turnover-at-the-worst-moment thing as far back as the Rams game this year, he was playing with fire against Patrick Peterson against the Cardinals before PP7 finally snagged one, and he coughed up inexcusable fumbles in both the Colts and Ravens games this year that nearly ended the season. Some players are just going to give you the bad with the good, but when you see the *same* mistake recurring month after month, it starts to land on the coaches.

108 Yep, you nailed it

In reply to by IlluminatusUIUC

I made the same point about Hardman last night to some friends on a group chat. Very smart of Reid to get him some easy plays and demonstrate the coaching staff’s continued faith in the players. McDermott did the complete opposite. Very disappointing. 

128 "Mecole Hardman makes an…

"Mecole Hardman makes an egregious mistake, fumbling inside his own 5 and setting the Bills up for a touchdown. Reid, recognizing that his guy might have the jitters, dials up some really simple plays to get him back into the game: The TD pass on a screen where he has to simply catch it and turn for the endzone, and then the end around. Hardman rewards him with a TD and a long gain that set up another TD. He not only schemes guys into a position to succeed, he's excellent at getting their heads right so they don't make repeated mental errors."

Agreed, this is a great example of great coaching.

59 Similarly, he and Daboll…

Similarly, he and Daboll seemingly struggle to get Josh Allen back under control once games start to get away from him.

I didn't exactly see Allen missing guys running free. I attributed most of his issues to the Chiefs defense playing really well.