FILE PHOTO: Jan 17, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints in a NFC Divisional Round playoff game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
January 25, 2021
(Reuters) – Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers stand between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady and his shot at a record-extending seventh Super Bowl ring in a NFC Championship showdown between two of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game on Sunday.
Rodgers is the favorite to take league MVP honors this season but to reach the Super Bowl the 37-year-old will have to overcome a stout Bucs’ defense and the iron will of Brady, who won six NFL titles in two decades with New England before heading south to Tampa.
Rodgers threw for 4,299 yards in the regular season, 48 touchdowns and finished with the league’s best passer rating and says the Packers have come a long was since being hammered 38-10 by the Bucs in October.
“That was so long ago … and I think we learned a lot from all of our wins and losses,” said Rodgers, who led the Packers to six straight wins to end the regular season and won the Super Bowl with the team in 2011.
“The most important thing is how you’re playing going into the playoffs.”
Brady’s decision to leave the Patriots for the Buccaneers, whose sole Super Bowl triumph came in 2003, raised some eyebrows around the league but he proved his doubters wrong by throwing 40 touchdown passes, his most since the 2007 season.
Brady rolls into Green Bay with an array of reliable pass catchers including wide receiver Mike Evans, who just completed his seventh straight season with more than 1,000 receiving yards.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who won three rings with Brady in New England and came out of retirement to join him in Tampa, told reporters this week that this offensive group is one of the most talented he has been part of.
“I’ve been around a lot of great, talented players, but I would say overall – as a group, from position to position (with) how many guys we have at each position – I would say this definitely ranks up there, if it’s not number one for talent as a whole,” said the 31-year-old five-time Pro Bowler.
“The main goal, obviously, is always to make it to the Super Bowl, but it’s hard. It’s one of the hardest things to do out there in the sports world.”
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Peter Rutherford)