One of the keys to Tampa Bay’s six-game win streak, which has included two road playoff games, has been the Buccaneers’ ability to force turnovers and to convert those miscues into points. In the 2020 postseason, the Buccaneers have scored 27 points directly related to five turnovers — four in an upset of the New Orleans Saints in last weekend’s divisional round victory.
But against the Packers, Tampa Bay’s defense will be going up against a team that lost a league-low 11 turnovers during the regular season.
“Everyone understands the emphasis on protecting the football at all times, especially in the playoffs,” Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “And as offensive players, we have to know that’s a constant emphasis of the defense. So it’s a recognized priority.”
In 16 regular-season games and one playoff game, Rodgers has thrown just five interceptions (and 50 touchdowns).
If they win on Sunday, the Buccaneers will be the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
Several Buccaneers were asked last week about whether they had considered playing in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., which is within sight of the team’s practice facility. Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David said he noticed the Super Bowl decorations and banners being added to the stadium on his drive to practice on Wednesday, which, he said, drove home the game’s consequence.
Buccaneers’ view from practice this week was of the Super Bowl LV banners that the NFL already has adorned to Raymond James Stadium, site of this year’s big game. pic.twitter.com/QPC9rGI475
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 24, 2021
But Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians was of a different mind-set.
“We don’t play that game this week — that’s the message to everybody,” Arians said. “We play the Packers in the N.F.C. championship game. If you start thinking about the Super Bowl, you get beat and will be packing your bags on Monday.”
While no team has ever played a Super Bowl in its home stadium, in January 1985 the San Francisco 49ers played Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium in nearby Palo Alto, Calif., and in January 1980 the Los Angeles Rams played Super Bowl XIV in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
Green Bay and Tampa Bay met in Week 6 of the 2020 regular season, on Oct. 18, with the Buccaneers routing the Packers, 38-10. Green Bay jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but Tampa Bay’s defense kept quarterback Aaron Rodgers off balance by sacking him five times. Things were not much better for Green Bay when it turned to the ground game as top running back Aaron Jones had only 15 yards on 10 carries.
Behind the veteran tackle Ndamukong Suh and linebackers Jason Pierre-Paul (a Pro Bowl selection) and the rookie Devin White, the Buccaneers generated tremendous pressure throughout the regular season, toppling quarterbacks 48 times, tied for the fourth-highest sack total in the N.F.L.
It was the third time Rodgers and Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady have gone head-to-head. In 2018, Brady’s New England Patriots thrashed Green Bay in Foxborough, Mass., 31-17. In 2014 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., the Packers defeated Brady and New England, 26-21.
Sunday’s game will be the first time Rodgers and Brady meet in the playoffs.