The conclusion of the NFC Championship Game was clouded by controversy.
The Buccaneers opted to pass on third-and-4 from their own 37-yard line with 1:45 remaining in the fourth quarter, leading the Green Bay Packers 31-26. Tom Brady’s toss was intended for Tyler Johnson, whose jersey was tugged on by Kevin King. Referees tabbed the Packers cornerback with pass interference, giving Tampa Bay a first down and a clear path to run out the clock and punch a ticket for Super Bowl LV.
You can watch the controversial play here.
Was King’s jersey tug worthy of a penalty? In a vacuum, yes. But officials had been letting similar play slide for the bulk of the game. In fact, Tampa Bay appeared to benefit from a non-call in the second quarter when Sean Murphy-Bunting grabbed hold of Allen Lazard’s jersey prior to picking off Aaron Rodgers.
It would be dramatic to say the Packers were robbed in their loss to the Bucs. Green Bay didn’t capitalize on the opportunities it was given and also made a highly questionable strategic decision late in the fourth quarter. But it’s also fair to say Rodgers probably should have had the ball in his hands one more time before the final whistle sounded.