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Tenth time’s another charm for super Brady as Buccaneers advance to Super Bowl

Nineteen seasons of starting. Ten Super Bowls.

Who does that?

Tom Brady, that’s who.

Of all the records and milestones Brady has set that surely no NFL quarterback will ever break, that’s maybe the most untouchable.

Indeed, the 43-year-old is completing his 19th season as starter, if you discount 2008, when he played less than eight minutes before tearing an ACL and missing the rest of the campaign.

And the ageless wonder on Sunday secured his 10 th trip to the NFL’s championship game by leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to an upset victory, 31-26, over the top-seeded Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game at Lambeau Field.

Brady, who quarterbacked the New England Patriots to six wins in nine Super Bowl appearances from 2001-19, for the first time will represent the NFC, rather than the AFC, on the high holy day of American sport.

What’s more, after three road wins this month in the playoffs, Brady and the Bucs will play at home to close the season, as the big game is at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 7.

No team, until now, has played at home in a Super Bowl.

“And we’re coming home to win,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said.

Brady was the star performer through the first 32 minutes, outperforming the likely regular-season MVP, his counterpart Aaron Rodgers, by a substantial margin.

After that, Brady increasingly faltered as his receivers’ dropsies became more chronic, and as Rodgers impressively kept inching the Packers closer, after falling behind 28-10 early in the second half.

Brady’s three early touchdown passes — plus a nasty Buccaneers pass rush — were the primary reasons the Packers found themselves behind by three scores in the first place.

The play that will be talked about for years came in the final seconds before halftime, with Tampa Bay leading 14-10. Rather than proceed with a punt on 4 th -and-3 from the Green Bay 45, with 13 seconds left, Arians called a timeout — then sent his offence back out, to go for it.

Brady hit running back Leonard Fournette for six yards to retain possession. On the next snap, with eight seconds left, the smart play seemingly would have been for Brady to look for a short pass to set up a half-ending field goal.

Instead, Brady looked to throw deep.

Tampa Bay lined up with three wide receivers, two bunched left with tight end Rob Gronkwoski, and a wideout alone to the right. The play called for the Bucs to max-protect Brady with seven men — the five linemen plus the running back and Gronkwoski — against, as it turned out, only four pass rushers.

Two Green Bay linebackers dropped into short zone coverage, which left five defensive backs to cover only three Bucs receivers out to run routes.

And the Packers still blew it.

Two defenders — an outside cornerback and a safety — covered Mike Evans out to Brady’s right side. The slot cornerback and the other deep safety doubled Chris Godwin, lined up inside left.

Kevin King — Green Bay’s outside cornerback far to Brady’s left, who played despite a back injury that had him listed as questionable until 90 minutes before game time— alone covered speedy Scotty Miller, man to man.

At the snap, Miller burst farther outside, past King, and at full speed straight down the left sideline.

“We were just gonna try and heave it, like a Hail Mary type thing,” Miller said.

Brady looked for him the whole way, perhaps knowing from game tape that the Packers would double his other two receivers, both Pro Bowlers last season.

Brady hit Miller in stride in the end zone, past King, for a shocking 39-yard touchdown, one second before halftime.

Tampa Bay 21, Green Bay 10.

“When we lined up, you could tell it was going to be a touchdown,” Arians said. “We didn’t come here to not take chances, but to win the game.”

Said Miller: “The coaches made an awesome decision, going for it.”

If that wasn’t demoralizing enough to the home side, three plays into the second half Rodgers threw complete to running back Aaron Jones on a third-down crossing route. Then wham! Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead separated Jones from the football.

The forced fumble was picked up by Bucs linebacker Devin White, who ran it to the Green Bay eight.

On Tampa Bay’s next snap Brady, on play-action, lobbed an easy touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate, over a fooled Packers defence, which had bit entirely on the run fake.

Just 66 seconds into the second half: Tampa Bay 28, Green Bay 10.

At that point Brady was 14-of-23 — but should have been 18-of-23, if not for four egregious drops — for 210 yards, three TDs, no interceptions and a glistening 130.4 passer rating.

The Bucs needed that production and that 18-point cushion, because for the rest of the game Brady and Bucs offence kept sputtering and misfiring; at one point three straight possessions ended with a Brady pick.

Rodgers shook off his early-game hiccups — which included an interception and three sacks — and thereafter was spectacular.

Until it all came down to Green Bay, down 31-23, in position to possibly tie it with a 1 st -and-goal at Tampa Bay’s eight-yard line, and 2:22 remaining.

But after three straight Rodgers incompletions, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur surprisingly opted to kick a field goal, which made it 31-26. Apparently he, for one, DID come there to not take chances.

The Packers thus still needed a touchdown. With three timeouts left, LaFleur must have felt confident his defence could stop the Bucs and force a punt early in the final 2:05.

It couldn’t at all. The Bucs ran out the clock.

Was the fiery Rodgers happy about not having one more chance from the eight to score a TD, and perhaps tie it with a two-point conversion?

What do you think.

“It wasn’t my decision,” Rodgers said. “(I) understand the thinking … but it wasn’t my decision.”

And so, another season ends with Rodgers having only one Super Bowl appearance to his credit. As a frustrated Rodgers — or any NFL quarterback — can tell you, it’s really, really hard to get to multiple Super Bowls.

If your name isn’t Tom Brady.

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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