- The Washington Times - Monday, January 18, 2021

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night to advance to the NFC Championship Game, you could practically hear the cheers from the NFL.

The Buccaneers advancing, along with the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, gives the NFL a  matchup for the ages: Tom Brady at Lambeau Field next week against Aaron Rodgers. For all the success those two quarterbacks have had over the years, this is the first time they will meet in the postseason.

Brady, at 43, is still one of the best in the game. He didn’t light the world on fire with his 199 yards and three total touchdowns against the Saints, but his performance was strong enough to send him to his 14th conference championship game — the previous 13, of course, coming with the New England Patriots.

Since his move to Tampa Bay, Brady hasn’t lost a step. He threw for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns with 12 interceptions this season. And his supporting cast around him isn’t bad, either. There’s Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette in the backfield, plus a score of receivers including Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

“Two road playoff wins is pretty sweet, and we’ve got to go beat a great football team, one we know pretty well,” Brady said postgame. “Aaron is playing incredible, and we’re going to have to play great to beat them.”

Rodgers, who’s finally hosting a home conference championship game for the first time in his career, has produced MVP-caliber numbers. He completed over 70% of his passes for 4,299 yards and 48 touchdowns this regular season. He threw just five interceptions — although two of those came in October against the Buccaneers.

That was one of just three head-to-head meetings between Brady and Rodgers, and the 38-10 Tampa Bay win was Rodgers’ worst game this season. The 37-year-old completed fewer than half his passes for 160 yards and two picks. He was sacked four times.

The Packers’ offense has looked different since, with a run-pass combination making Rodgers a dangerous play-action passer. In this weekend’s win against the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay carved the top-ranked defense apart, with wide receiver Davante Adams pulling in nine catches and Aaron Jones rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown.

Brady holds the 2-1 advantage from their previous matchups. The pair met in 2018, finishing in a 31-17 New England victory with Brady passing for 294 yards and a score compared to Rodgers’ 259 yards and two touchdowns.

Rodgers outdueled Brady in their first meeting — and the only one at Lambeau Field — in 2014, when Rodgers threw for 368 yards and two scores in the 26-21 Green Bay victory.

“My initial reaction is those guys are obviously great, great players, have been for a long time,” Rodgers said of Drew Brees and Brady on Saturday. “I don’t know if it will be the oldest, but the combined age of the starting quarterbacks will definitely be up there for the championship.”

Age is but a number, though, as these two quarterbacks have shown. And in next weekend’s NFC Championship Game, the NFL gets an ideal situation — two star quarterbacks meeting with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

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