Tom Brady wasn’t his usual greatness on Sunday night in a divisional playoff game in New Orleans.
But he was good enough to get the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into the NFC title game next Sunday in Green Bay.
Brady completed 18 of 33 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bucs to a 30-20 win over the Saints. Brady is embarking on his 14th conference championship game, but first in the NFC. The other 13 were in the AFC with the New England Patriots.
“Just so proud of everyone. The whole organization,” said Brady, acknowledging the challenges of no offseason while playing in a new offense with so many new pieces. “Our coaches have put in so much work and effort getting us to this point, preparing us every day, and just done an amazing job. Guys really come together. It’s a really unique team. We have great chemistry. We have fun at practice. We worked really hard to get to this point, just like the other three teams remaining.”
While Brady managed the offense like the future Hall of Fame quarterback he is, the Tampa Bay defense also shined in the brightest light, intercepting Saints quarterback Drew Brees three times.
“We had to look ourselves in the mirror and challenge ourselves on who we wanted to be,” said Bucs inside linebacker Devin White, who finished with 11 tackles (10 solo), a tackle for a loss, a QB hit, a pass breakup, a fumble recovery and an interception.
Tampa Bay is trying to become the first team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl game in its own city. The Bucs have one more giant hurdle in the form of the Green Bay Packers to make it happen.
Chiefs 22, Browns 17
After losing star quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a concussion, the Kansas City Chiefs needed backup Chad Henne to make two big plays to help run out the clock and preserve the Chiefs’ five-point win over the Cleveland Browns in Sunday’s AFC divisional playoff game in Kansas City.
Henne came through in brilliant fashion on the Chiefs’ final drive as he scrambled for 13 yards on third down, and completed a short pass on a fourth-and-1 play to allow Kansas City to indeed run out the clock and make it to its second straight AFC title game.
“When you’re around him, you just know,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of why he trusted Henne. “Everybody has full confidence in him. … I think we’ll all remember the run, that dive, and then the throw.”
Mahomes suffered the concussion in the third quarter.
Prior to that, he had completed 21 of 30 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield was 23 of 37 for 204 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
The Chiefs will host the Buffalo Bills in next Sunday’s AFC title game.
In other NFL news, the Los Angeles Chargers hired Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to be their new head coach.