Rodgers vs. Brady: NFC Championship a quarterback clash for the ages

FILE PHOTO: Jan 17, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints in a NFC Divisional Round playoff game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

January 25, 2021

(Reuters) – Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers stand between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady and his shot at a record-extending seventh Super Bowl ring in a NFC Championship showdown between two of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game on Sunday.

Rodgers is the favorite to take league MVP honors this season but to reach the Super Bowl the 37-year-old will have to overcome a stout Bucs’ defense and the iron will of Brady, who won six NFL titles in two decades with New England before heading south to Tampa.

Rodgers threw for 4,299 yards in the regular season, 48 touchdowns and finished with the league’s best passer rating and says the Packers have come a long was since being hammered 38-10 by the Bucs in October.

“That was so long ago … and I think we learned a lot from all of our wins and losses,” said Rodgers, who led the Packers to six straight wins to end the regular season and won the Super Bowl with the team in 2011.

“The most important thing is how you’re playing going into the playoffs.”

Brady’s decision to leave the Patriots for the Buccaneers, whose sole Super Bowl triumph came in 2003, raised some eyebrows around the league but he proved his doubters wrong by throwing 40 touchdown passes, his most since the 2007 season.

Brady rolls into Green Bay with an array of reliable pass catchers including wide receiver Mike Evans, who just completed his seventh straight season with more than 1,000 receiving yards.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who won three rings with Brady in New England and came out of retirement to join him in Tampa, told reporters this week that this offensive group is one of the most talented he has been part of.

“I’ve been around a lot of great, talented players, but I would say overall – as a group, from position to position (with) how many guys we have at each position – I would say this definitely ranks up there, if it’s not number one for talent as a whole,” said the 31-year-old five-time Pro Bowler.

“The main goal, obviously, is always to make it to the Super Bowl, but it’s hard. It’s one of the hardest things to do out there in the sports world.”

(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Washington beats Philadelphia to win NFC East

Jan 3, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Alex Singleton (49) reacts after sacking Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

January 4, 2021

Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes and the Washington Football Team won the NFC East with a 20-14 victory Sunday night against the host Philadelphia Eagles in the final game of the 2020 regular season.

Washington (7-9) clinched the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs and will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a wild-card game on Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. ET. It is Washington’s first division title and first playoff appearance since the 2015 season.

First-year Washington head coach Ron Rivera’s team is the first to make the playoffs with a sub-.500 record since Rivera’s 2014 Carolina Panthers won the NFC South at 7-8-1.

Had the Eagles (4-11-1) won, the New York Giants would have been the division champions after beating the Dallas Cowboys 23-19 earlier Sunday.

Back after missing two games with a calf injury, Smith improved to 5-1 as a starter this season as he completed 22 of 32 passes for 162 yards with two interceptions.

Rookie Jalen Hurts, in his fourth start for the Eagles, completed 7 of 20 passes for 72 yards and an interception and rushed for 34 yards and two touchdowns.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson made the Giants fans watching at home miserable with some questionable decisions in the second half.

With two minutes left in a scoreless third quarter, Philadelphia passed up a chip-shot field goal that could have tied the game at 17-17. The Eagles opted to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 4, but Hurts’ pass to Quez Watkins fell incomplete.

Pederson then replaced Hurts with Nate Sudfeld in the fourth quarter. Sudfeld was intercepted on his second pass, then fumbled the snap on his second series and Chase Young recovered for Washington. That set up a 42-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins that made it 20-14 with 7:46 left.

The Washington defense, which has held seven straight opponents under 21 points, registered three sacks, forced three turnovers and held Philadelphia to 216 yards of offense.

After entering the game with zero points all season on its opening possession, Washington drove 91 yards in 15 plays and led 7-0 on Smith’s 5-yard pass to Terry McLaurin with 4:19 left in the first quarter. Hopkins’ 42-yard field goal made it 10-0 two minutes later.

The Eagles grabbed momentum and a 14-10 lead with two TD runs by Hurts in the second quarter. He scrambled right for a 6-yard score to cap a 10-play, 75-yard drive, then scrambled left for 6 yards to finish a 65-yard drive with 3:54 left in the half.

Twenty seconds before halftime, Smith found a leaping Logan Thomas in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown to retake the lead at 17-14.

–Field Level Media

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Dallas Cowboys fans vs Arizona Cardinals, NFC East news

The Dak Prescott-less era in Dallas is off to a sad start.

The Cowboys fell to the Arizona Cardinals on Monday, 38-10, as backup quarterback Andy Dalton threw for 266 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott lost two fumbles, finishing the game with 49 yards.

With their team dropping to 2-4 on the season, some at AT&T Stadium could barely look at what was unfolding before their eyes, namely one fan who couldn’t be consoled by his partner. The clip, which aired during ESPN’s Monday Night Football, has naturally become a meme on Twitter.

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“Cowboys fans crying. Great sight to see. Will never feel bad for them after what happened in that Lions Cowboys playoff game,” one user wrote.

“There really was a cowboy fan in the stands crying lol,” another posted.

“Cowboys fans are crying, let us all rejoice,” one reacted.

Despite the loss, the Cowboys remain atop the much-maligned NFC East.

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