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Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face reigning champions the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 55 on 7 February.
Quarterback Brady, 43, threw three touchdown passes to help the Buccaneers defeat the Green Bay Packers 31-26 in a thrilling NFC Championship game to reach their first Super Bowl in 18 years.
The Chiefs then beat the Buffalo Bills 38-24 to seal the AFC Championship, with touchdowns from Mecole Hardman, Darrel Williams, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and two from Travis Kelce.
Super Bowl 55 will take place at the Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium and will be the first time a team has played in the NFL’s showpiece in their home stadium.
It will be a 10th Super Bowl appearance for Brady and he will be seeking his seventh win – both of which are records.
The veteran will go up against the Chiefs’ outstanding young quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“To go on the road and win another play-off game is just a great achievement and now a home Super Bowl for the first time in NFL history I think puts a lot of cool things in perspective,” said Brady.
“Any time you are the first time doing something it is usually a pretty good thing.”
Mahomes, the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in last season’s Super Bowl, is relishing the chance to go head to head with the player many regard as the NFL’s greatest of all time.
He said: “Being able to go up against one of the greatest if not the greatest quarterback of all time, it’s going to be a great experience for me.
“To go out there and have the chance to repeat (the 2020 win) and get to do it against the best, it’s something special and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
As a result of Covid-19 restrictions, only 22,000 people will be at the match, with 7,500 places reserved for health care workers, who have been given free tickets.
Brady overcomes Rodgers in battle of legendary quarterbacks
The Buccaneers, whose only Super Bowl victory came in 2003, were up against the top-seeded Packers at their Lambeau Field ground.
It took four minutes for the away side to take the lead as Brady – who won six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots – threw to Mike Evans, who caught the pass above his head while running backwards.
However, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, expected to be named the NFL’s MVP for the third time in his career, brought the scores level with a stunning 50-yard pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
The Buccaneers regained the lead with a brilliant 20-yard run from Leonard Fournette before Brady’s 39-yard throw connected with Scotty Miller with one second of the first half left to give the visitors a 21-10 advantage at half-time.
The Packers, aiming for their first Super Bowl success since 2011, were booed off the field by their home supporters.
Brady, playing in the 14th championship match of his career, then threw an eight-yard touchdown for Cameron Brate early in the third quarter to give the Buccaneers a 28-10 lead.
However, the Packers – four-time Super Bowl champions – fought back as Rodgers connected with an eight-yard pass to Robert Tonyan.
Following a sack on Brady, Rodgers found Davante Adams for a two-yard touchdown as the Packers offence looked ominously good in the third quarter.
Indeed they were confident enough to go for the two-point conversion but failed when Equanimeous St Brown dropped another perfect pass from Rodgers to give the Buccaneers a five-point lead going into the final quarter.
Brady was sacked twice more but the Packers could not capitalise and a 46-yard field goal from Ryan Succop extended the Buccaneers’ lead to eight points.
After a sustained period of pressure, the Packers had fourth and goal but controversially decided not to go for the touchdown, settling for a 26-yard Mason Crosby field goal to cut the deficit to five with just over two minutes left.
The decision backfired as they never got the ball back, the Buccaneers keeping possession and running down the clock to claim the victory.
Chiefs on course for back-to-back Super Bowl wins
Before the AFC Championship game, the Chiefs were boosted when 25-year-old quarterback Mahomes was declared fit to play after suffering a concussion in the 22-17 play-off victory against the Cleveland Browns a week ago.
However, the Bills, who lost in four successive Super Bowls in the early 1990s and have not reached the showpiece since 1994, made a bright start in front of 19,000 fans at Arrowhead Stadium.
Tyler Bass kicked a 51-yard field goal to put the Bills ahead and an error from Hardman, who dropped a punt, enabled the visitors to score the first touchdown with Josh Allen’s three-yard pass to Dawson Knox.
But Hardman quickly made amends as he caught Mahomes’ three-yard pass for the Chiefs’ opening score. Hardman then made a fine 50-yard run to get the Chiefs close and Williams did the rest from close range to put the reigning champions ahead for the first time.
They would not go behind again as Edwards-Helaire stretched their lead with a one-yard touchdown, running through the middle of the Bills’ defence.
The Bills had a lot of possession at the end of the first half, but the Chiefs defence restricted them to a 20-yard Bass field goal as the hosts held a 21-12 lead at half-time.
Both sides kicked field goals in the third quarter – Harrison Butker from 45 yards for the Chiefs and Bass from 26 yards for the Bills – but an underarm pass from Mahomes to Kelce, who scored from two yards out, gave the Chiefs a significant advantage.
Mahomes and Kelce then linked up again for the quarterback’s third touchdown pass, before Allen made an eight-yard pass to Isaiah McKenzie and Bass’ 51-yard field goal gave the scoreline a bit more respectability.
The Chiefs remain on course to become the first side to win back-to-back Super Bowls since Brady’s Patriots lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2004 and 2005.
“The job’s not finished,” said Mahomes. “When we went into the season we weren’t talking about going to the Super Bowl, we were talking about winning it again.
“We’ve just got to be ourselves. I trust my guys over anybody to go out there and be ourselves.”