Before the NFC Championship game, most analysts picked the Packers to win over Tampa Bay. Not only did Green Bay have the best record in the NFC, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers played some of the best football of his career. In the end, Tom Brady’s Buccaneers prevailed. One of the game’s most controversial moments came near the end of the fourth quarter when Packers coach Matt LaFleur kicked a field goal rather than go for a touchdown.
LaFleur’s decision continues to draw scorn from critics. Let’s look at the Packers’ devastating loss and then break down the play the reaction it prompted from Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy.
The Packers’ devastating loss
The Packers came into the NFC Championship as slight favorites. But Tampa Bay asserted themselves in the first half, quickly building a 21-10 lead by halftime. Yet the Packers turned up their defense in the third quarter, cutting the Buccaneers’ lead to just 5 points. The Packers’ defense also forced Brady into throwing three interceptions in the second half.
Yet Green Bay simply couldn’t manage to rally offensively in the fourth quarter. However, that was no fault of Rodgers, who had a stellar game. According to Pro Football Reference, he threw 33 complete passes for 346 yards — his second-highest total of the entire season — and three touchdowns. Of course, he also tied his season-high with five sacks, which cost the Packers 32 total yards.
Although there wasn’t much he could have done differently, the loss will almost certainly affect Rodgers’ legacy. He now holds a dismal 1-4 record in NFL Championship Games, per Packers.com. Rodgers even admitted that the loss “definitely hurts,” while denying that it would continue to haunt him moving forward.
Matt LaFleur’s questionable decision with the game on the line
If Green Bay’s loss keeps haunting anybody, it’ll likely be head coach Matt LaFleur — all due to a questionable call. At the time, the Packers were down by eight points with just over two minutes left in the game. Three straight incompletions left Green Bay facing a fourth-and-goal situation from the eight-yard line.
Although risky, the obvious choice in that situation seemed to involve letting Rodgers take a shot at converting on a touchdown. His excellent play all game — and all season — basically earned him the right to take responsibility for the outcome. If the Packers succeeded in scoring a touchdown, they would’ve had the chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion.
Instead, LaFleur chose to kick a field goal. The kick was good, which left the Packers still down by five and still in need of a touchdown. But they never managed to get the ball back from the Buccaneers, who secured three straight first downs to run out the clock and get the win.
Dave Portnoy’s take on the play
LaFleur’s decision has earned massive amounts of scrutiny from the media. Some of the funniest and harshest criticism came from Dave Portnoy, founder of sports and pop culture website Barstool Sports. In an Instagram post made while wearing a “Positive Vibes Only” sweatshirt, Portnoy laid into LaFleur in merciless terms. He called the Packers coach the “greatest coward in the history of human civilization.”
Portnoy expanded on that thought in several ways, a number of which are too sexist to repeat. He concluded by saying, “From this day forward, if you are a coward, you’re known as a ‘Matt LaFleur.'”
Rodgers, for his part, was more reserved when asked about the play during his postgame press appearance. However, he did throw some shade on LaFleur, reiterating several times that the call “wasn’t my decision.” In other words, he seemed to imply that if things were up to him, he would’ve made a far different call with the game — and the season — on the line.