By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Sunday evening's matchup in New Orleans featured two of the most prolific quarterbacks of all time squaring off for a playoff game. Based on the play in the first half, though, you'd never know it.
Outside of a trick play that saw Jameis Winston jog off the sideline and deliver a long-bomb touchdown pass, both passing offenses were largely stuck in the mud for the majority of the first half.
Yet in the second half, Tom Brady was a touch better, and Drew Brees fell apart. And the Bucs were able to win, 30-20, to punch a ticket to the NFC Championship Game next weekend in Green Bay.
Brady managed to salvage the first half by leading a field goal drive before halftime. Yet at the two-minute warning, following a drop by Leonard Fournette, Brady's stat line was a grisly 4-for-12 for just 35 yards. He did have a touchdown pass, a 3-yard score that came after a Sean Murphy-Bunting interception of Drew Brees.
Brady nearly had an interception himself, throwing a prayer to a well-covered Antonio Brown that was picked by Marcus Williams. The defensive back, however, couldn't get a second foot down before going out of bounds, saving Brady and the Bucs.
Yet, beginning with a short pass to Fournette that converted a third-and-7, Brady completed six of his nine passes for 58 yards in helping to lead the Bucs to a game-tying field goal before halftime. Brady was 10-for-21 for 93 yards and a touchdown at the break.
Brady almost had a 29-yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin on that final drive of the first half, but the receiver lost control of the football after falling out of bounds under the goalposts.
For the Saints, the play from their Hall of Fame quarterback wasn't much better. Brees was 10-for-17 for 63 yards, with no touchdowns and the very costly interception in his own side of the field.
Of course, what happens in the second half will be remembered more than anything from the opening 30 minutes. But in a game featuring the NFL's all-time leaders in passing yards and touchdowns, a first-half showing like that was not exactly what most people had in mind for this game.
Both QBs were better in the third quarter, with Brees completing seven of his 12 passes for 58 yards and Brady completing four of his six passes for 35 yards and a touchdown, leaving the game tied at 20-20 heading into the final quarter.
But Brees threw not one but two picks in the fourth quarter, as Brady threw a touchdown and ran for a touchdown. Brady finished 18-for-33 for 199 yards with two touchdowns and no picks, while Brees was 19-for-34 for 134 yards with one touchdown and three picks.
It wasn't Brady's best game, but it was good enough to win. As a result, he and the Bucs now have a date with Aaron Rodgers and the top-seeded Packers in Green Bay, with a trip to Super Bowl LV on the line.
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