Matt LaFleur's decision to kick a late field goal Sunday with the Packers trailing by eight points was one he immediately came to regret. But it didn't punch the Buccaneers' ticket to the Super Bowl.
A pass interference call on Green Bay cornerback Kevin King did moments later.
With 1:46 remaining and the Bucs looking to convert third-and-4, Tom Brady sailed the ball well over the head of Tyler Johnson. For a long second, it appeared to be an incomplete pass, which would have forced Tampa Bay to punt from its own 37.
Then, in an NFC Championship Game that was called loosely and would include just six penalties, a flag came out. The PI gave the Bucs a first down and allowed them to run out the clock for a 31-26 win. The Packers hated the penalty, of course. But they were also caught off guard by it given how the game had been officiated.
"I was pretty surprised just based on how the game went," LaFleur said afterward. "I felt like there were multiple plays throughout the game where they were letting us play."
This was not one of them, as replay clearly showed King pull on Johnson's jersey as he broke inside. The tug might not have been lengthy or forceful yet drew the attention of an official. Throwing a flag for such contact didn't seem egregious in a vacuum. But amid the environment in which Green Bay and Tampa Bay had battled over the previous 58 minutes, it understandably stood out to Aaron Rodgers. After all, his second-quarter interception to Sean Murphy-Bunting was aided by the Bucs corner holding Allen Lazard.
"I think it was a bad call," Rodgers said of the DPI on King. "I think there were a few opportunities for some plays down the field for us that weren't called. I was just surprised that call in that situation was made. We get the ball back with probably 1:35 and a timeout and a chance to win the game and go to the Super Bowl. It didn't look like it was even catchable. So, yeah, that was a bad call."
For the Packers, it was one of a couple tough calls on the day.