Sunday was a good day for Antoine Winfield Jr. and Tyler Johnson as the pair of Gopher football alumni made a pair of key plays that helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers advance to the NFC Championship Game.
The afternoon of highlights began as the Buccaneers found themselves down 20-13 in the third quarter of their NFC Divisional Playoff Game with the New Orleans Saints. With the Saints driving down the field, Winfield stripped Jared Cook to give the ball back to Tampa Bay and begin a rally.
The play should come as no surprise to Gopher fans as Winfield forced a pair of fumbles and recorded seven interceptions during his 2019 season at Minnesota. With Winfield continuing to be a turnover machine, the play led to a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Leonard Fournette to tie the game at 20.
As the game entered the fourth quarter, it was Johnson's turn to step up for the Bucs. On a 3rd-and-11 play, Brady found Johnson for a sprawling catch that had former Gopher great Ron Johnson praising him on Twitter.
Johnson's rookie season hasn't put up monster stats, but the Gophers' all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdowns has made a positive impact behind an all-star cast of receivers in Tampa Bay. After Johnson's highlight-reel grab, the Buccaneers marched down the field to get a Ryan Succop field goal that gave them the lead for good. A late touchdown sealed the deal for Tampa Bay as they defeated the Saints 30-20.
As a reward, the Gopher alumni will return to familiar territory as they head to Green Bay for the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers next Sunday.