Following an extended break that came after their Thursday Night Football loss on Oct. 8, the Buccaneers returned to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon for a big-time matchup against the undefeated Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay has been one of the hottest teams so far in the 2020 season. Offensively, Aaron Rodgers has been at his very best, putting up 1,214 yards and 13 touchdowns to zero interceptions to this point in the year. With Rodgers and Aaron Jones leading the way, the Packers became the first team in NFL history to score 150 points in its first four games without turning the ball over. The defense has been more of a middle-of-the-pack unit, but it got a huge boost on Sunday with the return of Kenny Clark. And with Davante Adams back in the lineup as well, the Pack had to be feeling good about their chances to stay at the top of the NFC.
The Bucs came into Week 6 looking to get back on track and regain possession of first place in the NFC South ahead of a three-game stretch of primetime games. ESPN’s FPI gave them a 53% chance to win, though they came in as two-point underdogs at home.
Tampa Bay got off to a nightmare of a start, falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter with its offense running just five plays. But things turned around from there, with a Jamel Dean pick six sparking a 38-0 run for the Bucs. The defense dominated the final three quarters and the offense found its stride in what turned out to be a 38-10 statement win over the Packers.
The Bucs won the coin toss and deferred, giving the Green Bay offense a chance to draw first blood. Bradley Pinion’s touchback set the Packers up at the 25 and the Tampa Bay defense quickly forced a 3rd & 10. It couldn’t get off the field, though, allowing a 20-yard pass over the middle from Aaron Rodgers to Aaron Jones. From there, back-to-back catches by Davante Adams brought the ball to the Tampa Bay 35-yard line. Rodgers then found Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 12 yards, but the defense buckled down from there, forcing a 39-yard field goal attempt by Mason Crosby. He delivered, giving his team an early 3-0 lead. It still had to feel like somewhat of a win for the Buccaneer defense, though, as they started to look overmatched by the passing attack on the opening drive.
The Buccaneer offense went absolutely nowhere on its first drive of the afternoon. Starting at the 25, Ronald Jones II got the first two looks of the game, picking up two yards on a run before a six-yard catch set up a 3rd & 2. LeSean McCoy then made his return from injury, but he failed to hit the hole and got stopped for just a one-yard gain. That led to a 46-yard punt by Pinion, which brought Rodgers and the Packer offense back out to start their second drive from the 20-yard line.
Tampa Bay’s third-down struggles on defense continued at the start of the next drive, with Rodgers converting a 3rd & 7 with a pass to Robert Tonyan, despite pressure from Devin White. A 25-yard run by Jamaal Williams followed, then Rodgers went back to work on the Bucs secondary. A 15-yard pass to Valdes-Scantling and a 13-yarder to Adams got Green Bay down to the 13, but a holding penalty backed it up to 1st & 20. Anthony Nelson then stopped a first-down run for no gain, but a 16-yard pass to Darrius Shepherd made it a manageable third down. Rodgers once again escaped pressure on the next play and scrambled for what looked like a touchdown, but he was ruled down at the goal line after review. It didn’t matter, of course, as Green Bay just punched it in with Jones on the next play anyway.
Cyril Grayson brought the ensuing kickoff out of the end zone for some reason, only to get upended before reaching the 20-yard line. Tom Brady found a returning Chris Godwin for a nine-yard gain on first down before a four-yard run by Jones moved the chains and brought us to the end of the first quarter with the Packers leading 10-0.
At the start of the second quarter, the Bucs moved the chains again with a pass from Brady to Mike Evans. But the drive quickly stalled out there. A five-yard run by Jones was followed by two incomplete passes, with Brady barking at Godwin after a third-down miss. Pinion then shanked a punt, with it going for just 30 yards to set Green Bay up at its own 22.
The Bucs FINALLY turned momentum on the next drive. They got pressure on Rodgers to force two straight incompletions and set up a 3rd & 10, then Jamel Dean jumped a pass and returned it for a 32-yard touchdown. That marked the first Packers turnover of the year and just the third pick-six Rodgers has thrown in his career. With the PAT by Ryan Succop, the Bucs were suddenly within 10-7.
The Tampa Bay defense stepped up yet again on the next drive, with Lavonte David stepping up to make a big hit on Jones to force a third down. Antoine Winfield Jr. had to leave the game on the play, and he was replaced by Mike Edwards. All Edwards did on his first play in relief of Winfield was intercept a pass that was tipped by Carlton Davis and return it down to the Green Bay 2.
One play later, the Bucs suddenly had the lead. A two-yard rushing touchdown from Jones and a Succop PAT made it 14-10 in a hurry.
The Packers came out firing on their next drive, with Rodgers appearing to connect with Jones for a 23-yard gain, only for Davis to light him up and force him out of bounds. It was initially ruled a catch, but Bruce Arians successfully challenged the call to force a 2nd & 10 at the 25 instead of having his defense face a 1st & 10 at the 48. Two incompletions later, Green Bay had to punt. After a 40-yarder, Tampa Bay took over at its own 35.
After a short carry by Jones on first down, Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for 13 yards and a first down across midfield. The Packers got a couple of nice stops from their defense on the next two plays to force a 3rd & 5, but the Bucs converted with a pass from Brady to Godwin. With a facemask penalty added on top of that, the offense found itself just outside the red zone at the 24. A four-yard pass to Gronkowski got them inside the red zone before a four-yard run by Jones set up a 3rd & 2 at the 16. Tampa Bay converted again, with a six-yard pass from Brady to McCoy down to the 10. A couple of plays later, facing 3rd & Goal from the 7, thinks may have looked dire after a bad snap. But Brady was able to control it, move up in the pocket and fire a touchdown pass to Tyler Johnson. It was the rookie’s first career score, and with Succop’s extra point, Tampa Bay had a 21-10 lead with 4:35 left in the first half.
On the next defensive series for the Bucs, Winfield made his return to the safety position, allowing for a sigh of relief across the city. The second-quarter domination continued for the Bucs, as they forced a 3rd & 3 before David broke through on a blitz to sack Rodgers for a loss of 11.
Back to Lavonte’s sack - I noticed something similar when watching GB vs NO. Make the T have to choose between a DL and blitzing LB coming off the edge. That’s exactly what Todd Bowles forced them to do here & the RB has no chance. Boom. Sack. pic.twitter.com/78WhwdrWFP— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) October 18, 2020
A 48-yard punt and a seven-yard return by Jaydon Mickens set the Buccaneer offense up at its own 38 with 2:42 to go before halftime. An eight-yard pass from Brady to Godwin and an 11-yard run by Jones got the ball across midfield as the clock hit the two-minute warning with the Bucs threatening to add to their lead before halftime.
Coming out of the break, Jones picked up two yards on first down to force a Green Bay timeout, its second. After that, Brady found Godwin for a gain of 25 yards down to the 16. The Bucs faced a 3rd & 6 shortly after thanks to a short run by Jones and a three-yard catch by Cameron Brate. Prior to that third down, the Packers took their final timeout of the half in hopes of getting a stop and getting the ball back with a little under one minute to work with. That didn’t pan out, though, with Brady finding Gronkowski for a 12-yard touchdown. The PAT from Succop made it 28-10 Tampa Bay with 1:02 left in the half. That was the 79th regular season touchdown connection between the two longtime teammates, tying them for fourth-most all-time with Dan Marino and Mark Clayton.
The Packers took over at their own 25 with just about one minute to go before halftime, though they had no timeouts. A couple of passes Tonyan got Green Bay a first down, but a deep pass broken up by Davis and a sack for Ndamukong Suh ended the half with the Bucs leading 28-10 and set to receive the opening kickoff of the second half.
Tampa Bay began the second half with the ball at its own 25, starting the drive with a four-yard run by Jones before Brady and Gronkowski linked up for a 31-yard gain to Green Bay’s 40. The drive halted there, though, with a short run by Jones and an incompletion setting up a 3rd & 8 before a six-yard completion to Scotty Miller made it 4th & 2. Succop came on for a 50-yard field goal and snuck it inside the right upright, giving the Bucs a 31-10 lead with 12:14 left in the third quarter.
On the first play of the Packers’ next drive, the offensive line lost left tackle David Bakhtiari—one of the game’s best—but he was able to walk off under his own power. The series resulted in a quick three-and-out, with Winfield nearly intercepting Rodgers on third down. JK Scott’s punt went for 51 yards, but a nice spin by Mickens resulted in a 12-yard return to the Tampa Bay 31. With a 21-point lead less than five minutes into the third quarter, the Buccaneer offense took over once again.
Tampa Bay’s offense couldn’t keep it going on its next possession, with three straight incompletions forcing a punt. Miller being knocked down without a defensive pass interference call on first down loomed large on that drive. A 47-yard punt by Pinion was caught at the Green Bay 24 with 10:13 to go in the third.
The Buccaneer defense continued to roll on the next Packers possession, with David and Jason Pierre-Paul sandwiching Rodgers for a sack. A delay of game then backed Green Bay up to a 2nd & 23 at its own 11. It was then that the broadcast announced Bakhtiari as questionable to return with a chest injury. The Packers were able to convert a 3rd & 18 a couple of plays later thanks to an 18-yard catch by Adams, which was a tough play to give up for the Tampa Bay defense. It forced another third down a few plays later, but failed to get off the field once again, with the drive continuing. On the next third down, though, an incompletion finally got the defense off the field.
Tampa Bay started its next offensive possession at the 15 with 5:27 left in the third. A sustained drive and another score was likely to put the game away for the Bucs, especially with the way their defense was playing. The offense responded well, with a beautiful 18-yard pass to Gronkowski near the sideline setting up a 25-yard run by Jones to the Packers’ 40. Momentum nearly died right there, with McCoy losing three yards on first down and picking up one on second to set up a 3rd & 12, but a defensive pass interference call on a deep ball to Miller in the end zone set the Bucs up at the 2-yard line. The Packers had 12 defenders on the field after that, moving the ball up one yard. After an incomplete pass by Brady, Jones found the end zone to extend the Tampa Bay lead. After the PAT, it was 38-10 with 2:40 to go in the third.
Green Bay went backward to start its next drive, with tackles for loss by David and White setting up a 3rd & 14. Rodgers escaped pressure on third down and scrambled for a gain of eight, but it led to a punt anyway.
A four-yard run by Jones to start the Bucs’ next drive brought us to the end of the third quarter with the home team on top by a score of 38-10.
Jones opened the fourth quarter with a 14-yard run before picking up runs of five and seven to get over 100 yards for the third straight game. He became the fourth Buc to ever run for 100-plus yards in three straight games and the first to do it since Doug Martin in 2015. After Jones hit that mark, Ke’Shawn Vaughn relieved him for the rest of the drive. The offense promptly stalled, punting the ball away with 12:07 left.
The Packers picked up some yardage on their next drive, but a sack by White on 3rd & 6 forced another punt with under nine minutes left in the ball game.
Devin White records the fourth Buccaneers sack of the day, his first of the year.— Buccaneers Communications (@BuccaneersComms) October 18, 2020
The four sacks by the Buccaneers defense today are more than the Packers had allowed in their first four games of the season combined (3.0).
The Bucs had to punt the ball right back to the Packers after a few plays, but the rest of the game was simply a formality. Rodgers took the rest of the night off, with Tim Boyle stepping in for some garbage time snaps. The Tampa Bay defense kept playing hard, with Pierre-Paul sacking Boyle and forcing a fumble that the quarterback then recovered. Nonetheless, it was fourth down and Green Bay had to punt again.
Blaine Gabbert relieved Brady on the next drive, with the Bucs content to run the clock down the rest of the way. Vaughn impressed with some nice runs, and the limited number of fans inside Raymond James Stadium got to comfortably watch the clock wind down on a heck of a win for their team.
Quick Notes & Stats
- The Packers found themselves up 10-0 with 48 seconds left in the first quarter after running 20 plays and totaling 144 yards. The Bucs, to that point, had run just three plays for nine yards.
- After that point, though, the Packers picked up just five net yards in the rest of the half. They ended up with just 201 total yards.
- After falling behind 10-0, Tampa Bay scored 38 unanswered points the rest of the way.
- The Bucs had ZERO penalties for ZERO yards in the game.
- After the Buccaneer defense struggled on third down early in the game, it stepped up the rest of the way. The Packers ended up just 7-of-17 on third down.
- Green Bay averaged just 3.3 yards per play in the game.
- The Bucs held the Packers under 100 rushing yards, marking the 12th straight game they have held an opponent under that mark. They became the first team since the 2006 Vikings to do so.
- Tom Brady was 14-of-16 for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. He finished the game 17-of-27 for 166 yards and those two scores.
- Rob Gronkowski finished as the Bucs’ leading receiver, putting up five catches for 78 yards and his first touchdown of the year.
- In his return from injury, Chris Godwin posted five catches for 48 yards.
- Tyler Johnson recorded his first career NFL touchdown in the win.
- Ronald Jones II broke the 100-yard mark for a third straight week, totaling 113 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
- Defensively, the Bucs overcame a tough start to have a heck of a day. They totaled six passes defended and eight quarterback hits in the first half, with two sacks. Carlton Davis had four of the team’s six passes defended in the first half.
- The second half was more of the same for Todd Bowles’ group, as it finished with five sacks, six tackles for loss, six passes defended and 13 quarterback hits.
- Jamel Dean’s second-quarter pick six was just the third that Aaron Rodgers has thrown in his entire career.
- Mike Edwards came up with a huge interception of his own while stepping in for an injured Antoine Winfield Jr. (who later returned).
- Lavonte David and Jason Pierre-Paul both tallied 1.5 sacks in the game, while Devin White and Ndamukong Suh both added one of their own.
- White was unleashed on Sunday, ending up as the team’s leading tackler with 10 (nine solo). He had one sack and three tackles for loss.
- Ryan Succop was perfect on the day, making all five of his extra point attempts in addition to connecting on a season-long 50-yard field goal.