This game marked the third time (Including playoffs) that Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady squared off against each other since Brady joined the Bucs in 2020. The edge, in previous matchups, had favored Tom Brady’s teams but neither quarterback had statistically shined against one another. With Brady totaling five touchdowns to Rodgers’ three, along with each tossing three interceptions, the clashes between these two all time great passers had been two fairly turnover heavy contests. Even with seven MVP awards between them, the third installment of the series featured a good deal of unproven and/or backup receiving options for each team so coming into the game more of the same seemed to be likely.
As is true any time the Bucs take the field there are certain expectations of the team and their players. Sometimes the reality lines up with the preconceived expectation, other times the reality is quite different, here's:
Who we thought would do well and did:
The Buccaneers defense (In the second half)- The Buccaneers defense has let each of their opponents this season score on the opening drive of the game, however in the weeks prior, that score was followed by subsequent drives in which they blanked their opponents offense repeatedly. Today’s game proved to follow a somewhat similar path. The defense started slowly, allowing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to march down the field for an early touchdown. The Packers next drive was not stymied, as Bucs fans had seen from the offenses of the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints in weeks one and two, rather it resulted in another touchdown. The second half told a different story. Tampa came out of the intermission like a different defense. At halftime Todd Bowles seemed to remind them that they were a very good defense and are capable of playing like it. In the second half the Buccaneers defense fooled Aaron Rodgers into making a very un-Aaron Rodgers like mistake with a sensational interception by Logan Ryan, stepped up there effort in run defense and held the Packers scoreless in both the third and fourth quarters.
Leonard Fournette- Fournette is one of the few members of the Bucs starters who remains on the field and eligible to play. Fournette’s day was not as explosive as his start to the year against the Dallas Cowboys in week one and he did not fill the stat sheet with amazing numbers, however, at times it felt the only thing that the Bucs offense was able to do was give the ball to Fournette. His 70 yards from scrimmage were the second most by any Bucs player.
Who we thought would do well and didn’t:
The Buccaneers defense (In the first half)- The Tampa Bay defense had only let up one touchdown in the first two games combined. The defense, in their biggest test of the season to date, managed to let up double that in the first two drives. Against Aaron Rodgers, the defense looked unprepared and unable to come up with the drive stopping plays fans became accustomed to in the opening two weeks of the year. With the Bucs offense struggling as much as it is, against the good teams Tampa Bay’s defense needs to be nearly perfect.
Who we thought might struggle and did:
The Buccaneers passing game- What was originally disregarded as early season struggles has to be acknowledged as a potential issue for this team moving forward. Three weeks into this season there is one game where the Buccaneers defense hasn’t completely stifled their opponent and this game showed when the defense is unable to put forth an unbelievable effort for four quarters, the team struggles. It is okay to be a team that is built on defense, however, you need to have counter punches prepared and the Buccaneers to this point in this season have not shown those consistent counter punches in their repertoire. Add in the fact the Buccaneers had two promising drives cut short by wide receivers fumbling and the speculation around a guy like Odell Beckham Jr. will continue to gain more and more steam.
Who we thought might struggle and didn’t:
Cameron Brate- The Bucs have not targeted Brate much in their first two weeks. The Bucs tight end had just two catches on the season coming into this game. Brate found himself much more involved in the outcome of this week’s game finishing with five catches for 59 yards and two timely pass interference penalties drawn in the game.
Russell Gage- The Buccaneers went out and poached Gage in the offseason from the division rival Atlanta Falcons. He was signed to a three year 30 million dollar contract and hasn’t exactly looked the part in weeks one and two. Week three, Gage did have a very costly fumble, aside from that he was able to amass 12 catches against Green Bay and scored the late touchdown which gave the Buccaneers a chance to send the game into overtime.
Surprise of the game:
Cole Beasley- The Buccaneers have had a rash of injuries at receiver in the early stages of this season. Those injuries provoked the team to reach out to 33 year old Cole Beasley. Beasley’s game was not surprising because of a superb level of production, but simply because of the limited time he has spent on the team’s roster before being thrown into game action. In his first game with the team he was able to contribute three catches, one of them being a clutch catch on an early fourth down to extend a drive. It’s not easy to join a team and make an impact in your first game just 5 days after signing. If injuries continue to be an ongoing problem for the Bucs receivers throughout the season, Beasley’s production only figures to increase in the coming weeks.
Jake Camarda- The Buccaneers spent a fourth round pick on a punter in this past draft and it turned some heads. Former Buccaneer, Bradley Pinion, was a fairly tenured player on Tampa’s roster, despite having some struggles in his last year with the team, his departure did not seem imminent. In a game like this you can see why the Bucs made the move they made. Camarda, while also handling kick off duties, averaged just under 50 yards per punt and had a couple of booming kicks to help flip field position. A fourth round pick feels like a high pick for a punter but when the Bucs find themselves in games like today’s, you’re reminded that having a reliable punter is very crucial.
Logan Ryan- This offseason the Buccaneers lost Jordan Whitehead, a stalwart of their secondary that predated the Bruce Arians era in Tampa. The loss led to the Bucs bringing in multiple new safeties to try and replace Whitehead. Logan Ryan is a well traveled veteran who was added to an otherwise young secondary. Today’s game may not have even ever become a game without the first half fumble at the goal line recovered in the end zone by Logan Ryan. The Packers were on the cusp of going up 21-3, which would have seemed insurmountable for the Buccaneers sluggish offense. That fumble kept the Packers at 14 and allowed the Buccaneers to stay in a game where they were being thoroughly outplayed. Logan Ryan also found himself around the ball in the second half with a beautiful undercut of a route over the middle of the field for an interception. Ryan’s fumble recovery and interception were vital in being able to steal two extra possessions for the Bucs.
In the previous two matchups between these legendary quarterbacks, Tom Brady had managed to out play Aaron Rodgers even if only slightly. Today, an argument could be made that we saw that trend continue. Neither quarterback had their best outing, totaling a combined three touchdowns with Aaron Rodgers throwing the game’s only interception. Unlike in the last two matchups where Tampa was able to make the necessary plays down the stretch to win, today, it was Green Bay’s defense that stepped up and bowed their backs when they had to hold off Brady’s Bucs.
Next week Tampa Bay fans will be in store for a Super Bowl rematch as the Kansas City Chiefs return to Tampa for the first time since the 31-9 crowning of the Buccaneers. Back to back matchups against elite level quarterbacks will pose quite a challenge for the Tampa Bay Bucs defense which has been very impressive for a large portion of this season. Brady vs. Rodgers netted an exciting last second ending. Will Brady vs. Mahomes provide more of the same?