IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME!
For the first time this season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played a complete game AND played up to their capabilities. The result was a 38-10 THRASHING of what some were considering the best team in football right now. On a windy day at Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs DOMINATED the Green Bay Packers in a way that Tampa Bay fans have not seen in quite some time. The offense was balanced and productive. The defense was suffocating and aggressive.
It was good old fashioned “Buc Ball“. And it was fun to watch.
This game started out sketchy, but the final three quarters were a thing of beauty. It reminded this long time Buc fan of the Tampa Bay teams that played unrelenting defense, ran the ball down opponents throats, and the quarterback simply took care of the football. It reminded me of the Super Bowl era Buccaneers. It reminded me of the old NFC Central rivalry games with the Packers where Warren Sapp and Brett Favre would go at it. It reminded me of the good old days of Buccaneer football.
That being said, this game made my job of writing this “Good, Bad, and Ugly” segment much harder than usual. There were a ton of “Good” things in this game, but I really had to nitpick to find anything “Bad” or even “Ugly” about it. Now when I say nitpick, I do mean nitpick. Nonetheless, I was able to scrounge together a list of things about this matchup that I think you’ll enjoy reading. So without any further delay, let’s get this party started!
The Second Quarter
After a first-quarter where the Packers had taken a 10-point lead, and the Bucs offense had done nothing at all, Bucs cornerback Jamel Dean jumped an out route by Packers wide receiver Davante Adams and picked off Aaron Rodgers, taking it to the house for a touchdown to start the second quarter. It was a turning point in this game. It was THE turning point. From that moment on, the Buccaneers dominated Green Bay in every aspect of the game. But this second quarter was historical.
The Bucs scored 28 points in the final 13 minutes of the first half. Want to know how rare this feat is? It’s the most points EVER scored in one quarter in Buccaneers history. That’s roughly 2,800 quarters worth of football. It’s the most points scored in one quarter by ANY team in the NFL since Week 1 of 2018. That’s about 2,300 quarters worth of football. And it’s the most points scored on a Packers team in one quarter since the 1981 season. That’s about 2,400 quarters worth of football. THAT is how rare this feat was. That second quarter gave the Bucs a 28-10 halftime lead and allowed the defense to really pin their ears back and get after Aaron Rodgers in the second half.
The Offensive Line
No sacks. No penalties. A third straight 100-yard game for Ronald Jones II. And 158 total rushing yards for the game, which is the highest total in three years. The big boys up front won in every conceivable way on Sunday. As for the rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs, he continued his dominant play by not giving up any sacks, pressures, QB hits, or hurries AND not committing any penalties, which is impressive considering he was lined up against Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith for the entire game.
The Bucs defense looked ferocious on Sunday, despite losing nose tackle Vita Vea for the season. They finished this game with 5 sacks, 13 QB hits, 6 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 6 passes defensed, and a forced fumble. After giving up 144 yards on the Packers’ first two drives, this defense clamped down, allowing just 57 yards of total offense on Green Bay’s final 41 plays. The Packers had 10 drives in the final three quarters. The results of those drives were: INT, INT, punt, punt, end of half, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt.
They held the highest-scoring offense in football to just 10 points. They held running back Aaron Jones, one of the league’s leading rushers, to 10 carries for 15 yards. Other than two runs totaling 45 yards, they held Green Bay to 19 carries for about 50 yards. They held Aaron Rodgers to just 16 of 35 for 160 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions. That’s a 46% completion percentage, his third-lowest rate in 186 career games. Their 3.3 yards per play is the lowest of any Buccaneers’ opponent since 2010. The longest drive the Packers could manage in the final three quarters was just 23 yards. The Packers had only given up 3 sacks in their first 4 games and they allowed 5 sacks by the Bucs. They also had zero turnovers in those first four games, and they had two against the Bucs. Aaron Rodgers had thrown 147 straight passes without an interception until he threw two picks in five passes against the Bucs.
It was an epic performance.
The best LB duo in the league showed up and showed out. Lavonte David finished with 8 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. Devin White finished this game with 10 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and a sack. Four different players got to Aaron Rodgers, including Jason Pierre-Paul, who also had 1.5 sacks giving him 5.5 sacks for the season. That’s good enough for third in the league behind the Rams Aaron Donald (7.5) and the Browns Myles Garrett (7). Cornerback Carlton Davis had 4 passes defensed in this game, giving him a league-leading 10 for this season. He had 19 last year, which was one less than the league leader, and is on pace for 26 this year. He has the most passes defensed in the NFL since the start of the 2019 season. Even cooler, Jamel Dean is second in that category.
So how good is this Buccaneers defense? As of right now, they are #1 in yards allowed, #1 in run defense, #5 in pass defense, #2 in sack percentage, and #5 in interception percentage. In fact, this is just the second team in the last 20 seasons to have 10+ takeaways, 20+ sacks, AND allow 70 rush yards or less per game over the first six weeks of the season. The ONLY other team to do it was the 2008 Steelers that won the Super Bowl. This Todd Bowles defense is good y’all.
Ronald Jones II had his third straight 100-yard game, finishing with 23 carries for 113 yards, a 4.9 yards per carry average, and 2 touchdowns. It’s just the fourth time in franchise history that a Buccaneers running back has had three straight. It ties him with the Titans Derrick Henry and the Steelers James Conner for most in the league. And it puts him third in the league with 472 rushing yards trailing Derrick Henry and the Vikings Dalvin Cook. If he can do it again next week against a Raiders team allowing 127 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per attempt, it would match the longest streak by ANY player since the start of the 2015 season. Not bad for a guy that had 44 yards TOTAL during his rookie season.
ZERO. NONE. NADA. ZILCH. NOTHING. No penalties in this game. After committing 28 penalties worth 270 yards over their last three games, the Buccaneers had none in this game. They came in leading the entire NFL in penalties and penalty yards; they are now third and fourth, respectively. How rare is this feat? It’s only the second time in franchise history, with the other occurring in 1983 against the Lions. The zero penalties, zero sacks given up, and zero turnovers by the Bucs, has only happened one other time, since 1972 when the 1999 Colts did it in a win over the Browns. And guess who the QB coach was for the Colts at that time…Bruce Arians.
The Game Changer
With about 13 minutes left in the second quarter, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers got the ball with a 10-0 lead. Things were not looking good for the Bucs. Green Bay had possessed the ball twice in the first quarter running 21 plays, gaining 144 yards, scoring a touchdown and a field goal, and taking about 12 minutes off the clock. The Bucs offense had run about 10 plays, gaining just 39 yards. Then it happened. On the third play of the drive, cornerback Jamel Dean jumped an out route by Packers wide receiver Davante Adams and picked off Rodgers taking it 32 yards for a pick-six touchdown. It was Rodgers’ first interception in 147 pass attempts, and it was the first turnover by the Packers this season. But, most importantly, it was the turning point of this game. That score made it a 10-7 game. Three plays later, safety Mike Edwards picked off a deflected pass and returned it 37 yards down to the Packers 2 yard line. Ronald Jones II scored on the very next play making it 14-10. After a Packers three and out, the Bucs had an 11 play/65 yard drive ending in a touchdown making it 21-10. Then, after another Packer three and out resulting in -4 yards, the Bucs had a 7 play/62 yard drive that ended in another touchdown making it 28-10. Momentum had turned, and the Bucs were well on their way to a BIG victory over an undefeated Green Bay team. And it all started with that Jamel Dean interception.
For those of us who have been around long enough to remember the old “Battle of the Bay’s” this game was a treat to watch. One thing that stuck out to me was Bucs defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh mixing it up with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It reminded me of the battles that Warren Sapp and Brett Favre used to have back in the day. The only way it could’ve been any better is if the Bucs could’ve been wearing some creamsicle throwbacks.
Rob Gronkowski finally scored his first touchdown as a Buccaneer in this game and finished with 5 catches for 78 yards. Even though he’s been playing with a hurt shoulder, he’s getting more comfortable and more involved in this offense. With OJ Howard out for the season, Gronk will be taking on a bigger role, and it’s good that he and Tom Brady are finally getting on the same page. After a slow start where he only had 4 targets with 2 catches for 11 yards in the first two games, he has had 24 targets with 15 catches for 129 yards and a touchdown in his last four games. If he keeps this up, it will add a whole new dimension to this Bucs offense, which should scare the shit out of the rest of the league.
The Bucs and Packers have played each other 55 times in their history, and this 38-10 win is the second-largest margin of victory ever for Tampa Bay. The last time the Bucs beat a team with a winning record by 28+ points was in 2000 when they beat the 7-1 Vikings 41-13. Those are the ONLY two times it’s ever been done in their 45-year history. The 38 straight unanswered points by the Bucs were the most since they beat the Bears 41-0 in 2000 and the second-most in franchise history. The Bucs now have a +55 point differential this season, which is the best in the NFC by 17 points, and third in the league behind the Ravens (+75) and Steelers (+62).
The Bounce Back
After losing a game that they should’ve won last week in Chicago, this Buccaneers team bounced back in a BIG way. This win showed what they’re capable of when they play solid football and hopefully gives them the confidence moving forward to make a push for the playoffs. They are now 4-2 on the season for just the seventh time in franchise history. Of those seven times, they’ve only made the playoffs twice. Over the last 10 years, about 64% of the teams that start 4-2 made it to the postseason. If they can win next week to get to 5-2, it will be the eighth time in team history. In the seven times before, they went on to win 10+ games five times, made the playoffs four times, AND won the Super Bowl. Over the last 10 years, teams that start 5-2 made the playoffs 77% of the time. Starting 6-2 gets you to the playoffs 86% of the time.
Tom Brady didn’t have a huge game on Sunday, but he managed the game well enough to win. He completed 63% of his passes and didn’t turn the ball over. His 166 yards was by far the fewest he’s thrown in a game this season, but his 27 attempts were the fewest this season as well. After throwing three interceptions in his first two games as a Buc, he only has one pick in his last four games. He’s 10th in passing yards (1,541) and tied for 2nd in touchdowns (14) with the Bills Josh Allen behind the Seahawks Russell Wilson (19). He’s completed passes to 14 different Buccaneers receivers this season with a 64% completion rate, and he’s among the league leaders in deep passes. He’s quietly having a pretty solid year, but I look for him to have a monster second half of the season.
The First Quarter
This game started out so badly. It had me worried. The Packers’ first two drives of the game took up about 12 minutes, had 21 plays, gained 144 yards, had 9 first downs, and resulted in 10 points. Meanwhile, the Bucs offense was sputtering during its first two drives taking just over 4 minutes off the clock with 10 plays, gaining just 39 yards with only 2 first downs, and never getting close to scoring position. It may have only been a 10 point lead, but Green Bay had all the momentum going into the second quarter of this game.
Even though tickets for this game were initially available to season ticket holders and they had reduced the attendance to 25% capacity, there appeared to be a bunch of Green Bay Packers fans in the stands of Raymond James Stadium. That’s nothing new. There are always a lot of Green Bay fans here when the Packers are in town. But considering the circumstances, it shouldn’t have happened this time. As far as I know, tickets were ONLY sold to season pass members. So that means that there were Bucs fans that were selling their tickets to Packers fans. That’s unacceptable. I understand that things come up that might keep you from going to the game and force you to sell your tickets. It happened to me. However, I REFUSED to sell my tickets to a Green Bay fan. I found another season pass members who missed his ticket window and sold them to him. There were too many Bucs fans wanting to go to this game for any of you to sell out to a Packers fan. Our stadium gets taken over enough as it is, so we can’t let it happen when we have a chance to fill it with Bucs fans. Keep that in mind next time.
The Other Streak
With the game in hand, Bruce Arians pulled the starters for their last drive of the game. That ended the streak of 3,726 consecutive snaps played by center Ryan Jensen. He had played all 3,671 snaps since becoming a starter in 2017, second only to Tom Brady. When asked about it after the game, Jensen said that getting the win was more important than any streak. You’ve got to love that kind of team-first attitude!
The Third Downs
Like I said before, I’m nitpicking here. But there were a couple of third down play calls that I didn’t understand. There were a 3rd & 1 play and a 3rd & 2 play where Ronald Jones II was on the sideline, and LeSean McCoy was brought in at running back. He was tackled for a loss on both plays. Why was RoJo not out there for those short-yardage plays? He was running the ball hard and averaged 4.9 yards per carry in this game. McCoy finished with 4 carries for 1 yard. Why? I could see if it was 3rd & long, but 3rd & 1? RoJo should be getting the ball in those situations with the way he’s running and the way the offensive line is blocking.
The Missing Pieces
Again, I’m nitpicking here. But where was Mike Evans in this game? Where was Scotty Miller in this game? Where was Cam Brate in this game? The three of them combined for 3 catches for 19 yards and no touchdowns. It was the first game this season where Evans didn’t find the endzone. After zero catches last week in Chicago, Miller followed it up with one catch for 6 yards in this game, although he did draw a pass interference call that put the Bucs down at the goal line on one drive. And despite not having OJ Howard taking his snaps, Brate caught just one pass for 3 yards. The Bucs top two receivers were nowhere to be found in this game. Hopefully, it’s not a trend that continues.
Brady vs. Rodgers. It was supposed to be a shootout. It was supposed to be a battle between two of the greatest QBs of all time. It was supposed to be a marquis matchup. It wasn’t any of those things. Tom Brady ended up 17 of 27 for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers ended up 16 of 35 for 160 yards and 2 interceptions. Brady had a 104.9 QB rating. Rodgers had a 35.4 QB rating. It wasn’t the showdown that everyone was expecting, but then again, neither was the outcome.
The Bucs are now 4-2 for the first time since the 2011 season. That season started the exact same way with losses in Weeks 1 and 5, followed by a big win against the Saints in Week 6. Unfortunately, the Bucs went on to lose their final 10 games in a row and finished 4-12.
Let’s all hope that doesn’t happen again.
Right now, they’re sitting on top of the NFC South alone in first place. If the playoffs started today, they would be the #3 seed behind Seattle and Chicago. But there’s still a lot of football left this season. They are 3-0 at home with a chance to have their first winning record in RayJay since 2008. However, they are 1-2 on the road this season, and three of their next four games are away. It’s a tough stretch with games at the Raiders, at the Giants, home for the Saints, then at the Panthers. After that, four of their final six games are at home, including three straight. That’s the good news. The bad news is that those three games are against the Rams on Monday night, the Chiefs, and the Vikings. Then they go on the road to play the Falcons and Lions before coming home to finish the regular season with their last NFC South matchup with Atlanta.
In last week’s GB&U, I said that this Green Bay game would show us whether Tom Brady has really changed the culture of this team by showing they handle the adversity of losing a close game that they should’ve won. They proved to us that they could do that. Now, this week against the Raiders, we’ll have to see how this team handles success. How will this team act after convincingly beating the undefeated Packers? Will it build their confidence or make them cocky? We’ll see how they respond on Sunday night under the bright lights of primetime.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!