WELL, THAT SUCKED.
We waited almost nine months for another home game in RayJay and that’s what we get? A sloppy offensive performance that spoils a really good defensive effort. Sure, you can blame injuries all you want. Third-string left tackle. Yep, that one hurt. Missing the top three receivers. That didn’t help either. But the Packers weren’t at full strength either and they found a way to hold off the Bucs to steal a 14 – 12 win in Tampa.
I’m not gonna lie, even with all the injuries, I thought the Bucs would still pull off this win. First home showing since disappointing all of us with that ending against the Rams in last year’s playoffs. Almost 69,200 fans in attendance, a new record for a Bucs game in Raymond James Stadium. And let’s face it, Green Bay hasn’t exactly been playing Packer football so far this season. But I was wrong. The Packers got up 14-3 early on and it was just too much for this injury-depleted offense to overcome. So let’s discuss what I saw in this game so that we can put it behind us and move on to Week 4.
The Defensive Adjustments
In the Packers’ first three possessions of the game, the Buccaneers’ defense allowed drives of 75 yards, 71 yards, and 60 yards with 2 touchdowns. Todd Bowles made the necessary schematic adjustments, and from that point on, they allowed just one first down, 90 net yards, and forced 7 punts and an interception on their final 8 drives. In fact, Green Bay never made it back inside the Tampa Bay 40-yard line after that third drive.
The turning point of the game was Aaron Jones’s fumble at the goal line. Already up 14-0, Aaron Rodgers marched the Packers down the field again for 60 yards and was looking to add to their lead. However, the Bucs D had other plans. After catching a short pass from Rodgers at the Tampa Bay 2-yard line, Jones was met by Lavonte David who stopped him just long enough for Vita Vea to crack him in the back and force the fumble. Logan Ryan recovered and it was all Bucs from that point on. Unfortunately, they came up short in the end.
The Close Comeback
Despite the injuries. Despite getting down early. Despite the offense not being able to get anything going. This Bucs team was able to make a game out of this in the end and almost tied it up to force overtime. It showed the fight that this team has and proves that they will be the team to beat IF they can ever get healthy.
The “Bright Side”
Okay, I know the loss sucks. We, as Bucs fans, have had our fair share in the past but haven’t had to endure many of them since the arrival of Tom Brady. However, there are some positives to take from this game. The first being that every time during his career Brady has faced Rodgers and lost in the regular season, he has gone on to win the Super Bowl. That’s promising. The second is that there were no NEW injuries coming out of this game, unlike the first two weeks. Hopefully, that means that this team can finally get healthy and start playing with a full krewe. Next, when the schedule first came out and we all saw these first four games, I think everyone thought that we’d be satisfied if they could get through this stretch with a 2-2 record or better. They have accomplished that at least and still have a chance to finish this quarter 3-1 with a win over the Chiefs on Sunday. I think we’ll all be happy if that happens.
Although there weren’t any new injuries from this game, the old injuries really hurt them. No Godwin. No Evans. No Jones. No Smith. No Hicks. Gage was nursing a hamstring. The lack of their presence was seriously felt, even if it’s not really an excuse for the loss.
The First Half
The first half did not go as planned for Todd Bowles‘ Buccaneers. They got punched in the mouth early and didn’t respond very well to it. Aaron Rodgers orchestrated over 200 yards of offense and 14 points on their first three drives, nearly scoring a third touchdown. Meanwhile, in the Bucs first three possessions, Tom Brady could only manage 16 plays for 44 yards and 3 points. Their fourth drive of the day, the final one of the first half, did go 6 plays for 54 yards with four first downs, but it ended with a Breshad Perriman fumble on the Green Bay 25-yard line. The second half wasn’t much better for the offense, but at least the defense kept them in the game.
The Bucs and Packers both had two turnovers in this game and all four were momentum killers, as they usually are. This time, it wasn’t interceptions that hurt them. It was fumbles. The first was by Breshad Perriman ending a productive drive by the Bucs offense that was at least going to produce a field goal if not a touchdown. The second was by Russell Gage after a 5-play/29-yard drive to midfield early in the 3rd quarter. Even though the Bucs weren’t in scoring position, they were starting to get into a rhythm on offense which could’ve led to more points had that drive continued.
The Run Game
After the first two weeks, where the Bucs were able to get some production from the run game, they weren’t able to do anything on the ground against the Packers. Leonard Fournette ran the ball 12 times for just 35 yards averaging 2.9 yards per carry and the Bucs rushed for 34 yards as a team. A lot of that had to do with Kenny Clark and the Packers’ d-line, but it was also a lack of attempts. They only rushed the ball 14 times and dropped back to throw it 42 times. If they want to get this offense going, they’re going to have to get back to being more balanced like they were in the first two weeks.
The 2-Point Non-conversion
That final drive was beautiful. The touchdown was great. But the 2-point conversion attempt was a shit show. Tom Brady chalked it up to “poor execution“. Whether it was that or poor coaching or poor playcalling or whatever, it cost them a chance to win. A delay of game penalty on a 2-point conversion attempt is inexcusable and unacceptable. And it’s not something you would EVER expect from a Tom Brady-led offense, but it happened. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen again.
I don’t think anyone would’ve expected it from this talented Bucs offense, but they’ve been somewhat unimpressive over these first three games. In fact, they are 22nd in scoring, 26th in total offense, and 27th in third downs. In this game, they were 2 for 11 on third downs. After their first scoring drive, which went 10 plays for 48 yards (including three first downs) and ended with a field goal, the Bucs had drives of 3 plays for 4 yards, 3 plays for -8 yards, 6 plays for 54 yards (fumble), 5 plays for 29 yards (fumble), 3 plays for 5 yards, 5 plays for 20 yards, 5 plays for 9 yards, 3 plays for 8 yards and 4 plays for 16 yards with a total of 9 first downs over those 9 drives. Their most successful drive of the game was that final drive that went 13 plays for 89 yards with 7 first downs ending with their ONLY touchdown of the day. They’ve scored just 51 points in these first three games, which is the lowest total for a three-game stretch since Tom Brady arrived in Tampa. I know they’ve been missing a ton of production players so far, but they have got to get healthy and start producing if this team wants to go where they’ve been talking about going this season.
BIG BUCS OF THE DAY
WR Russell Gage
With the Bucs missing their top three receivers, Gage was the guy who stood in and picked up some of the slack finishing with 12 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, his fumble ruined what should’ve been a positive performance for him.
TE Cam Brate
The Bucs’ tight ends have been nonexistent in the offense so far this season. But with Cade Otton out for this game, Brate looked like his old self hauling in 5 catches for 57 yards, including a couple for HUGE first downs.
S Mike Edwards
He was all over the field in this game finishing with a team-high 13 tackles. The last time a non-linebacker had that many tackles, was back in 2016 when Keith Tandy had 14 tackles against the Cowboys.
DT Deadrin Senat
With Akiem Hicks out for this game, Senat was elevated from the practice squad and active against the Packers. Even though he only played 13 snaps, he had 2 big tackles for loss and made his presence felt.
BAD BUCS OF THE DAY
LT Brandon Walton
As promising as he looked last week against the Saints, he looked equally bad against the Packers in this game. He allowed 2 sacks and was called for two holding penalties that negated big gains. Hopefully, Donovan Smith will be able to go next week against the Chiefs and Walton can go back to being the reserve swing tackle.
WR Scotty Miller
In a game where the Bucs needed their receivers to step up and make plays, Miller did not. He was targeted five times and finished with 1 catch for 4 yards AND committed a false start. I don’t know if he has some kind of mental or psychological thing going on, but he needs to get out of his own head and start being the football player that we all know he can be.
LB Devin White
I’m a big D-White fan, but he disappeared against the Packers. He finished with just 5 tackles, no sacks, and didn’t have much of an impact on the game at all.
OLB Shaq Barrett
He finished the game with 5 tackles, but no sacks. Even though David Bakhtiari did start at left tackle for the Packers, he didn’t play the whole game, which means Barrett was going up against a backup for most of the day. He should’ve been more productive in the pass rush.
This game was an anomaly. The Buccaneers’ defense held an Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers team to 315 total yards and 14 points, yet still lost. According to Greg Auman, the Packers were 3-27 in games where they scored 14 points or less since Rodgers became the starter in 2008. That means they lose nine out of every ten games where they score less than 14 points. That’s what I mean by an anomaly.
Rodgers finished this game with the lowest average air yards per attempt of any QB this season. The Packers, who ran for over 200 yards against the Bears last week, finished with just 67 yards on 25 attempts. The two-headed monster of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon averaged less than 3 yards per carry. With the exception of Green Bay’s first three drives, the defense did their job. They played well enough to win. The story of this game was the offense’s inability to sustain drives and convert on third downs, which has been an issue throughout all three games this season. The difference between this game and the other two was that this was Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
THE LOOK AHEAD
The good news is that things will get better for the offense. Next week, Mike Evans and Julio Jones will be back. They should be getting back Donovan Smith and maybe even Chris Godwin as well. They could be at full strength for the first time since early on in Week 1 against the Cowboys.
Both the Bucs and the Chiefs enter this game at 2-1 and both are coming off of close losses. The last time these two teams met was in Tampa for Super Bowl LV where the Buccaneers won 31-9 in convincing fashion. Unfortunately, they may not be meeting in Tampa again because of Hurricane Ian. The league is still discussing whether they will be moving this Buccaneers home game to a neutral site like Minneapolis or New Orleans. That decision should come in the next day or so.
Until then, as always; GO BUCS!!!