RB Cadillac Williams is the first player in NFL history to open his career with three straight 100-yard rushing games
One streak is finally dead. Another one is most gloriously alive.
Rookie RB Cadillac Williams became the first player in NFL history to rush for 100 yards in each of his first three career games, helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finish off a 17-16 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field. It was the Buccaneers' first win in Green Bay since 1989.
Williams ran for 158 yards on 37 carries, 44 of them on the Bucs' final clock-killing drive. Tampa Bay got possession for that drive on the second of Will Allen's two fourth-quarter interceptions. The second-year Allen, playing free safety after starter Dexter Jackson's second-quarter hamstring injury, made a diving pick of a deep pass intended for WR Robert Ferguson that CB Juran Bolden broke up inside the Bucs' 10.
The Bucs' winning margin of one point came courtesy of Ryan Longwell's missed extra point in the first half. Longwell came into the game with a Packer-record 157 consecutive successful PATs.
The Bucs built a 17-6 lead in the first half on the strength of two touchdown passes from QB Brian Griese to WR Joey Galloway. After Galloway failed to catch a pass last week against Buffalo, he was the team's leading receiver on Sunday at Lambeau, catching five passes for 53 yards. WR Michael Clayton added five catches for 44 yards as Griese completed 17 of 26 passes for 139 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Griese had to pass a bit more often in the first half, as Williams and the Bucs' running game got off to a relatively slow start. However, Williams kept grinding, despite a sore left foot, and by the end of the day he had the game's most important numbers.
Historic numbers. In addition to his streak of 100-yard games, Williams now owns the highest three-game total of any running back at the start of his career in NFL history. The previous record was 410, by Baltimore's Alan Ameche in 1955. Williams' first three Buccaneer games have produced an amazing 434 yards. The Bucs have five more games before the season's midway point, and Williams is already almost halfway to a 1,000-yard season.
The Buccaneers are probably most thrilled with these number: 3-0. Off to their first 3-0 start since 2000, and only the fourth such start ever, the Bucs are in first place in the ultra-competitive NFC South. Next up is a visit from the Detroit Lions.
The Packers, conversely, find themselves 0-3 for the first time since 1988. For the second straight year, they have lost their first two home games, a spot in which they used to be virtually unbeatable. Favre, in fact, came into the game with an 11-0 home record against the Buccaneers.
Favre had some very good moments in Sunday's game, as well, as he completed his first seven passes and 14 of 24 overall for 195 yards and two touchdowns. However, he was also picked off three times, with CB Brian Kelly adding to Allen's two picks with a second-quarter takeaway. The Packers also lost a fumble at the end of the game's first drive, setting the Bucs up for an opening score on a 54-yard touchdown drive.
The Packers moved the ball well on that opening drive with a series of short passes by Favre and tough runs by Green. However, Favre gave it to FB William Henderson on an underneath handoff on the seventh play and LB Shelton Quarles stuck Henderson behind the line of scrimmage, forcing a fumble. If not for a fine tackle by Favre, CB Ronde Barber would have taken his fumble recovery to the house.
The turnover did give the Bucs possession at their own 46 four minutes into the game. Right from the beginning, Gruden signaled that he had no intention of taking it easy on Williams and his sore left foot. On the Bucs' first play from scrimmage, Griese audibled twice, right up to the last second on the play clock, and gave it to Williams for an eight-yard burst up the middle. However, Williams' second run got only one yard, setting up third-and-one and necessitating one more tough run over left guard for a yard and a new set of downs.
The drive nearly stalled just inside the Packer 40, but RB Michael Pittman's alert blitz pick-up gave Griese time to find WR Michael Clayton over the middle for a gain of 18 on third-and-nine, down to the Packers' 19. Three Caddy runs set up a first-and-goal at the eight, and Griese put it into the end zone on second-and-five.
After a play-action to Williams, Griese scrambled right and appeared to have a clear lane to the end zone. That forced the lone Packer defender in the area to come up to stop him, leaving Galloway uncovered, just as Griese had hoped. From there it was just a short flip for the score and a 7-0 lead.
Unfortunately, Green Bay answered quickly, thanks to a pair of 37-yard completions. On first down from the Packer 20, WR Donald Driver beat Kelly on a pump-and-go for 37 yards out to the Bucs' 43. Four plays later, on fourth-and-four, the Packers went for it…went for it all. Favre threw over the top to Ferguson down the right sideline, who got a three-yard cushion on CB Juran Bolden and easily hauled in the bomb as he crossed the goal line.
After a trade of punts, the Bucs drove into Green Bay territory again, thanks in part to a roughing-the-passer penalty on DE Aaron Kampman. Griese also found Galloway for a 16-yard completion to start the drive and FB Mike Alstott for a four-yard gain on third-and-two at the 16. Two plays later, Griese went to Galloway again, hitting him on a little stop-and-go straight up the middle. The play was beautifully designed, with the speedy Galloway coming out of the slot and into one-on-one coverage with LB Nick Barnett. Barnett was left dead in his tracks by Galloway's pause, and the rest was easy thanks to a well-formed pocket for Griese.
The score pushed the Bucs' lead to 14-6 with 10:35 left in the first half. Less than two minutes later, they were back in scoring range, thanks to an interception by Kelly on a short pass intended for Driver. That marked Favre's first incompletion after the game after seven straight passes on target.
The Bucs' offense moved the ball only 13 yards on that drive, but that was enough to set up Matt Bryant for a 42-yard field goal, his third successful three-pointer in as many tries this season.
Though the field goal gave Tampa Bay a 17-6 lead, the Packers once again answered immediately by going deep, though this time they moved into the Bucs' red zone without actually completing the pass. On a call that incensed the Tampa Bay bench, Kelly was flagged for pass interference on Driver deep down the right sideline, a 41-yard boon for the home team. In fact, Gruden was so angry that he drew an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, putting the ball at the Bucs' nine. Though a holding call pushed the Packers back to the 20, Favre calmly threw a second-down scoring pass to a wide-open Antonio Chatman to make it 17-13 with four minutes to play in the half.
The Bucs didn't score in the second half, and they faced one Green Bay parry after another in the fourth quarter. In years past, this would have been Favre's game, a stage for yet another heartbreaking comeback. But this is a new day – one in which the Buccaneers have more wins in Lambeau Field this year than do the Packers – and the game's biggest plays were turned in by the two young Bucs, Williams and Allen.
The Bucs would commit only one turnover on the day, but it was almost the game's biggest play, one that reversed the game's momentum as the visitors were on the verge of putting it away.
With just under 13 minutes to play, Favre and the Packers took over at their own 30, amid a palpable Lambeau buzz. This Buccaneer defense wasn't planning on rolling over for another sustained, game-winning drive by Favre, and Allen picked off a deep pass on the second play of the march. Moments later, the Bucs' new closer, Williams, ripped off a 26-yard run into Packer territory.
However, Griese made one debatable choice two plays later as he was rolling to his right. Even with Ahmad Carroll standing right next to Pittman, Griese tried to fire it into Pittman's chest. Carroll made an acrobatic interception – the first takeaway of the year for Green Bay's defense – and returned it 38 yards into Bucs' territory.
The Packers capitalized with Longwell's 32-yard field goal (he also missed a 42-yard try earlier in the game), cutting Tampa Bay's lead to one at 17-16. The Bucs eighth and ninth penalties of the day followed in short order – pushing the offense back to its own 10 on the ensuing drive. The officials then threw but picked up a pass interference flag on a long pass to Galloway and the Bucs had to punt.
Fortunately, Allen came up big again with his pick on a pass that almost bounced out of Bolden's hands and into Ferguson's. Allen got up and returned the interception to the Bucs' 31, and from there it became Williams' game again.
Game Notes: Usual starting TE Bubba Franks was on the Packers' list of game day inactives on Sunday, which was a noteworthy inclusion. It marked the first time in Franks' six-year NFL career that he has missed a game. In fact, Franks had never missed a football game due to injury at any level of play. … The Bucs outscored their first two opponents by a 26-3 margin in the second quarter. Tampa Bay opened the second quarter well in Green Bay, too, driving 55 yards for a touchdown on its first possession of the period. The Packers did score a touchdown in the quarter, but the Bucs added a field goal and now have a 36-10 second-quarter scoring margin on the season. … Green Bay Offensive Coordinator Tom Rossley was taken by ambulance to an area hospital before Sunday's game. Rossley was not feeling well, but tests performed at the hospital were negative and the coach returned to the stadium during the second quarter. … LB Ryan Nece recorded his first career sack on Sunday, and at an opportune time. Nece stayed on the field on third-and-nine when the Bucs went to a three-down linemen set, and he blitzed off the right edge right into QB Brett Favre's face for a seven-yard takedown. … WR Joey Galloway has eight touchdowns in his last eight games, dating back to the 2004 season.
Inactives: The Buccaneers designated eight game day inactives 90 minutes before kickoff. They were S Donte Nicholson, S Kalvin Pearson, T Chris Colmer, G Matt Stinchcomb, WR Paris Warren, WR J.R. Russell, DT Jon Bradley and designated third quarterback Luke McCown. … For the third time in three games, the Bucs opened the game in a two-tight end set, which meant rookie TE Alex Smith got his third start of the year. …
The Packers eight inactives were CB Joey Thomas, LB Brady Poppinga, G/C Junius Coston, G/C Grey Ruegamer, C Chris White, TE Bubba Franks, DT Donnell Washington and designated third quarterback Craig Nall.
Injuries: The Bucs lost S Dexter Jackson to a right hamstring strain in the second quarter. Second-year man Will Allen played the rest of the game at free safety.