The Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to stay out of a shootout against the Green Bay Packers and their second-ranked scoring attack on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Even so, the Buccaneers couldn't muster enough firepower, holding the Packers 11 points below their season average but losing, 20-3.
Green Bay gained 431 yards in the game to the Buccaneers' 109, but for the second week in a row the Tampa Bay defense proved very stingy on its own end of the field. The Carolina Panthers finished every one of their drives in Buccaneer territory last week but reached the end zone just once in a 19-17 win. Against the Packers, the Bucs saw eight of 10 drives reach their territory and six get to the 30 or closer.
With the loss, the Buccaneers fell to 2-13 on the season, while the Packers improved to 11-4. Tampa Bay will wrap up its 2014 campaign – and try to record its first home victory of the year – next Sunday at home against New Orleans. The Packers will play host to the Detroit Lions in a fight for the NFC North title.
A goal-line stand in the third quarter kept the Buccaneers in the game at 10-3, but Tampa Bay's offense didn't took advantage of the opportunity. QB Josh McCown was sacked a season-high seven games, which contributed heavily to a 12-of-26 afternoon that produced 93 net passing yards and no touchdowns. McCown hit Vincent Jackson on one deep sideline play in the second quarter to set up Patrick Murray's 43-yard field goal, but otherwise the Bucs couldn't get their big receivers open downfield due to the pressure and the style of defense the Packers were playing.
"When they play two-man coverage they're playing man underneath and two safeties deep and they're saying, 'You're not going to get it downfield. You're going to have to work the underneath routes, the double-moves and things like that,'" said McCown. "In order to do that, you have to be able to buy time, have time, to work those underneath routes.
"Unfortunately, we just weren't able to get to those. They threw those out early and took them away, and when you do try to avoid that and throw on rhythm against two-man, there are only so many spots you can put the ball because they're trying to take it away and you're trying to protect it. They had a good plan for us and we didn't do a good enough job of answering that plan."
As a result, the Buccaneers were unable to take advantage of a gritty performance by the team's defense. While Green Bay did get all of their big names into high yardage – 318 passing yards for MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers, 99 rushing yards for RB Eddie Lacy, 131 yards for WR Randall Cobb and 113 yards for WR Jordy Nelson – but they were held to just one touchdown through the first 57 minutes of regulation.
"Our defense played great against one of the best players in the game at the quarterback position," said McCown. "They did an outstanding job against him and we didn't hold up our end."
Photos from the first half of Buccaneers vs. Packers at Raymond James Stadium.
The Buccaneers were also unable to run the ball, gaining just 16 yards on 14 carries against the league's 25th-ranked run defense. That contributed to a time-of-possession edge for the Packers of 38:38 to 21:22 that significantly raised the level of difficulty for the defense. In the end, that defense couldn't completely deny Rodgers and the Packers, though the third-quarter goal-line stand briefly gave the team hope…and might say something about the future of that squad.
"It just shows the character of this team," said CB Alterraun Verner, who had nine stops and one tackle for a loss. ""Our whole goal is to keep them out and these past couple weeks we haven't been doing a good job of that – Chicago, Detroit. It was huge for us to finally step up and make a play and give our team a chance to win."
DE Michael Johnson was responsible for the Buccaneers' lone takeaway, giving the team a bit of momentum in the first quarter with a strip-sack near midfield. The Bucs punted after that takeaway, though, and they also punted after the goal-line stand, which included a big third-down stop by LB Lavonte David and a diving fourth-down PBU by CB Leonard Johnson.
It was the lack of another big play after that stand that left the Buccaneer defenders feeling unsatisfied with their effort.
"That's what we go into the game thinking as a defense, that we have to make plays," said Verner. "We only had one turnover and that's not good enough for us as a defense. We came in with a goal to get three turnovers and try to get the ball into the end zone. We didn't have that next game-changing play and we needed that. We needed to get the ball out or do something and we didn't do that as a defense. That's the frustrating thing. We hung in there tough – yadda yadda – but we need to get the ball back to our offense so they can try to get something going."
Tampa Bay's defense held its own in the early going, stopping Green Bay's first three drives in three different ways: a great third-and-one stop of Lacy by Akeem Spence, the sack and forced fumble by Johnson and a killer holding penalty drawn by Da'Quan Bowers. However, the Bucs' offense couldn't do anything with the three resulting possessions, gaining a total of two yards and no first downs. Eventually, the NFL's second-highest scoring offense broke through, with Lacy scoring on a 44-yard run in the final minute of the first quarter. At that point, the total offense margin was 154-2 in Green Bay's favor and the Packers had controlled the ball for almost exactly 10 of the first 14 minutes.
Green Bay increased its lead to 10 points on a 42-yard field goal by Mason Crosby, who also misfired from 48 yards early in the second quarter as Tampa Bay's defense continued to hold strong in its own end. The Bucs' offense finally recorded its initial first down of the game with just over three minutes left in the half on a 22-yard reception by Evans, and that kicked off a 56-yard field goal drive. Jackson's diving 40-yard catch got the ball into scoring territory but the Bucs stalled at the 20 even after converting on a fourth-and-one. Patrick Murray got the Bucs on the board with a 43-yard boot. At the half, Green Bay had a 236-76 edge in total yards.
The Packers ran Lacy up the middle on the first two plays, where he met LB Lavonte David twice but still picked up nine yards. Green Bay let Lacy try to convert the third-and-one, but Spence came in low and caught him behind the line to keep the play from reaching the sticks.
The Bucs committed a penalty on the ensuing punt return and thus started at their own 18. Tampa Bay opened with two runs, as well, with Martin getting a total of six yards. McCown's first pass of the game was a short out intended for TE Brandon Myers but S Micah Hyde was able to break it up.
Rodgers got his chance to throw on the next drive, and on third-and-two was simply given too much to throw. The coverage was good for a long time but Nelson eventually came open down the right sideline for a gain of 28 to the Bucs' 36. S Bradley McDougald then leveled RB James Stark for no gain on the next play and Johnson fought through for a sack of Rodgers on the next play. The ball came loose but was not originally ruled a fumble; however, the Bucs challenged and won, gaining possession at their own 44.
A promising swing pass to Doug Martin on first down failed because LB Sam Barrington shot in to disrupt it at the last minute. Rodgers was then swarmed over for an eight-yard sack on second down and an attempted screen to Sims was deflected in the backfield and incomplete.
Green Bay started again at its own 25 after the punt and two plays later Lacy dashed over left guard for a 20-yard gain. LB Mason Foster was hurt on the play. A holding penalty on C Corey Linsley backed the Packers up 10 and three plays later they faced a third-and-11; Rodgers once again had too much time to throw and eventually found an open man, but rookie WR Davante Adams dropped it.
A procedural call two plays later helped the Bucs get the Packers into a third-and-13 hole, but Rodgers found his favorite target running up the middle of the field and Nelson made a leaping catch in traffic for 24 yards. Four plays later, on second-and-five from the Bucs' 44, Lacy bounced off LB Danny Lansanah and broke free down the left sideline for a long touchdown run to open the scoring.
The Bucs went three-and-out again on the ensuing possession, with McCown overthrowing Evans on the left sideline on the first play of the second quarter. The Packers got the ball back at their own 39 and got it into Tampa Bay territory on two short throws. The Bucs forced a third-and-eight thanks in part to a strong TFL by Bowers, but Rodgers found nelson over the middle for 12 and then got nine more on a dumpoff over the middle to Starks. Verner's three-yard TFL on a pitch to Starks made it third-and-four at the Bucs' 30 and this time the defense held as Rodgers' throw on the run skipped short of Cobb. The Packers settled for Crosby's 48-yard field goal try and he hooked it wide left.
Another three-and-out followed, with a Clay Matthews sack setting up a long third-down try and a deep pass intended for Evans but broken up by two defenders. The Packers got it back at their 25 and quickly got to midfield on a 24-yard catch over the middle by Cobb. Green Bay got to the Bucs' 24 but S Dashon Goldson visited a huge hit on Adams on a pass over the middle, breaking it up and making the Packers settle for a field goal try again. Crosby banged this one through from 42 yards to make it 10-0.
A first-down holding call greeted the Buccaneers on their next drive after a touchback on the kickoff. Two plays later, however, Evans gave the Bucs their initial first down of the game on a 22-yard catch-and-run. Jackson's diving catch then converted a third-and-11 and picked up 40 yards to the Green Bay 30, but an offensive pass interference call on Evans pushed it back to the 40. A well-executed screen to Sims created an open field for the rookie to scamper 18 yards to the Packer 22, but a Martin run up the middle was stuffed for no gain. The Bucs tried Martin again on third down and he was stopped a yard short. The Bucs went for it and Martin got over the line this time for a first down at the 20 with less than a minute to play. A scrambling throw-away stopped the clock with 24 seconds to play in the half. After another incompletion, McCown was sacked by Julius Peppers at the 24. The Bucs used a timeout with four seconds left and sent out Murray to put them on the board with a 43-yard field goal.
The Bucs didn't carry that momentum into the second half, going three-and-out on the opening possession and punting down to the Green Bay 33. Rodgers found Nelson over the middle to convert a third-and-nine, then hit Cobb on a slat to the Bucs' 40 for another first down. Two more Cobb catches got the ball down to the Bucs' six, and Lacy spun his way down to the one on first down. The Bucs' line stood strong against Lacy on second down. The Packers tried a little misdirection handoff to FB John Kuhn on third down but the play lost half a yard as David got in the way. Green Bay went for it on fourth down, spreading the field with five receivers. Rodgers tried to zip a quick slant in to Cobb but Leonard Johnson was able to get his hand in the way to break it up.
The Bucs still had to escape their own goal line, and two runs up the middle gained only a yard. McCown got time to throw on third down, however, and he zipped a perfect 15-yard pass over a defender to Evans on the right sideline. However, the third-and-four three plays later didn't go as well as DE Mike Neal darted in almost untouched and buried McCown for a loss of nine. The Bucs had to punt but at least got the ball back to Green Bay's 37 thanks to good coverage and a penalty on the Packers.
Photos from the second half of Buccaneers vs. Packers at Raymond James Stadium.
Green Bay was at the Bucs' 47 when the fourth quarter began, and a sideline completion to Cobb made it first down at the 41. Lacy converted a third-and-one with a power run and then Kuhn bashed for 11 yards to the Bucs' 15. Two runs by Starks made it third-and-four at the nine, and great coverage on the next play forced Rodgers to dump it off to Starks and the Packers to settle for a short field goal and a 10-point lead.
The Bucs faced an early third-and-eight on the next drive but McCown managed to get a 15-yard pass off to Jackson with a man bearing down on him. However, after a short completion to Sims, McCown absorbed consecutive crushing sacks from Peppers and Matthews to lead to a punt.
Green Bay took the ensuing drive 71 yards on nine plays for the game's final score. The Bucs' defense once again held strong after the Packers reached the one-yard line, turning away passes on first and second down. However, an extremely crisp slant pass from Rodgers to Nelson got the Packers in the end zone on a play that was nearly impossible to defend.
The Bucs had one final drive and were able to get a first down when Evans dived to get the past the sticks on a third-and-10 catch. However, two plays later McCown tried to get off a desperation shovel pass to Sims as he was being swarmed over and it was intercepted by DE Datone Jones.
- Tampa Bay declared the following seven players inactive prior to Sundays' game: WR Robert Herron, WR Solomon Patton, RB Mike James, CB Isaiah Frey, T Anthony Collins, DL Lawrence Sidbury and TE/FB Evan Rodriguez.
- Green Bay's seven inactives were QB Scott Tolzien, CB Davon House, LB Carl Bradford, C Garth Gerhart, TE Justin Perillo, WR Jeff Janis and DT Bruce Gaston.
- The Buccaneers will have one more week to see if one or both of their leading receivers can crack 1,000 yards on the season. With 49 and 60 yards on the day, respectively, rookie Mike Evans and veteran Vincent Jackson increased their season totals to 997 and 991 yards. The Buccaneers have never had two receivers cross 1,000 yards in the same season.