In what has been dubbed the "Throwback Comeback", the orange Buccaneers (1-7) defeated the Green Bay Packers (4-4) in a 28-38 shoot-out, winning for the first time since Nov. 30, 2008, snapping an 11-game losing streak.
The celebrations began for Raheem Morris' side when Buccaneers safety Tanard Jackson intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown with 52 seconds left in the game.
NFC Special Teams' Player of the Week Clifton "Peanut" Smith returned a kickoff 83 yards to set up Freeman's 7-yard TD pass to Winslow and spark the comeback.
In his first NFL start, first-round pick Josh Freeman threw second-half TD passes to Kellen Winslow and Sammie Stroughter, a seventh-round draft pick, in the right corner of the end zone with 4:14 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Freeman's 2-point conversion pass to Michael Clayton put the Bucs up 31-28. Clayton had helped set up the go-ahead score with a superb adjustment catch against Packers corner Al Harris, who had kept Clayton under wraps until that 29-yard reception.
“You’ve seen some people step up,” said head coach Raheem Morris. “You’ve seen some great plays from Maurice Stovall and Kellen Winslow. Michael Clayton made a big play down field. We had some things that we missed, but overall you could tell that this team wants to win. They play hard every week.”
Buccaneers CB Aqib Talib had another interception, his fifth in five games, as did Elbert Mack, who somewhat redeemed himself after being beaten badly by James Jones' 74-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
The game turned on it's head when frenetic linebacker Geno Hayes blocked a Jeremy Kapinos punt, which was promptly snatched by veteran Ronde Barber who raced the ball back for a touchdown, his 14th in his regular-season career. Barber lies behind Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson in defensive touchdowns, both future Hall-of-Famers. In the entire history of the NFL, only two men have scored more return touchdowns than the Bucs' Barber. Sanders holds the record with 19, Woodson is second with 17 and Barber is now tied for third with 13.
The Buccaneers' offense began to fire, (who hadn't scored more than 21 points in a game this season, tallied 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter) as did special teams. However, the Buccaneers' second-half defense was, at times, dominant.
Rodgers was sacked six times as Green Bay's offensive line continued to struggle, even against Tampa's under-performing unit. The sacks hike Green Bay's NFL-worst total to 37 in eight games. Michael Bennett, Tim Crowder, Chris Hovan, Roy Miller, Ryan Sims and Stylez G. White combined to sack Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers six times, the team's highest single-game total since 1994. In addition, Elbert Mack, Aqib Talib and Tanard Jackson all had interceptions, giving the Bucs only their second three-pick game of the year.
“We put [Aaron Rodgers] in situations with 3rd and long. We was going. We felt like we played the Patriots and got good pressure and we could keep it going, ” said defensive end Stylez White, who recorded 1.5 sacks. “That week off was huge. …We’re not good enough to come from behind right now. We need all three phases. We need to do that early. …Going in Monday for work, now it’s not as gloomy as the other days going in. …Hopefully, it’s going to be contagious.”
Reality check: The Bucs are not primed to go on a play-off run this season. This victory is important because it gives hope to the third-youngest team in the NFL. A radically different side from the 9-7 collapse 2008, Raheem Morris and Josh Freeman now have something to build around. Winless no more, the future looks a lot less bleak for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers than it did two weeks ago in London. A look to the Bucs losing past gives promise to the future of the franchise.