Buccaneers vs. Packers: 14 Things We Learned About Tampa Bay in 35-26 Loss
Arriving at Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers knew that they needed to make something happen to help right their sinking season. That was a tall order, given that they were up against the reigning Super Bowl Champions.
Although the Packers were undefeated coming into the game, the Buccaneers had good reason for hope. Aaron Rodgers has a history of playing poorly against the Bucs, going 0-2 in his career as a starter against the team that nearly picked him up in the draft.
Despite putting together a great, entertaining game, the Buccaneers were not able to emerge victorious. They drop to 4-6, and the window for their playoff hopes closes a little bit more.
Over the following 14 slides, we will review some lessons that we learned about the Buccaneers in their 26-35 loss to the Packers.
Running Game Made Adjustments to Become Dangerous
Throughout most of the first half (with one notable exception when LeGarrette Blount ran 54 yards for a touchdown), the Buccaneers had trouble getting the running game started.
In the second half, however, it was a somewhat different game. The Bucs didn’t find complete dominance on the ground, but they did find a steady stream of good plays. If nothing else, it appears that Blount is finally rebounding more completely from the injury that sidelined him in October.
Preston Parker Is a Go-to Guy
Preston Parker doesn’t see a ton of balls thrown his way most of the time. The exception to that rule of thumb would be in third down situations.
When the team needs a pair of sure hands, Parker is the guy they turn to. That dependability continued against the Packers, despite one of his receptions for a first down being called back because of a penalty.
It was a real shame that Parker really never got a chance to get going on the punt return game.
Albert Haynesworth Has Been an Okay Pickup
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Albert Haynesworth was a controversial pickup for the Buccaneers. There has been a huge perception that he will only bring down an already struggling defense.
Against the Packers, he had an up-and-down game. He had a couple of key penalties during the first part of the game and left the field with an injury in the first quarter, but returned later.
Although he had a weak showing by the numbers, he did serve as a disruptive influence on the field against the Packers. He certainly did his part to help keep the Bucs in the game.
Elbert Mack Interception Was a Momentum Shift
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The Buccaneers demonstrated once again that they can play against Aaron Rodgers as well as—and in most cases better than—any other team in the league. They were able to hold the red-hot Rodgers to a quarterback rating of 112.3, which is his second-lowest rating of the season.
Elbert Mack had a particularly special contribution for his team when he came up with a rare Rodgers interception in the fourth quarter.
Buccaneers Need to Reconsider Running the Ball out of the End Zone
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Kick returner Sammie Stroughter had a difficult time finding success during the return game today. He ran the ball out of the end zone several times during his six kick returns, and was stopped before the 20-yard line almost every time.
That being said, he did a pretty good job of getting his team some breathing room when the ball came down outside of the end zone.
The Bucs Were Victims of Circumstance (To an Extent)
There were some plays that there was simply nothing the Buccaneers could have done to defend any better. The most notable of those plays came in the first quarter, when Green Bay punter Tim Masthay fumbled the ball twice on fourth down. He somehow managed to turn that mess into a first down, breathing life into a drive where the Packers ended up scoring.
The Buccaneers also had their fair share of players go down to injury during the game—another circumstance they couldn’t prevent.
Also worth mentioning was the temperature. Lambeau field was chilly during the game, with the temperature peaking just above the freezing point. For a team that is not accustomed to playing in the cold, the Bucs ended up putting up a great fight.
Red Zone Woes Continue
The Buccaneers were able to make it to the Packers’ red zone four times, but they had trouble capitalizing once they got there. During the first three quarters, their only touchdown came off of a long run; their two trips to the end zone resulted in a pair of field goals.
The Bucs were able to find better red zone success in the fourth quarter, driving down the field for a pair of touchdowns to help keep the team in the game.
Josh Freeman and his offense need to ride that momentum into their next game instead of focusing on their much poorer performance through the first three quarters.
Arrelious Benn Helps Jump Start the Offense
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Arreilious Benn is making plays for the Buccaneers when it counts. He has the potential to be dangerous, and defenses must take heed by giving him the respect he deserves.
His biggest contribution came in the form of a 28-yard catch in the second quarter. That catch helped to open up the field for LeGarrette Blount’s touchdown run on the next play by forcing the defense to acknowledge the threat of another big pass play.
He had a good day overall, though, reeling in five total catches for 75 yards.
The First Onside Kick Wasn’t a Bad Idea–Just Poor Execution
Onside kicks are always a gamble in the NFL, but once in a while they’re a good idea. The Buccaneers tried a pair of onside kicks against the Packers, once in each half.
The first onside kick was a good move by the coaching staff. The Tampa Bay offense had scored on two consecutive drives, while the defense had held Green Bay to nothing in between. It was not a reach to try to give the offense a chance to continue riding that momentum.
The Second Onside Kick Was a Terrible Idea
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As much as the first onside kick was a pretty good play call, the second one was terrible. The Bucs were in the midst of a comeback effort, one that had actually been fairly successful.
Losing the onside kick in their own territory handed the momentum—and the next several minutes of the game clock—back to the Packers.
Kellen Winslow Is a Monster, but Not a Clutch Player
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Kellen Winslow put together one heck of a game against the Packers, bringing in nine catches for 132 yards.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to reel in the ball when it counted most.
Winslow caught a touchdown pass in the end zone that was called back because of offensive pass interference. Later, he dropped a pass that would have been a two-point conversion despite being wide open.
Good Job Stalling the Running Game
The Packers aren’t known for their stellar running game, and Tampa Bay managed to keep that reputation going for another week.
The Packers managed to accrue just 91 yards on the ground, including scrambles by Rodgers. That was thanks in large part to great blocking up front, and numerous tackles behind the line of scrimmage by various Tampa Bay players.
They also knocked Green Bay running back James Starks out of the game with an injury, preventing him from attempting to run out the game as he has managed to do in the past.
Mike Williams Can Still Be Good When He Gets Going
Up until this game, Mike Williams has only been catching about half of the throws that come his way.
Williams put together a great game, catching seven balls for 83 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown.
It’s been said over and over again that Williams needs to get more involved in the Tampa offense; today, he really stepped up to that role. He wasn’t able to bring his team a victory, but his team should have some hope that Williams’ production will improve moving forward.
Penalties and Poor Play Defensively Gave the Game Away Late
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Once again, the Buccaneers suffered from inconveniently-timed penalties. They ended the day with nine penalty flags for 55 yards, which was enough to give the Packers an edge.
In a lot of ways, penalties may have cost the Bucs the game. They handed the Packers a first down on a drive that had stalled in their own territory during the fourth quarter.
Instead of punting, the Packers went on to drive down the field (and take advantage of two more penalties) to score a touchdown. That score put the Buccaneers into a position where they were nine points down in the fourth quarter, a deficit that they were never able to overcome.