Key 1. Beat Packers Man
Greg Olson told the media on Wednesday that the Packers play a lot of man coverage and it proved true for the most part. While the Buccaneers failed to take many deep shots, Freeman worked the underneath routes to perfection.
On the deep balls Freeman did attempt, the Tampa Bay receivers made the most of their opportunities with Mike Williams making a great leaping catch in the first half and Arrelious Benn capitalizing on his one-on-one coverage in the fourth quarter, hauling in a 37-yard pass from Freeman that led to a touchdown.
The Buccaneers offense rolled up 455 total yards, including 342 yards through the air, which wins a majority of the time in the NFL. And Tampa Bay’s receivers deserve much of the credit by finally creating separation and limiting dropped passes.
Final Grade: A
Key 2. Make Each Drive Count
The Buccaneers offense started off slowly but LeGarrette Blount’s team-inspiring 54-yard TD run seemed to spark the entire offense. Tampa Bay continued to move the ball effectively for the remainder of the half.
The Buccaneers needed to capitalize in the red zone, where they rank dead last in the NFL. In the first half with a chance to tie the game at 14, Tampa Bay had to settle for a Conner Barth field goal. In the second half, Tampa Bay again moved the ball into the red zone but had to call on Barth once more when a drive stalled.
Tampa Bay did manage to find the end zone three times today; a marked improvement over the last few weeks.
The difference in the game can partly be traced to Tampa Bay settling for three points instead of seven. The Buccaneers must find a way to the end zone and not settle for field goals, as hope for this season is wilting quickly.
Key 3. Razz Rodgers
While the quarterback pressure stat won't be out until Tuesday, the Buccaneers defensive line was in the backfield several times during the course of Sunday's game.
The unfortunate thing is Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was able to step up or roll away from the pressure and Tampa Bay finished with just two sacks.
Rookie Adrian Clayborn picked up his fourth sack of the season but the Packers did a great job of keeping a tight pocket around their QB. The turf seemed to affect Clayborn tremendously as the footing prevented the former Iowa Hawkeye from ripping and using his inside move. Brian Price added a takedown of Rodgers later in the game with help from Da’Quan Bowers.
I’m not sure anyone would admit to thinking Josh Freeman would throw for more yards than Aaron Rodgers. The difference in age and experience was clearly evident today but the play of Freeman gives Tampa Bay hope for the future.
Final Grade: C
Key 4. Element of Surprise
With nothing to lose playing the best team in the league, this game was a perfect time to unleash any secret or surprise plays in the playbook. Offensively, Greg Olson kept it close to the vest but his players executed what was given to them to near perfection.
Raheem Morris gambled several times with blitz packages but the two biggest calculated risks were the call to attempt two onside kicks. The first one made sense and as I wrote in the original Keys To Victory story the Buccaneers needed to play with a no-holds-barred mentality.
However the decision to attempt another one, with the Packers lined up to defend it, made many shake their heads. The Packers again recovered the kick but this time made Tampa Bay pay with a Rodgers-to-Jordy Nelson 40-yard strike over the head of Myron Lewis.
The defensive game plan was better than we have seen of late, with a few disguised coverages that included the Elbert Mack pick of Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter.
Final Grade: C
Key 5. Have Rah’s Back
Raheem Morris walked to the podium last Sunday after the Houston game a visibly shaken man. But instead of throwing the players under the bus he took the impact head on for the team and placed all the blame on himself.
But during practice this week Morris made it very clear he expected better effort from his young Bucs and challenged them individually. The team responded and fought as if they were not only fighting for their season or jobs, but also for their head coach’s sake.
All the improvement in the world means nothing, though, if this team comes out flat and uninspired next week at Tennessee.
The true character test will be seen from here on out, as Ronde Barber said post game: “It's now playoff football and it's a single elimination season over the last six games.”
Final Grade: A
As Raheem Morris said after today’s game, there are no such things as moral victories. But from the outside that is not necessarily the case. Another devastating loss could have been disastrous for this young team, but not only did they show the fans and media they are a team capable of beating anyone, they also showed themselves.
The Packers proved too much and their experience and maturity level showed up today in the final score, but the Buccaneers have nothing to hang their heads about.
As stated earlier, the momentum and desire must continue over the next six weeks to prove it was real and no fluke.
Cook’s Prediction: Packers 35, Buccaneers 17
Reynold’s Prediction: Packers 33, Buccaneers 20
Horchy’s Prediction: Packers 37, Buccaneers 23
Actual Final Score: Packers 35, Buccaneers 26