On December 3, it was warmer than what most Wisconsin residents would tell you was the norm. But, for a Bucs team visiting one of the NFL’s most sacred cathedrals of professional football, it was another road game that came with challenges that included the climate.
Quarterback Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers offense got the chance to start the game with the ball in their hands. This was the first game action we’d seen from Winston since he was taken out of the New Orleans game back in November.
On his first drive, Winston went 4-for-4 with all passes going for first downs and the last one ending in six points, Winston’s targets were to the likes of Antony Auclair, Alan Cross, Adam Humphires and finally Cameron Brate to cap it off with a touchdown. The offense and the play calling worked swimmingly on that first drive. Head coach and play caller Dirk Koetter had a good balance of run and pass which marched the ball down the field 75 yards in 10 plays.
The Packers responded with a drive of points of their own, but only three points instead of six or seven. Green Bay quarterback Brett Hundley connected with a few different receivers on their first drive with the biggest going to Davante Adams. Packers running back Jamaal Williams also got a good dose of involvement early on, a trend that continued as the game went on.
Following the points on each team’s opening drives, the rest of the first half didn’t go as planned for both teams. The defense held their ground on most occasions, and forced three straight punts between the two teams.
On Green Bay’s third possession of the game, Hundley went for a home run ball over the middle, which was picked off by Buccaneers rookie safety Justin Evans. That interception was Evans’ third pick of the year, which put him in sole place of the most on the team. He still remains one takeaway off the total lead, still behind linebacker Lavonte David, who has four forced fumbles.
The Bucs could not get points off the turnover, however, and instead had a three-and-out in which the punt was blocked – not technically because the punt still reached the line of scrimmage – that set the Packers up with a short field. With just 45 yards to go, the Packers were able to march down and score in just five plays to take the lead at 10-7.
As a response, the Bucs started to get things going, moving the ball down into Packers territory until a Winston fumble that was return for a touchdown by Green Bay squandered their momentum. It was a play where Winston was just trying to avoid taking a sack by getting the ball out of his hands, but instead had it come lose for the worst case result.
The Bucs were able to play damage control on their next drive after the touchdown. On a 12-play, 57-yard drive that included a lot of running back Peyton Barber (who started the game in place of the injured Doug Martin), a 19-yard catch to wide receiver DeSean Jackson and a clutch 13-yard pick up form running back Charles Sims, the Bucs were able to put three points on the board to make it a one-score, 17-10 game, still in favor of Green Bay.
That’s how the game went into the half.
There wasn’t much offense coming out of the gate in the early parts of the second half as four of the first five possessions between both teams ended in punts. The one outlier of a possession was that the Bucs were able to kick a field goal and get the game to just a 17-13 lead for the Packers. On that drive, Barber ran the ball very well for the Bucs, and, at a point, led the team in rushing and receiving thanks to some tough yards and some well-called screen plays to counter the Packers heavy blitzing pressure.
The Bucs defense held firm on the following drive, holding the Packers to just five yards on three plays and a punt. On the Bucs next offensive drive, things started to turn in their favor. On a drive that got Barber over the 100-yard mark for rushing yards, Winston and company drove the ball all the way to the Packers goal line, and the quarterback and tight end Cameron Brate connected once again for their second score of the game. The Bucs took the lead 20-17 with six minutes left.
On the following offensive drive for the Packers, Hundley and his crew drove the ball down methodically with only one third down attempt (which was converted) before they got into the red zone. However, when they really needed it, Tampa Bay’s “bend but don’t break” defense held firm on the goal line and forced the Packers to kick a field goal, settling for a tie game, 20-20, with two minutes to play.
The Bucs next offensive drive was not ideal. After a well-called screen that was called back for a hold on center Evan Smith, who had a rough day with several penalties, and a sack followed by a run on 3rd-and-long, the Bucs were forced to punt back to Green Bay with 44 second left in the game.
Fortunately for the Bucs, the Packers weren’t able to do anything with their possession either, which resulted in overtime.
To start the overtime period, the Packers won the toss and elected to receive. After a good return on the kick by Trevor Davis, Hundley gave his team two big scrambles for first down that took the Packers all the way into Tampa Bay territory. After a few more plays, Packers running back Aaron Jones ran it in form more than 20 yards out for the score and the win.
Green Bay with victory, 26-20.
The Packers improve to 6-6, while the loss drops the Bucs to 4-8 on the season. That means that a winning season is now impossible and that the team will finish with a worse record than its 9-7 mark a year ago.