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DEFENSIVE LINE Tampa Bay's defensive line made several plays that made it difficult for the Green Bay Packers' potentially potent offense to move the ball on Sunday.
On the first drive of the game, Bucs defensive end Kevin Carter chased Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of bounds for a 2-yard loss and sack. On the next drive, Carter pressured Rodgers near the sideline again on a third-and-4 play and forced him to throw the ball away and the Packers to punt. Carter notched one tackle and one sack vs. the Packers.
Bucs DE Gaines Adams was called for jumping offside on a third-and-12 play on the first drive of the game, which set up a third-and-7 that the Packers were able to convert into a first down. Green Bay wound up scoring a touchdown on that drive. On the first drive of the third quarter, Adams showed good run support by tackling running back Ryan Grant in the backfield on a third-and-1 play for a 1-yard loss. That tackle forced the Packers to punt. But Adams' biggest play came with two minutes remaining in the game and the Packers driving for the game-winning field goal. Fellow DE Greg White came free off the right side and drilled Rodgers, which forced an errant pass and allowed Adams to pick it off to secure the win for the Buccaneers. Not only did he pick off the pass, Adams wisely got down with the ball instead of trying to make a play, which would have allowed for the possibility of him fumbling. Adams and White finished the game with five and two tackles, respectively.
Bucs nose tackle Chris Hovan was extremely disruptive vs. the run. He notched three tackles, including a wrap-up on Grant for a 1-yard loss in the second quarter. Hovan and cornerback Elbert Mack combined for a great tackle on Grant on a screen play late in the third quarter. That tackle put the Packers in a third-and-15 situation. Defensive tackle Jovan Haye had two tackles.
Bucs defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson sacked Rodgers for an 8-yard loss late in the second quarter. That put the Packers in a second-and-18 situation. He rushed from the right defensive end spot and beat left tackle Chad Clifton with an inside move on the play.
The Packers rushed 18 times for just 28 yards (1.6 avg.). The Bucs sacked Rodgers three times on Sunday.
LINEBACKERS This unit was simply dominant for the Buccaneers on Sunday.
It was led by weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks, who had three tackles, two passes defensed and an interception. On Green Bay's second drive of the game, Brooks nearly intercepted Rodgers. The Bucs would have gotten the ball at the Packers' 40-yard line, but Brooks couldn't hold onto the ball, which was thrown just behind him. But on the same drive, Brooks took advantage of Rodgers' next errant pass by intercepting it. It ended Rodgers' streak (157 straight passes) of passes thrown without an interception. The interception came after Rodgers' pass bounced off of the hands of running back Brandon Jackson and into Brooks' on a third down play. Brooks tossed the ball back to LB Cato June, who had two tackles, and the Bucs wound up with the ball on the Packers' 32-yard line. Six plays later, the Bucs turned that turnover into a touchdown to tie the game at seven.
On the next drive, Brooks broke into the backfield and tackled Grant for a 5-yard loss. It was an explosive play and great tackle to say the least. On the very next play, Rodgers threw the ball right into Brooks' hands, but he couldn't secure the interception. It still set up a third-and-15 play, though. The Packers had to punt from their own end zone. The Bucs got the ball on the 41-yard line and eventually settled for a field goal to go up 10-7 in the second quarter.
But Brooks wasn't done. Midway through the third quarter, he caused Grant to fumble on a running play. Bucs strong safety Jermaine Phillips recovered the loose ball and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown, which put the Bucs up 20-7.
Bucs middle linebacker Barrett Ruud also had some big plays vs. the Packers. Late in the second quarter, Ruud intercepted Rodgers and returned the ball to the Packers' 34-yard line. That led to a 37-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. On the ensuing drive, Ruud blitzed and sacked Rodgers to put the Packers in a second-and-18 situation with just 24 seconds remaining in the first half. Ruud finished the game with five tackles, one sack, one passes defensed and one interception.
The Packers converted 4-of-13 (31 percent) of their third down attempts vs. the Bucs.
SECONDARY Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 14-of-27 (51.8 percent) passes for 165 yards and tossed two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Bucs strong safety Jermaine Phillips helped to set the tone against the run by stuffing Grant for no gain on the first drive of the game to set up a third-and-2 from the Bucs' 25-yard line. But Phillips' biggest play came midway through the second quarter when he recovered a fumble caused by Brooks and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown, which put the Bucs up 20-7. But after a Brian Griese interception in the third quarter, Rodgers hit WR Greg Jennings down the right seam on a third-and-15 play for a 48-yard touchdown with Phillips late coming on the play. That touchdown made the score 20-14 in favor of the Bucs. Phillips finished the game with two tackles and his first career score.
Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber did not get off to a good start, but still had a solid game overall. On a third-and-2 play on Green Bay's opening drive, Barber slipped and fell in coverage, which allowed Jennings to haul in a 25-yard pass from Rodgers for a touchdown. That play capped off a 10-play, 58-yard drive and put the Packers up 7-0. Safety Tanard Jackson was also late coming over in coverage. However, Barber rebounded by playing extremely well against the run and pass. He led the defense in tackles with six on Sunday. Jackson did not register a tackle. Piscitelli left Sunday's game in the second half with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. He did not return.
Nickel CB Aqib Talib also had trouble with Jennings on one play when the speedy receiver hauled in a 25-yard pass from Rodgers near the sideline late in the second quarter. Jennings finished the game with six catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Talib, Buchanon and rookie CB Elbert Mack each recorded three tackles.
The Packers had just 181 yards of total offense vs. the Bucs.
SPECIAL TEAMS Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant gave the team an emotional lift by deciding to play vs. Green Bay. His youngest son Tryson passed away in his sleep on Wednesday morning. He was just three months old. Not only did he play, Bryant drilled three field goals from 23, 36 and 24 yards out, respectively. His 24-yarder proved to be the game-winning score late in the fourth quarter. His kickoffs could have been better, but Bryant admitted after the game that he was mentally and physically drained, and understandably so. Bryant dedicated his performance to Tryson and received a game ball from the team.
Rookie return specialist Dexter Jackson had a much better outing on Sunday. He averaged 33.3 yards per kickoff return on three attempts. He broke off a 45-yarder to open the second half and was just one tackle away from scoring a touchdown. Jackson's 19-yard punt return midway through the fourth quarter allowed the Bucs offense to start a drive at the Packers' 36-yard line. That return helped set up Bryant's game-winning field goal.
Bucs linebacker Adam Hayward and safety Will Allen were called for a personal foul and holding penalty, respectively. Fullback Byron Storer recorded two tackles on special teams.
Punter Josh Bidwell averaged 49.5 yards per attempt on four tries. His longest was a 64-yarder.
COACHING Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin had his troops prepared. Tampa Bay's defense held Green Bay to 181 yards of total offense and created four turnovers and three sacks. The defense returned a fumble for a touchdown and had three other turnovers that led to points for the Bucs offense.
Head coach Jon Gruden showed some guts by going for it on fourth-and-1 just before the two-minute warning in the first half. Bucs running back Earnest Graham picked up the first down on that running play. The Bucs were ahead 10-7 at that point. Tampa Bay's offensive game plan was much more balanced. After throwing the ball 67 times last Sunday, the Bucs ran the ball 41 times for 178 yards (4.3 avg.) and threw the ball 30 times. The Bucs' ability to run the ball allowed the team to dominate the time of possession, 36:50 to 23;10. Unfortunately, quarterback Brian Griese tossed three costly interceptions, including one that was returned for a score.