Buccaneers vs. Packers: The Aftermath
The Green Bay Packers defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 35-26 on a cold Sunday afternoon in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Not Exactly How They Drew It Up
From the Packers opening drive, it was apparent that Sunday would be far from an ordinary day at Lambeau. After the first six plays yielded two incompletions, one false start, two offsides calls and a five-yard pass, the Packers found themselves punting. Punter Tim Masthay fielded the punt cleanly, but after a Buccaneers special-teamer came through the offensive line untouched, Masthay smartly tried to tuck the ball and run. His quick thinking couldn’t keep up with his hands, however, and Masthay fumbled the ball. He recovered his own fumble and ran for the first down, but lost the ball again. After a fortuitous bounce, the ball went out of bounds and the Packers offense found itself with a fresh set of downs. After Jordy Nelson hauled in two great catches, and Rodgers showed off his fancy footwork, the Packers fed the rock to nose tackle B.J. Raji for a one-yard touchdown plunge. Despite Raji not checking in with the referee prior to the play, the score stood and the Packers were up 7-0 early.
Rodgers Shows He Is Human
Most quarterbacks would be pleased with the day Aaron Rodgers put in on his way to leading his team to victory. Completing 23-of-34 passes for 299 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception is a solid day by NFL quarterback standards, but after the game, Aaron Rodgers said he “didn’t throw the ball very well.” And by Rodgers’ standards, Sunday was, in fact, an off day. The silver lining is always a victory, and along the way Rodgers also set a career-high in touchdown passes (31) in just the first ten games of the 2011 season. With six games remaining, Rodgers remains on pace for one of the most impressive seasons ever recorded by a quarterback.
Continuing his breakout season, receiver Jordy Nelson put together another stellar performance Sunday. He led all Packers receivers with six catches for 123-yards and two touchdowns. With the usual offensive suspects Jermichael Finley and Greg Jennings being held to a combined three catches for 36 yards, the Packers offense had to look elsewhere for firepower. Aside from Nelson’s spectacular day, the ageless Donald Driver chipped in four timely catches for 72 yards.
Before leaving with a knee sprain, James Starks single handedly carried his team when they needed it most. With the Buccaneers clawing their way within two points of the Packers early in the fourth quarter, Aaron Rodgers and the offense engineered an eight play, 85-yard scoring drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by John Kuhn. Of those eight plays, James Starks caught four passes for 29 yards and rushed twice for 26 more yards. With his team in need, the second-year back out of Buffalo answered the call.
Ready For Thanksgiving?
In comparison to last season, the Packers have been relatively injury free this year. On Sunday, however, James Starks was bent backwards while being tackled in the fourth quarter and required assistnace as he hobbled off the field with arms draped around Packers physician Patrick McKenzie and team trainer Pepper Burruss. Following the game, McCarthy characterized the injury as a “knee sprain” and added the team will conduct further tests on Monday. In addition to Starks, receiver Greg Jennings suffered a “shin bruise.” Of the two, Starks’ injury appeared to be more serious, and with a short week to heal and prepare, both players’ statuses for Thursday’s divisional tilt in Detroit are unknown.
The Other Side Of The Ball
With the offense lacking its usual inspiration, the defense had to step up against elusive Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ heavy pressure was effective against Freeman for most of the afternoon, but Freeman still managed to log 342 passing yards. Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount also had his way with the Packers defense rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown. As a whole, the unit missed a plethora of tackles, but with cornerback Tramon Williams leading the way with two interceptions and a team-high nine tackles, the Packers defense got the job done.
In addition to Williams, the play of the outside linebackers continues to impress. Aside from Clay Matthews’ usual disruption, Erik Walden continues to play at a high level. With center Scott Wells and tight end Jermichael Finley garnering much of the chatter regarding new contracts next season, it may be prudent of the Packers to focus on re-signing Walden as well.
Green Bay and Detroit each have three days to prepare for a game that should go a long way towards deciding the division. When the Packers visited Ford Field last season, Aaron Rodgers left the game with a concussion and the Packers were derailed for two straight games. With a vicious pass rush and a dynamic quarterback-reciever duo, the Lions should provide a difficult test for the undefeated Packers. The 10-0 Packers versus the 7-3 Lions on Thanksgiving, I can’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon.