TAMPA—The best news to come out of Sunday's game – other than for the 20-3 win – was Aaron Rodgers' prediction that he expects to be recovered from his calf injury when the Packers host the Lions for the division title next Sunday.
"Yeah, I'll be OK for next week. I hurt my calf pretty good. I just tried to push through it," Rodgers said following a performance that was more about his physical endurance than his precision passing.
Rodgers completed 31 of 40 passes for 318 yards, one touchdown and a 108.1 passer rating. For many quarterbacks, it would qualify as a highlight performance. Rodgers did it on one leg.
"It hindered my mobility a little bit. We were able to make enough plays," Rodgers said.
When he sustained the injury remained unclear, but apparently his calf tightened early in the game. It appeared to bother him the most after having been sacked and fumbling the ball in the first quarter. It caused backup quarterback Matt Flynn to warm up along the sideline.
"I battled the flu the last couple of days. I had a great hydration test this week. Unfortunately, the calf gave out on me," Rodgers said.
The Packers defense didn't give out on him. It dominated the action in a suffocating performance that allowed the Bucs only 109 total yards. The Bucs gained only six first downs and held the ball for a mere 21 minutes and 22 seconds. Late in the game, the Packers unleashed a pass rush that put the game away; the Packers sacked Josh McCown seven times.
"This is a game we needed to qualify for the playoffs. As we leave here, we look forward to an opportunity to win the division," Coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Packers clinched no less than a wild-card playoff berth with the win over the Bucs, but the Packers' goal is much greater. With a win over the Lions at Lambeau Field next Sunday, the Packers will clinch their fourth consecutive NFC North title. They'll also clinch the NFC's No. 2 postseason seeding position, which includes a bye for the first round.
"We're proud of making the playoffs six years in a row," McCarthy said.
"It says a lot about the organization and the way they treat people," Rodgers said.
Rodgers' courageousness is the big story from Sunday's win. He spoke of not being able to put weight on his sore calf, causing some of his passes to fall short of the mark.
"I threw a lot of low passes today," he said.
He was also coming off one of the worst performances of his career which, along with his illness, made this a doubly difficult week.
"The last couple of days, you've seen what kind of warrior he is. Really gritty performance by Aaron," McCarthy said of Rodgers.
Green Bay was in control throughout Sunday's game. There was only one tense moment, when McCarthy elected to go for the touchdown and not a field goal, on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Rodgers' pass fell incomplete, giving the Bucs a little momentum with the Packers' lead a scant 10-3 midway through the third quarter.
"We've been here before. We know what it looks like. It's called taking steps each and every week," McCarthy said. "I feel very good about where our defense is today." COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE
Green Bay played its final road game of the regular season Sunday against the Buccaneers. Photos by Jim Biever, Packers.com.