TAMPA – It wasn't pretty by any means, but the Packers will certainly take it.
"It's about finding ways to win football games," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said after his squad squeaked out a 14-12 win at Tampa Bay. "Every team is going to face adversity throughout the course of the season and it really doesn't matter. Nobody really cares.
"I told our guys we'll never apologize for winning. You've just got to find a way and we did."
As the Aaron Rodgers-Tom Brady showdown turned into all-Rodgers early and all-Brady late – with a ton of defense in between – the Packers hung onto a game that would've felt just awful to let get away.
"It feels good for sure," said Rodgers, who pointed out the Packers managed to keep pace with the victorious Vikings and Bears for a three-way deadlock atop the NFC North at 2-1. "That's the focus."
The Packers gave credit to the Buccaneers for turning their defensive fortunes around after Green Bay's offense put on a clinic through the first quarter and a half. Aaron Jones' fumble on the goal line that prevented a third straight score became a turning point of massive proportions.
Tampa Bay's defense is one of the best, if not the best, in the league, but the Packers also know they had more chances than the scoreboard indicated.
In particular, Rodgers lamented an incomplete pass late in the fourth quarter, two plays after Allen Lazard hauled in a 26-yard blitz beater to get the Packers across midfield.
Needing maybe one more first down (or close to it) to give kicker Mason Crosby a high-percentage shot at three more points, a double-crossing route went awry when the two receivers bumped into each other and Rodgers' pass went to no man's land.
Rodgers explained one receiver was supposed to run his route over top of the other one, but the underneath receiver ran his route too high, and Juwann Winfree got tripped up rather than head toward the vacant area.
"That should have been a completion to Juwann inside field-goal range," Rodgers said. "Bada bing, bada boom, ballgame."
If only it were that easy. But those are the kind of mistakes that are holding the Packers back in the early stages of this season.
"Offensively we're young, and we're struggling at times to finish things off," said Rodgers, who also regretted not giving Jones a better throw on the play he fumbled rather than scored. "It's happened obviously in both of our wins."
But the last two have been wins, and there's something to be said for being 2-1 after three weeks when two road games were against the biggest divisional competition and a playoff contender QB'd by Brady.
In some ways, this is how the Packers were expected to have to win early, as an offense going through a transition at receiver figured some things out.
See scenes from the Sunday matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 25, 2022.
The Packers' defense wasn't up to the task at Minnesota, but it sure was two weeks later. And the revamped special teams didn't just "break even," as Rodgers always hopes, but provided an advantage to Green Bay that would've been greater if not for an incorrect running-into-the-kicker penalty when Tampa Bay was punting from the back of its own end zone.
The offense showed within the same game what it looks like against a top-notch defense when the execution is clean and crisp, and what can happen when penalties and negative-yardage plays bog things down.
"It can be frustrating," LaFleur said. "But the thing is you always have to keep the bigger picture (in mind).
"We're still trying to figure out who we are as a team."
There are worse ways to do that than to be 2-1 with two tough road trips out of the way.
If this team's biggest concerns are with an offense quarterbacked by a future Hall of Famer and four-time MVP, that's OK for now.
"Just gotta tighten things up a little bit," Rodgers said. "But our defense holding them to 12 points, we're going to win probably all those games."