Game Review: Too Much To Overcome In Tampa

TAMPA - The Packers showed in their first two games this season that they’re good enough to overcome some mistakes and still pull out big victories. But the number of miscues on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was simply too many, and they added up to a frustrating 30-21 defeat in front of 64,122 at Raymond James Stadium. - More Packers-Buccaneers Game Center


S Nick Collins intercepts a pass in the third quarter on Sunday that the Packers converted into a touchdown.

TAMPA - The Green Bay Packers showed in their first two games this season that they're good enough to overcome some mistakes and still pull out big victories.

But the number of miscues on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was simply too many, and they added up to a frustrating 30-21 defeat in front of 64,122 at Raymond James Stadium. The Packers, who also must deal now with a shoulder injury to starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers (evaluation and status update coming Monday), are 2-2 at the season's quarter pole after a 2-0 start.

The mistakes fell into every category. There were offensive penalties that set up difficult down-and-distance situations, defensive penalties on third downs to keep Buccaneer drives alive, a lack of execution in the running game, shoddy pass protection at critical times, and poor punts that allowed for productive returns.

They all contributed to several opportunities for Tampa Bay, most notably four turnovers that the 3-1 Buccaneers converted into 24 of its 30 points to give the Packers their first consecutive losses since November of 2006.

"We just made a number of the same mistakes that we made the first three weeks - that's four weeks now," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "When you have penalties, turnovers, it's very difficult to win a football game like that. You're playing a good football team, a very good defense in a tough environment. I just felt offensively we clearly didn't do enough to win the game.

"I thought our defense played outstanding time and time again and gave us a number of opportunities to win this football game, and we didn't take advantage of it."

Green Bay's defense fueled a second-half comeback that was necessary mostly because of the turnovers.

After scoring first on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Greg Jennings on the game's opening drive, the Green Bay offense faltered. The Packers made just four first downs in their next eight possessions and pretty much put themselves in a 20-7 hole.

An interception that bounced off running back Brandon Jackson's hands set up Tampa's first score, a 9-yard TD pass from Brian Griese to tight end Alex Smith early in the second quarter. Then another pick, when Rodgers led wide receiver Donald Driver too far over the middle, by Bucs linebacker Barrett Ruud led to a field goal and a 13-7 halftime deficit.

It got worse in the third quarter when running back Ryan Grant, who struggled mightily to run the ball after a productive opening series, fumbled and safety Jermaine Phillips scooped it up for the Bucs and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown.

"You're not going to win in this league when you turn the ball over four times like that," Rodgers said. "It's disappointing. We have to get back to playing the kind of football we feel like we're capable of playing. We haven't put together a whole game, four quarters where we're playing our style, executing and keeping drives alive. Today we didn't do that."

The defense gave the offense some chances, though. First, with the score still 13-7, cornerback Tramon Williams intercepted a deflected pass at the Green Bay 5-yard line to keep points off the board for the Bucs early in the third quarter.

Then safety Nick Collins, who dropped an interception in the second quarter on a drive Tampa converted into a field goal, picked off Griese along the sideline in Tampa Bay territory. Three plays later, Rodgers hit Jennings on a deep slant that the star receiver, who had six catches for 109 yards, broke for a 48-yard touchdown to make it 20-14.

The defense proceeded to give the Packers the lead on the Bucs' next drive, as cornerback Charles Woodson stepped in front of running back Warrick Dunn on a short dump-off pass and ran the interception back 62 yards for the score. Suddenly, it was 21-20 Green Bay with 13:43 left.

But all was not good, as Rodgers (14-of-27, 165 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT) was wincing in pain while trying to test his shoulder on the sidelines. He had injured it in the third quarter, on the drive preceding the Jennings TD, when he scrambled for 7 yards and reached the ball out while he was being tackled to try to get the first down. The impact of his outstretched arm hitting the ground like that made Rodgers feel as though he may have dislocated the shoulder.

So after the defense got another stop, in went rookie quarterback Matt Flynn in Rodgers' place, and the offense went three-and-out again. A low 38-yard punt by Derrick Frost was returned 19 yards to set up another Tampa field goal, and the Bucs led 23-21 with 2:26 left.

Rodgers re-entered to try to save the day, bad shoulder and all, but the offense couldn't take advantage of good field position at the 40 after the kickoff went out of bounds.

On the second snap, defensive end Greg White came untouched to Rodgers' blind side, and the quarterback's throw was picked off by defensive end Gaines Adams near midfield. A 47-yard run by Earnest Graham (20 carries, 111 yards) set up his 1-yard plunge to seal the game.

Rodgers said there was a miscommunication on the pass protection that led to White's pressure and the interception. Rodgers thought White would be picked up, but the line was in a five-man protection that forced Rodgers to go to a hot read if someone came free.

"It's unfortunate because we had a great matchup, Donald (Driver) on a defensive end for a big play," Rodgers said. "But communication today was part of the problem, especially on that play."

Added center Scott Wells: "If they bring more than we have to block, there's a hot read. They looked as if they were bringing two linebackers, and we have to account for the most dangerous (rushers), from inside out."

At the end of the day, though, it was really the Packers who were most dangerous to themselves. That final turnover marked the fifth Green Bay possession in the second half that started at the Packers' own 40 or better, and the offense came away with just seven points on those drives.

{sportsad300}"The most disappointing thing is that we helped them out a lot," Wells said. "We had four turnovers and didn't take advantage of good field position we had when we had it, and we put our defense in tough situations when we were in poor field position.

"They out-executed us, obviously, they got the win, but we feel that we beat ourselves just as much."

To a man, the Packers know that simply has to stop.

"We've definitely got talent and we've got the capability of being the Packer football team we're supposed to be," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "It's not time to press the panic button, but we definitely have to press the urgency button and get this thing moving."

And they know no one else is going to do it for them.

"There's no excuse," Woodson said. "We basically have the same team of guys that we had last year. These games last year, we were coming up with these games at the end. For whatever reason, the execution is just not there for a full game. We have spurts, but spurts is not going to win tough games.

"What we have to do I'm not sure, but we have to figure it out because if we're not going to play a full game, we're going to get beat a lot of times this season like this."

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