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Griese Has Been Tough On Green Bay

Over the years, the Green Bay Packers have faced their share of quarterbacks who would qualify as a nemesis to the club. Back in the 1970s, there was Fran Tarkenton of Minnesota. Of course in the 1990s, it was Troy Aikman of Dallas. There was even Dan Marino of Miami, a rare AFC opponent. And now there’s Brian Griese. Say what?


Buccaneers QB Brian Griese

Over the years, the Green Bay Packers have faced their share of quarterbacks who would qualify as a nemesis to the club.

Back in the 1970s, there was Fran Tarkenton of Minnesota, who helped orchestrate a seven-game winning streak for the Vikings against the Packers from 1975-78. Of course in the 1990s, it was Troy Aikman of Dallas, who led the Cowboys to most of their eight straight wins over Green Bay from 1991-96, including three straight postseason triumphs. There was even Dan Marino of Miami, a rare AFC opponent, who won five straight games against the Packers from 1985-94 before the Packers finally beat him in 1997.

And now there's Brian Griese.

Say what?

No, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' quarterback, a journeyman of sorts throughout his 11 seasons in the NFL, does not have the Hall of Fame credentials of any of those aforementioned signal callers.

But strangely enough, Griese is unbeaten as a starter against Green Bay, having defeated the Packers three times with three different teams - the Broncos in 1999, the Buccaneers in 2005, and the Bears last season. And now he's back leading the Buccaneers again, and the Packers will be looking to stop him from upping his career mark to 4-0 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Sunday.

"I think he's a lot better quarterback than maybe some people give him credit to be," said Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, who benched Jeff Garcia in favor of Griese as his starter a couple of weeks ago. "He's got a nice won-loss record (44-36) as a starter. He plays the situational game well. He understands red zone, two-minute. He understands the clock.

"He's just a sharp guy and I think a very accurate pocket passer, and a guy that's really had a lot of success here."

Griese's success against the Packers isn't eye-popping statistically, but his performances have been sharp and solid. Back in '99 was his best game, as he completed 19-of-31 throws for 363 yards with two TDs and one interception in a 31-10 Denver win over Green Bay.

The numbers were more pedestrian against the Packers in recent years (17-of-26, 139 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT in 2005; 15-of-25, 214 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT in 2007), and he also had a dreadful performance for the Bears in relief of Rex Grossman in the 2006 regular-season finale (5-of-15, 124 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) in a game the Packers had well in hand before Grossman was pulled.

But there are a couple of things worth noting from those outings. For one, he led the Bears back from a 20-10 deficit in Week 5 last year, directing an eight-play, 79-yard drive late in the fourth quarter and hitting his tight end for a 34-yard TD pass with 2:05 left for a 27-20 win.

In addition, for a guy not known as overly mobile in the pocket, Griese has been sacked just five times in 97 career pass attempts against the Packers.

"He's a smart quarterback," Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "He knows how to get rid of the ball, not so much scrambling, but moving in the pocket, running boots and waggles. He still has that from his Denver experience."

He's putting it to good use with Tampa Bay as well. Last week in a come-from-behind, overtime win at Chicago, Griese threw a franchise-record 67 passes, completing 38 of them for a career-high 407 yards. Against the Bears' aggressive defense, he wasn't sacked one time in those 67 drop-backs (the fifth-most in league history for a single game).

"I think we got blitzed about 40 times, and although the Bears did get there a couple times, I was really pleased with our pick-ups and our assignments," Gruden said. "They're one thing, but delivering the execution is another thing. We really only had one false start and that was on a wide receiver, and we have the youngest line in football, and to go into that atmosphere with the crowd going crazy and not have any mental or physical breakdowns, it's a credit to the guys and something we can build on."

It's also a credit to Griese and his veteran savvy for knowing when and how to get rid of the ball. He did throw three interceptions, but he led the Bucs on a 79-yard drive for a touchdown to tie the game in the final 1:49 of regulation. He then hit Antonio Bryant for a 38-yard pass to set up the game-winning field goal in OT.

"He does a good job getting the ball out," Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders said. "He's a good manager of the game. A lot of the passes are the short, controlled passing game, where he takes a step and the ball is coming out. Chicago is more of a zone-type team, so the ball was coming out quick.

{sportsad300}"My hat goes off to his offensive line as well. They did a nice job blocking too. That's a good offensive line and a good offense."

Whether the Packers can have more success at pressuring Griese and getting him out of rhythm remains to be seen. It's almost unfathomable to think Tampa Bay would throw the ball that many times again, but no matter how many pass attempts there are, it's up to the Packers to not get shut out in the sack department the way the Bears did.

"You'd think that's a lot of opportunity, but at the same time it depends what they're doing," defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila said. "If they're throwing really quick, dinking it here and there with short passes, that can really wear you out.

"But when you think 67 (passes), you're thinking with the kind of guys we have in the locker room that can cover, he's going to have to hold it a little longer than he normally would, or compared to the last game he played. We'll see."

Truth be told, the Packers would probably love to have Griese throw 60-plus times again. It would indicate most likely that Green Bay is well ahead, as the Bears were, and that Tampa Bay's ground game is getting shut down.

The Bucs rushed for just 47 yards against the Bears but might stick with the run longer this week after the Packers surrendered 217 yards on the ground to the Cowboys last week.

If Green Bay can turn that around, 67 passes or not and Griese's unbeaten mark against the Packers might finally be history.

"You know that wasn't the plan to throw it that many times," defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. "They tried to run it earlier and it wasn't successful, and they turned to passing.

"We feel that's what we have to do, to make them one-dimensional. We have to stop the run this week. We didn't do it last week, so we're going to do it this week."

And hopefully beat Griese, once and for all.

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