Packers-Buccaneers Recap



It is no secret that the Packers have had their problems in Tampa's Raymond James Stadium in the new venue's short history - but not as many as they encountered in Sunday's visit to the five-year-old structure and its pirate ship.

For example, it's been a long time since the Packers offense, with prolific Brett Favre at the trigger, has had to settle for a mere 7 points in 60 minutes of football.

But it happened this time around - that "given day" when the Packers found the end zone a difficult place to visit - aside from a first quarter exception to the late afternoon scenario.

The latter, however, gave the Packers early hope that things would be different in Raymond James, where they had lost their first four games since its debut in 1998. A Na'il Diggs interception at the Green Bay 26 triggered the opportunity, Diggs picking off a Rob Johnson pass and returning it 29 yards to the Tampa Bay 45.

Favre was quick to capitalize, lighting up the scoreboard 6 plays later with a 4-yard strike to split end Donald Driver in the left corner of the end zone. Ryan Longwell's conversion made it 7-0.

There was no reason to think at that early juncture that such should be the case, but that concluded the Packers' scoring for the day.

And thanks in large part to a miserly and ball-hawking Buccaneer defense, which intercepted Favre four times, there were few opportunities for the Green and Gold to add to their total.

The best of these came late in the third quarter when Favre put together a 9-play, 53-yard drive to the Tampa Bay 20, where cornerback Ronde Barber waylaid a Favre pass intended for Terry Glenn at the Tampa Bay 15-yard line.

It was the second Buccaneer theft of the third quarter, following cornerback Brian Kelly's interception at the Green Bay 49-yard line, which he returned 31 yards to the Green Bay 18. The Bucs quickly cashed in on the opportunity, quarterback Brad Johnson hitting wide receiver Joe Jurevicius with a 4-yard scoring pass four plays later. The pass at first was ruled incomplete but Tampa Bay challenged the call and it subsequently was reversed after Referee Johnny Grier viewed the replay.

To compound the Packers' problems, the Bucs went for a 2-point conversion and made it on a toss to Keyshawn Johnson, giving Tampa Bay a 14-7 lead.

With a relatively modest, 7-point deficit at that stage, midway through the fourth quarter, the Packers still held hope of pulling out a victory - until safety Dexter Jackson intercepted and returned 58 yards down the right sideline to the Green Bay 4 before being run out of bounds midway through the fourth quarter.

The Bucs scored in three plays, quarterback Brad Johnson finding tight end Ken Dilger in a corner of the end zone for a 3-yard TD. That closed out the day's scoring and sealed the Packers' fate.

Favre completed 30 of 38 passing attempts overall, for 196 yards and one touchdown, with 4 interceptions- the most he has had in a regular season game since Nov. 1, 1999, in a game against Seattle.

Although it was not one of his better days, the 33-year-old field general still managed to make some significant history. His first quarter touchdown pass to Driver was his 20th of the season, marking the ninth consecutive year he has thrown 20 or more TD passes, the second-longest such skein in NFL history and behind only the 10 consecutive 20-TD pass seasons of record-holder Dan Marino.

Running back Ahman Green finished the day with 96 total yards of offense (56 rushing in 18 attempts and 40 receiving with 4 catches).

The Packers' defense, which probably deserved a better fate, held the Bucs to 246 net yards of offense (93 rushing and 153 passing). Linebacker Nate Wayne, the season tackles leader of the defense, again paced the Green and Gold's defenders, posting 10 stops (7 unassisted).

GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S COMMENTS:

(on the performance and the result) "The first thing I want to say is I take my hat off to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jon Gruden had his team ready to go and they did a great job.

"They defended us. We only scored 7 points and we're a better offense than that. But they certainly made us look bad today. They have a tough defense and they were very opportunistic on offense. They did a nice job moving the football against us and taking advantage of some of the situations that we put ourselves in...I take my hat off to Jon and his staff and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers."

(on what he had said to the Bucs' Warren Sapp on the field after the game) "In response to after the game, I just went up to Warren Sapp and told him that I didn't appreciate the lick that he put on (Chad) Clifton. That was the extent of it.

"The guy (Clifton) is lying on the ground with numbness in his legs and fingers, and I didn't think that was appropriate for a player (to behave as Sapp did). He seemed to be enjoying the fact that Chad was hurt. I have a lot of respect for the game. I don't think there is a place for it...But when you look at the tape, maybe I over-reacted...We'll see."

(on whether the hit was a 'cheap shot?') "I didn't see it on the tape...You catch a last-second look. But Warren's a great player. I just said I didn't appreciate that type of play. He's a great player but I don't think there's a place in the game...But maybe I over-reacted. What I saw looked kind of cheap...But who knows?

"But the afterthought - the after-reaction when the guy's lying on the ground and you were responsible for that - to be happy about it - that bothers me a little bit."

(on whether 'this was the best their defense played against you?') "They always play us well. I can't pick one (game) over the other...Obviously, they played well.

"I really wasn't sad about the way we started the game. We moved the football...the Donald Driver touchdown...I thought we had some things going - I thought we had them on their heels a little bit. But, certainly, they shored things up and they played a whale of a ball game."

(on the interceptions) "On those (the first two) interceptions, to be honest with you, give 'em to me because we got a little too aggressive there and we got away from our plan - and that's my fault.

"I felt at the half, I wanted to get out of the half because we were backed up on the 9-yard line. And we were very conservative, trying to get field position, which in fact resulted in a field goal to make it 7-3.

"When we came out for the second half, we probably lost some patience there. They were giving us a fair amount of 2-deep coverage...(We) probably should have stuck with the run game a little more...I fault myself for not having more patience there."

(on Brett Favre) "Brett Favre prepares himself like a champion every day of his life. I think he's disappointed but I don't think he's frustrated. He's going to come back to work, and trust me, you will see better days from Brett Favre. You have to give Tampa Bay some credit. They were on. They made some tough plays."

(on deactivating defensive end Aaron Kampman, who has a broken hand, for the game) "Kampy was playing in a cast and I was concerned with that. Kampman was in tears when I told him he couldn't play. The guy just loves to play and compete and win."

THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:

Brett Favre: "It's a lot unfair for Mike (Sherman) to assume responsibility for the interceptions.

"It was a rough one here last year and a rough one in Minnesota. I'm frustrated. I know what type of game it will be when we play down here. That's no excuse. I can play better...Fortunately, I don't have to come back here soon.

"Maybe the playoffs...Maybe they'll come and see us. I'd like that."

(on the Packers' effort) "We didn't make the plays we needed to. We played hard. That wasn't the problem. We gave great effort. So did Tampa. We just didn't make the plays. We had the lead, and we didn't want to give them any freebies."

(on handling back-to-back losses on the road) "We can do one of two things. We can worry about this one, and last week, and let it affect us the next five games, or we can win the next five."

(on the Buccaneers) "I tip my hat to Tampa. They are a great team. They really, really are."

Terry Glenn: (on taking responsibility for two interceptions) "The first one, Brett read one thing and I read another. The second one, he (defender Ronde Barber) was playing the play a little bit, but it's still my job to create a deception and get open."

Marco Rivera: (on playing the entire game with a torn MCL in his right knee) "Right now, it's very sore. I thought I held up pretty well. Hopefully some ice will calm it down...If this game would have gone into overtime, I would have been in trouble."

Na'il Diggs: (on the loss of nose tackle Gilbert Brown) "Gilbert's a one-of-a-kind in the middle. His presence is always felt, and when he isn't in there, it makes it that much more difficult to stop the run."

Donald Driver: "If you can't run the ball, you can't pass, and if you can't pass, you can't run. I think our running game was not up to par, and I think our passing game was not up to par."

NOTE-WORTHY:

-Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's first-quarter sack of Tampa Bay quarterback Rob Johnson was his 10th of the season, making him the first Packer to post back-to-back double-digit seasons of quarterback sacks since Reggie White in 1997-98. Gbaja-Biamila had 13.5 sacks in 2001 when he tied for fourth place in the NFL. He now has 23.5 sacks in 27 games over the past two seasons.

-Sunday's loss (following one to Minnesota a week earlier) marked the first time a Mike Sherman team has lost two games in a row since Weeks 5 and 6 of the 2000 season, Sherman's first as Green Bay's head coach.

-The Packers' 7 points Sunday were the fewest they have scored in one game since Sept. 17, 2000, when they defeated Philadelphia, 6-3, via two Ryan Longwell field goals.

-Na'il Diggs' interception in the opening quarter of Sunday's game, which triggered the Packers' touchdown, was the first of this three-year NFL career.

-Quick Quote: Fox Network analyst Cris Collinsworth after Donald Driver's touchdown reception in the first quarter of Sunday's game at Tampa: "If Donald Driver doesn't go to the Pro Bowl this year, there should be an investigation."

-With Chad Clifton forced out of the game in the third quarter with a hip injury, Mike Flanagan took over Clifton's left tackle spot and veteran Frank Winters moved in at center.

-Brett Favre's 17-yard scramble in the third quarter was his longest run from scrimmage of the season.

-Josh Bidwell, enjoying one of his best days of the season, averaged a robust 48.7 yards for 7 punts against the Buccaneers, including a 54-yarder.

-Torrance Marshall made three solo tackles on punt coverage.

-The Bucs' successful 2-point conversion attempt in the third quarter was the first to be attempted this season by either the opposition or the Packers.

-Packers inactives for Sunday's game included wide receiver Karsten Bailey, tackle Barrett Brooks, tight end David Martin, defensive ends Aaron Kampman and Jamal Reynolds, linebacker Marcus Wilkins, cornerback Bryant Westbrook and designated Third Quarterback Craig Nall.

-The Packers, receiving the opening kickoff, opened the game with a three-wide receive alignment with Javon Walker replacing a tight end in the starting lineup.

-Veteran Vonnie Holliday made his start and game appearance since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Nov. 7.

-Rookie defensive end Aaron Kampman, deactivated because of a broken and casted hand, was inactive for the first time since the Packers' Sept. 22 game at Detroit.

-Cornerback Mike McKenzie registered his first sack of the season in the first quarter, felling Bucs quarterback Rob Johnson for a 9-yard loss.

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