Final: Packers 35, Buccaneers 26
GREEN BAY, WI — The Buccaneers had the lowest of low expectations coming into their showdown with the undefeated Green Bay Packers. They were unable to hand the Pack their first loss of the 2011 season but they came closer then most teams have.
The Bucs battled back from 21-10 down to come within two twice. The first time came after an impressive 91 yard drive that ended in a score by Mike Williams and a flat out dropped two point conversion attempt by Kellen Winslow.
The second time cam much later in the game and closer to the wire but Tampa couldn’t contain Aaron Rodgers and the Packers high flying areal assault. Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson deep which put the Packers up for good. Tampa wasn’t able to come close again but it was one of the most nerve racking games the Packers have had all season long.
Of course it was all sparked by a monstrous rumble and stumble run by LeGarrette Blount which saw him carry half the Packers defense down the field 54 yards and into the endzone.
Josh Freeman went over 300 yards, Blount rushed for over 100 yards and Kellen Winslow went for 132 making it the first time since 2007 that the Bucs have a had that kind of 300/100/100 production out of their offense.
And it came against the best team in football.
I’m not saying the loss wasn’t a loss, it was and the Bucs are now two games below .500 which is bad in every way possible. But they took the Green Bay Packers to the wire and made them sweat.
Aaron Rodgers had 299 passing yards in the game, which was 43 yards fewer then Josh Freeman had on the day. The Bucs defense didn’t fully contain the Packers but they held three of their four receivers to season lows. Rodgers was held to his second worst QB rating all season long and they held the Packers running game under 100 yards.
Now they still lost, but the fact they put up those impressive numbers, especially after getting blown away by a vastly inferior team then Green Bay last week speaks volumes about this teams resilience. Aqib Talib made all the critics (including this one) eat their words by containing Greg Jennings the way no one has been able to this year holding him to just 2 catches and 6 yards making it Jennings fifth worst performance of his career.
The Bucs have pretty much lost all hope of making the playoffs but they definitely got some swagger back today. But it wasn’t all roses, lolipops and gumdrops. They lost the game, let’s nit overlook that glaring fact.
Also, they still made stupid mistakes and it’s still unclear whether the Bucs played a really great game or whether the Packers just played a really bad one.
Kellen Winslow dropped two crucial passes, one in the endzone which would have converted a two point conversion and, at the time, tied the game at 21-21. He also dropped (technically tipped) a pass that was intercepted and iced the game for Green Bay. Winslow may have gone over 130 yards but the touchdown column of his stats has a big old goose egg there. This is because he comitted a critical pass interference call in the corner of the endzone that negated a touchdown.
That penalty is forgivable slightly, and only because the refs in Green Bay decided to call a tight game in the redzone and didn’t let the jump ball play have contact (which it always does). But Winslow still committed and was charged with a penalty (despite it being able to have been called wither way) that negated a score and it marks another drive where a stupid penalty spoils everything.
The Bucs still made stupid penalties that bailed the Packers out. On a crucial third down conversion in the fourth quarter, the Packers had a third down pass fall incomplete, but the Bucs committed an illegal contact that extended the drive and had two other secondary penalties that ended up allowing the Packers to score.
Tampa lost the game the way it usually does: via stupidity.
But they almost one doing something that is something to be built upon: real showmanship. They showed up and battled hard even despite the odds. That’s the soul of this team; that even though they had no chance of winning, they created a chance even if it wasn’t there. That’s something that can’t be taught but is infectious and can really turn this team around for the future.
Tampa may have lost this game (and I hate using this term so I won’t use it but feel free to substitute, on your own, ‘Moral Victory’ here) but the Bucs have touched on something special that they can hold onto and let grow and that’s resilience, passion and swagger. And with a team like Tampa is there any other way to do it?