7 things to know from Packers’ first meeting with Buccaneers in 2020

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers proved past meetings don’t necessarily guarantee future results. Bested by the New Orleans Saints twice during the regular season, the Buccaneers returned the favor in kind on Sunday, beating their NFC South rivals at the Superdome to advance to the NFC Championship Game.

The Green Bay Packers will hope a similar dish of revenge can be served at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

Back in October, the Packers raced out to a 10-0 lead but then watched the Buccaneers score the game’s final 38 points to finish off a blowout defeat in Week 6. The game was turned on its head by two Aaron Rodgers interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. The Bucs scored 28 points in the second quarter and cruised to the victory in what ended up being the worst overall performance by the Packers in the regular season.

Here are all the important things you need to know about that first meeting between the Packers and Buccaneers, and how they might apply now:

Passing game really struggled

AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio

The Packers were devastatingly efficient in the passing game for much of the year, but not in Tampa Bay. Even early on, the offense relied on extended plays and a few improvisational moments to create the 10-0 lead. The Bucs ended up delivering five total sacks while allowing only 2.7 yards per pass and just 107 net passing yards. It was a dominant effort. Aaron Rodgers was under pressure a season-high 18 times, according to Pro Football Focus, but he also struggled from a clean pocket, a rarity for the presumptive MVP. Rodgers also completed just three passes over 10 yards and was 0-for-5 on attempts over 20 yards. Credit Todd Bowles and the Bucs for confusing Rodgers with coverages and pressuring him with well-timed blitzes. This time around, the Packers must do better at playing on time in the passing game.

Turnovers turn the game

AP Photo/Jason Behnken

The Buccaneers might have won the football game even without the takeaways, but the interceptions on back-to-back possessions in the first half certainly changed the game in a major way. Up 10-0 and with the ball, the Packers had a chance to go up three scores early with a touchdown drive. Instead, Jamel Dean jumped a pass to Davante Adams and returned it for a touchdown. Three plays later, a tipped ball intended for Adams on third down ended up in the hands of Bucs safety Mike Edwards, and the resulting return set up a 2-yard touchdown drive. A 10-0 game turned into 14-10 in the blink of the eye, and the Packers never recovered. The Bucs had 25 takeaways during the regular season (fifth-most) and have added five more during the playoffs, including four against the Saints on Sunday. Just like the divisional round against the Rams, the Packers have to protect the football against another disruptive defense. Green Bay finished with an NFL-low 11 turnovers in 2020 and are 11-0 when not turning the ball over this season.

Red Zone Redemption

AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio

The Buccaneers scored on all four of their trips into the red zone. Needing a stop or two to slow the bleeding before the half, Mike Pettine’s defense was unable to keep Tom Brady and the Bucs out of the end zone. Twice in the second quarter, Brady threw touchdown passes – one to rookie Tyler Johnson, and another to Rob Gronkowski – on third down in the red zone. The two other opportunities were excusable. An interception set the Bucs up at the 2-yard line on one, and a Josh Jackson penalty gave the Bucs first-and-goal from the 2-yard line later in the second half. Still, the Packers will have to be better at finding stops if – or when – the Bucs get inside the 20. The good news: Green Bay finished eighth in the NFL at stopping touchdowns in the red zone, largely due to a terrific finish late in the season.

No pressure

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers made life far too comfortable for Tom Brady in the first meeting. On 27 passing plays, Brady was under pressure on just five dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus. When playing from a clean pocket, the six-time Super Bowl champion ripped the Packers apart. Mike Pettine blitzed 12 times but found little success. The Packers have to do better at turning up the heat on Brady, especially in the key situations like third down and in the red zone. Brady is too smart, and his weapons too good, for the Packers to survive without a better performance from the pass-rushing group. Once again, there’s good news: The Packers got pressure on Jared Goff on almost 50 percent of his dropbacks on Saturday.

Stonewalling Aaron Jones

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers gave Jones 10 carries, but the plays gained only 15 total yards. Several, including a handful of runs to the perimeter, either lost yards or were dead on arrival. The Packers tried to stretch the Bucs on the edge but linebackers Devon White and Lavonte David were too fast. The Packers ended up getting 20-yard runs from both Jamaal Williams and A.J. Dillon, so the Bucs can’t be considered impenetrable. Also, the Packers just rushed for nearly 200 yards against the Rams, with most of the production on simple inside zone concepts. This could be the path forward on Sunday, although the potential return of Vita Vea might throw a wrench into those plans.

Middle of the defense

AP Photo/Jason Behnken

The Buccaneers took advantage of the middle of the Packers defense in October, rushing for 158 yards and getting five catches for 78 yards from tight end Rob Gronkowski. Mike Pettine’s group needs much better play from the linebacker and safety positions on Sunday. Each position appears to be trending in the right direction, although the Packers did give up a few big plays in the middle of the field against the Rams. Keep in mind, the Bucs ran the ball well in New Orleans, with Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones combining for 125 yards. They are a big, physical combo that could be tough to handle in the cold on Sunday, but the Packers handled Derrick Henry and David Montgomery just fine in the cold to end the season.

Jaire vs. Evans

Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) is seen with a Black Lives Matter message on the back of his helmet before the Green Bay Packers play the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020.

Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans caught just one pass during the first meeting, although he was dealing with an ankle issue coming into the game. With Jaire Alexander mostly taking Evans away, the Bucs went elsewhere with the football. The matchup should be one to watch again on Sunday. Will Tom Brady avoid Alexander again? He has plenty of secondary targets to lean on, including Gronkowski, Chris Godwin, Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller and possibly even Antonio Brown, although his status is unknown. The Packers didn’t face Brown in the first meeting. This will be a big test for the secondary.

1

1

Leave a Reply