Buccaneers rough up Aaron Rodgers, bottle up Packers' explosive offense in rout

Jarrett Bell
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TAMPA, Fla. —Tom Brady tapped into the perfect formula to get the best of Aaron Rodgers.

Lean on the Bucs defense. Check.

Find Rob Gronkowski in key moments. Done.

Keep mistakes to a minimum. And how.

Brady did his part, too, passing for 166 yards and two TDs, as the Buccaneers knocked the Green Bay Packers from the ranks of the unbeaten with a convincing 38-10 verdict at Raymond James Stadium.

Green Bay (4-1) seemed ready to lay the tracks for a rout in sprinting to a 10-zip lead, but the Bucs quickly turned the game by intercepting Rodgers on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter – the first returned 32 yards by Jamel Dean for a touchdown.

In addition to snagging the first interceptions this season off Rodgers, the Bucs sacked Green Bay’s quarterback four times and left him with one of the worst statistical performances of his career. Rodgers completed 16 of 35 passes for 160 yards with no touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 35.4 – the second-worst rating of his career, after a 34.4 showing at Buffalo in 2014.

The Bucs (4-2) also did a number on Aaron Jones, holding him to 15 yards on 10 carries.

A shootout featuring marquee quarterbacks? Hardly. Tampa Bay scored 38 unanswered points to turn the matchup into a lopsided laugher. Both passers were pulled for the final six minutes of garbage time.

Also noticeable: The Bucs, the most penalized team in 2019 and tied for the most infractions through the first five weeks of 2020, didn’t draw a single yellow flag.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Ndamukong Suh (93) sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the second quarter of a NFL game at Raymond James Stadium.

Three other things we learned from the Bucs romp:

1. Rodgers not perfect anymore — After not throwing a single pick during the first four games, Rodgers had two interceptions in the span of four snaps in the second quarter. Both throws were intended for Davante Adams and they led to quick points that reversed the game’s momentum. Dean undercut Adams’ out route for the first theft and ran 32 yards up the sideline for a touchdown. The ensuing drive abruptly ended when Adams didn’t secure the football while running a short slant. The ball popped into the hands of Mike Edwards, whose 39-yard runback set up a 2-yard Ronald Jones TD plunge on the next play. Rodgers – who threw just four INTs all of last season – had his streak of throws without a pick this season snapped at 153.

2. TB12’s red zone chemistry with Gronk still exists — It took a few games, but Brady finally connected with Gronkowski for the duo's first TD collaboration as Bucs teammates. And it looked a lot like the clutch stuff we saw from them for so many years as Patriots.  Gronkowski made a sweet adjustment while running a fade pattern against the single coverage of Adrian Amos late in the second quarter to haul in a 13-yard pass for his first score since Dec. 9, 2018. And he didn’t stop with that. Gronkowski also caught his longest pass of the season, 31 yards, to set up Ryan Succop’s 50-yard field goal in the third quarter and finished with five catches for 78 yards to mark his most productive day as a Buc. 

3. The Bucs are capable of playing clean football — That’s worth repeating with this team. The Bucs are capable of playing clean football. Tampa Bay, which led the league in penalties last season and entered the game tied for the league lead this season, didn’t have a single penalty. It had to make Brady feel at home, finally, after so many years with a Patriots team that typically ranked near the bottom in penalties.

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