Insider: Thumbs up to Randall Cobb
THE BIG PICTURE
The victory clinched a playoff berth for the Packers for the sixth straight season and seventh of eight.
It also sets up a showdown at Lambeau Field for the NFC North Division title. The Packers and Lions are 11-4, and the winner would be in line for a first-round bye.
With the Seahawks beating the Cardinals, there are scenarios in which the Packers could get any of the six playoff seeds, except No. 4, which will go to the winner of the NFC South.
Randall Cobb had season-highs in catches (11) and yards (131). He was especially effective in gaining yards after catching the ball. Three plays in particular illustrated that:
1) On first down with 8:57 left in the second quarter, Cobb caught a 24-yard pass over the middle from the slot, gaining 10 yards after the catch, including 4 by breaking tackles;
2) With less than 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Cobb grabbed a quick out route pass on the run and gained 12 of his 15 yards after the catch;
3) With 4:30 left in the game, Cobb in the slot made a quick fake to the left, then went right, caught the ball in the seam and gained 20 of his 30 yards on the play after the catch.
Despite scoring 10 points on three trips to the red zone, the Packers struggled close to the Buccaneers' end zone.
The first time, on their first possession of the second half, the Packers couldn't score on three attempts from the 1-yard line and turned the ball over on downs. Both Eddie Lacy on second down and John Kuhn on third down were held to no gain. Then on fourth down, Aaron Rodgers couldn't connect with Cobb on a slant in the end zone.
On their next drive, the Packers settled for a field goal after having first-and-10 at the Tampa Bay 15. On their next and final drive, the Packers scored on a 1-yard pass to Jordy Nelson after missing twice on pass plays from the 1.
This game seemed to plod along with the Packers holding small, but seemingly insurmountable leads throughout.
But consecutive fourth-quarter sacks by Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews put away the Buccaneers with about 7 minutes left in the game. On the first, Peppers rushing from the left side on second-and-5 got to quarterback Josh McCown for a strip-sack. The Buccaneers recovered the fumble, setting up third-and-17.
On the next play, Matthews, from the right side, initially rushed outside, then curled inside and drilled McCown as he was moving up in the pocket. It forced Tampa Bay to punt away the ball with less than 7 minutes to go and trailing 13-3.
DID YOU NOTICE?
- The Packers have at least one sack in 35 consecutive games, the longest streak in franchise history and the longest active streak in the NFL.
- Coach Mike McCarthy passed Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi (98) for the second-most overall wins (regular and postseason) in franchise history.
- This is McCarthy's fifth regular season with 11-plus wins (2007, 2009, 2011-12), which passes Lombardi (1961-63, 1966) and Mike Holmgren (1995-98) for the most by a coach in franchise history.
- Randall Cobb (87) and Jordy Nelson (92) are the second pair of Packers players to reach 80 receptions each in the same season, joining Javon Walker (89) and Donald Driver (84) in 2004.
- Fullback John Kuhn had two runs of 11 yards and two runs of zero yards.
RANTS AND RAVES
RAVE: Green Bay's defense through most of the first half was dominant. Tampa Bay went three-and-out on its first five possessions. On those five drives, the Packers' defense allowed zero total yards on 15 plays.
RANT: Green Bay's special teams again had problems. Mason Crosby has missed a field goal attempt in three of his past four games. His 48-yard attempt from the left hash Sunday was wide left. He made field goals from 42 and 25 yards Sunday, but he's missed five this season, including two that were blocked. Tim Masthay also had a clunker of a 26-yard punt.
RAVE: After a couple of games in which he didn't stand out, Julius Peppers had a major impact. The veteran linebacker had two big sacks, including one right before halftime that ensured the Packers would keep the Buccaneers out of the end zone. He added two other tackles, including one for a loss, and two quarterback hits. On his second sack, he forced a fumble that the Buccaneers recovered. In 17 career games against Tampa Bay, Peppers has 17<AF>1/2<XA> sacks, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one interception.