Packers 26, Buccaneers 20: Five takeaways from OT win
GREEN BAY – It took the Green Bay Packers eight weeks to finally win a game inside their home stadium, and even that wasn’t long enough.
The Packers needed overtime to vanquish the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but scored a touchdown on their opening series to win 26-20. Aaron Jones, returning from a torn MCL, finished the opening drive of overtime with a 20-yard carry that ended with a touchdown. It was Jones’ only carry of the game.
The victory improved the Packers' record to 6-6, officially keeping their playoff hopes alive for another week. It was their first win inside Lambeau Field since beating the Chicago Bears on Sept. 28.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. If there’s a blueprint for the Packers to consistently win, they followed it. No longer able to rely on a quarterback simply outscoring opponents, the Packers' defense and special teams must provide game-turning plays. For the first time since Rodgers’ injury, both units did that Sunday. The Packers' first touchdown was set up by a deflected punt from outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who continues to find ways to contribute. The Packers' second touchdown was a defensive score when defensive end Dean Lowry returned Jameis Winston’s fumble 62 yards after the Bucs quarterback lost possession when trying to pass before Kenny Clark sacked him. In tandem, the two plays gave the Packers a 17-10 lead at halftime.
2. The Packers need plays from defense and special teams because their offense isn’t giving much, if anything. Hundley continues to struggle inside his home stadium, finishing 13 of 22 for 84 yards, an interception and a passer rating of 48.3. Since replacing Rodgers, Hundley has played 16 quarters inside Lambeau Field without a touchdown pass, while throwing four interceptions in that time. Hundley should’ve had his first touchdown pass on his home field in the first quarter, but he overshot a wide-open Geronimo Allison in the end zone. The Packers settled for a field goal instead of seven points. If Hundley finishes out the season as the Packers' starter, perhaps it’s beneficial three of their final four games come on the road.
3. It was no coincidence the Packers’ best pass-rush production of the season came in Clay Matthews’ best game of 2017. The Packers sacked Winston seven times. They entered Sunday ranked 23rd in the NFL with 22 sacks. For context, that means the Packers got 31 percent of what was their season’s sack production in one game. Fittingly, Matthews, returning from a groin injury, led the charge with 2½ sacks, increasing his total to six this season. It was the most sacks Matthews has had in a game since December 2014 at Tampa Bay. Matthews hasn’t had two sacks in a game since Week 3 of 2015 against Kansas City. It’s been a disappointing season for Matthews, whom the Packers needed to lead their pass rush. On Sunday, Matthews took advantage of some breakdowns in the Bucs’ protection to flash some of his old explosion off the edge.
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4. The running back rotation didn't spin until the end. Jones returned Sunday after missing two games with a torn MCL, but didn’t get a carry until he scored the game-winner. Instead, fellow rookie Jamaal Williams continued to build momentum, finishing with 113 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Williams had his longest run of the season in the first half, taking off for 25 yards around the left tackle. His previous long run this season had been 12 yards. Williams’ most impressive play was a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Bucs cornerback Chris Conte hit Williams two yards behind the line of scrimmage, but Williams bowled Conte over into the end zone. Jones will get more carries as he heals, but his return to the starting role doesn’t appear to be the certainty it was after his injury. Ultimately, having a pair of running backs as talented as Williams and Jones is the best thing the Packers have going for themselves.
BOX SCORE: Packers 26, Bucs 20 (OT)
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5. On the injury front, Clark, who was battling an ankle injury entering Sunday, missed a series with an ankle injury. Linebacker Jake Ryan was initially listed as questionable with a neck injury but did not return. Cornerback Damarious Randall was checked for a concussion but returned.