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Aaron Rodgers' pick-6 opens floodgates in Packers' 38-10 blowout loss to Buccaneers

Ryan Wood
Packers News

Whether it was their fifth game or some week later, the Green Bay Packers' red-hot offense was bound to hit a bump sometime in 2020. 

So that the Packers found their first hint of adversity Sunday at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was not a surprise. The Bucs represented the best defense the Packers have met in this still-young season, with the NFL’s top-ranked run defense and a blitz-heavy defensive front. 

Yet the Packers' offense didn’t so much hit a bump in a 38-10 loss against the Bucs as completely fell off the tracks. In the big picture, the game could have playoff implications late in the season. The Bucs entered this season expected to be an NFC contender and very much looked like one Sunday. 

In the shorter term, a Packers offense that had cruised through its first four games will finally have something to fix. 

Here are five observations from the Packers’ first loss of the season. 

A blip in Rodgers’ matrix

Aaron Rodgers was practically machine-like through the season’s first four games, completing more than 70 percent of his passes, averaging almost 9 yards per pass, and throwing 13 touchdowns with no interceptions. On Sunday, the two-time MVP showed he’s still human. Rodgers threw his first interceptions since last season’s NFC Championship game, the first returned 32 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Jamel Dean. Rodgers very well might reassert himself as the MVP favorite he was through four games, but his stat line Sunday was almost impossible to believe. He finished 16-for-35 for 160 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a 35.4 passer rating that was his worst since his 34.3 rating at the Buffalo Bills late in the 2014 season. Rodgers, of course, won the MVP in that 2014 season. His interceptions Sunday were the first turnovers for the Packers this season. 

Todd Bowles wins the day

The Packers' offensive line held up remarkably well before Sunday, but it fell apart against Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ blitz-happy scheme. The Bucs sacked Rodgers three times, hit him 11 times and set a stark contrast against a Packers defensive front that never reached Tom Brady (no sacks, three quarterback hits). That the Bucs allowed little against the Packers on the ground wasn’t surprising. The Bucs entered Sunday with the league’s top run defense, allowing 58.4 rushing yards per game. They allowed 94 rushing yards against the Packers, holding Aaron Jones to 15 yards on 10 carries. The pass-blocking woes were unexpected. It didn’t help that David Bakhtiari left in the early second half with a chest injury. Bakhtiari was replaced by Rick Wagner, a natural right tackle who immediately allowed a sack against Jason Pierre-Paul. 

Second-quarter flip

The turning point Sunday came on Rodgers’ interceptions in the early second quarter, but the entire period was a mess. The Packers were outscored 28-0 in the second quarter, the first two touchdowns set up by Rodgers’ picks. It was a stunning change of second-quarter fortune for a team that had dominated that period through the first four games. The Packers had outscored opponents 56-16 in the second quarter this season, outscoring the Minnesota Vikings 19-3, Detroit Lions 14-0 and Atlanta Falcons 13-3. They were an even 10-10 against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter. 

Gronk awakens

He has the name recognition of one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history, but at age 31 Rob Gronkowski had posed little threat after his 2019 hiatus. That was until meeting the Packers' defense Sunday. Gronkowski, who had 140 yards on a dozen catches in the first four games, had by far his best game of the season with five catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. The Packers' defense struggled at times covering tight ends last season and had been a mixed bag this season. The Packers had to reconfigure their secondary with Kevin King (quad) inactive. Jaire Alexander, who was primarily responsible for covering Mike Evans and gave up seven inches in the matchup, held the Bucs superstar to one catch and 10 yards. Brady also had a quiet day, completing 17 of 27 passes for 166 yards, two touchdowns and a modest 104.9 rating, but Gronkowski’s breakout showed the Packers’ issues in coverage.  

Looking up in the NFC North

It’s funny how the bottom line works sometimes. While the eye test would strongly suggest the Packers are the NFC North’s best team, they find themselves in second place with their 4-1 record. That’s because the Chicago Bears keep plugging along, beating the Carolina Panthers on Sunday to improve to 5-1 and move into first place in the division. It should be noted the Bears beat the Bucs at Soldier Field in Week 4.