Buccaneers make good on vow to pressure Aaron Rodgers into mistakes
Early in the week, Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside linebacker Devin White said something that, on its face, sounded hyperbolic when asked about playing chess with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
White said he wanted his defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to “unleash” him on Rodgers, and that his group would pressure the Packers’ quarterback into mistakes.
The quote created amusing memes and GIF replies on Packers-related social media channels because Rodgers and the Packers were rolling into Florida with the league’s No. 1-ranked scoring offense and No. 2 offense overall.
Go figure, White had it pegged.
In a 38-10 victory over the Packers on Sunday in Tampa, he predicted accurately they would stop the Packers’ running game but also what they would do to Rodgers and the pass game.
The Packers scored a season-low 10 points, made a season-low 13 first downs on a season-worst 201 total yards.
This after Green Bay took a 10-0 lead with 134 of those yards in the first quarter.
“We really started fast but they kind of gave us something that we haven’t seen and we got beat and they had a long drive on us but I say (Jamel) Dean’s pick sets the tempo for the rest of the game,” White said.
“We knew them guys didn’t deserve to be on the field with us because we got too much talent and we fly around to the ball.”
White was indeed freed up as he made 10 total tackles, three for loss, got two hits on Rodgers and sacked him once.
And perhaps most improbable of all, the overall pressure of the Buccaneers (13 quarterback hits, four sacks) did get Rodgers to turn the ball over.
“Their offensive line couldn’t really pick up none of our stunts,” White said. “Everything starts with Todd Bowles. He set us up for success.”
The first came when it looked like the Packers were going to step all over the confident Bucs defense. The Packers had a 10-0 lead and were moving at will, until Rodgers threw a pick-6 interception to Bucs corner Dean to make it 10-7.
The Packers opened with a bunch formation to Rodgers’ right and then Davante Adams motioned across to line up on the outside one-on-one with Dean. It looked like there would be no safety help.
“When I saw the formation and then I seen how everything started to develop, I’m like, ‘I have to make this play because I know what’s coming,’” said Dean, who returned the interception 32 yards to the house. “Then once I saw him throw it, I was like yeah, it’s mine.”
Three plays into the Packers’ next possession Rodgers threw another interception on a deflected pass to Adams that floated into the arms of safety Mike Edwards. Edwards nearly made it back-to-back pick-6's, but his return to the Green Bay 2-yard line set up a Ronald Jones score to make it 14-10.
The margin was all White and the Bucs needed.
Rodgers’ 35.4 rating was his worst in a complete game as a starter since posting a 35.4 against Buffalo in 2014. He hadn’t thrown multiple interceptions since tossing two against Carolina in 2017 when he came back from missing eight games with broken collarbone.
Aaron Jones’s 15 yards on 10 carries were his lowest yardage total on the ground as a starter finishing a game since rushing five times for 12 yards against Detroit in 2017.
“We were just able to get after Aaron,” Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said of Rodgers. “Once we got the running game shut down it was just a matter of getting after him and Todd did a great job with multiple looks and coverages.”
Offensively the Buccaneers weren’t spectacular with 324 yards of total offense and going 5-for-12 (41.6%) on third down.
On paper, it will go down as the Packers’ second-best effort of the year in terms of total yards and third-down conversions allowed and their best game against the pass, with Tom Brady throwing for just 166 yards.
But, that is just on paper: The Bucs tacked on 31 points after Davis’ score.
Tampa Bay had chunk plays of 25, 31 and 25 yards and a 40-yard Josh Jackson pass interference that all led to scores and the Buccaneers also went 4-for-4 in the red zone.
“We just had to keep our foot on the gas,” said Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones, who had 113 yards on 23 carries. “Just a momentum shift. I gotta give credit to the defense getting it started. Ultimate team win (Sunday).”
The play looked innocuous, a Jones run to the left behind David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins for four yards early in the third quarter. But, Bakhtiari didn’t get up right away. Replay showed the All-Pro left tackle tripped over tight end John Lovett and fell on his side. Bakhtiari eventually went to the locker room and was ruled out with a chest injury.
When asked after the game if there were any short- or long-term concerns with the chest injury, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said, “I don’t believe so but I know he’s still getting evaluated. But we’re hopeful that he’ll be OK.”
Bahktiari last missed a game in 2017, when he missed a handful with a hamstring injury.
“Anytime he’s not able to finish, there’s concern, for sure,” Rodgers said. “From a teammate standpoint, from a best-friend standpoint, I definitely checked on him. He seemed to be in good spirits but I’m not sure the extent of his injury at this time.”
Veteran free-agent acquisition Rick Wagner replaced Bakhtiari.
The Packers also lost defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster early in the game with a shoulder injury. Safety Darnell Savage suffered a quadriceps injury and cornerback Parry Nickerson injured a hamstring.