After a strong start, Packers offense stalls but defense holds on to beat Buccaneers 14-12

Ryan Wood
Packers News
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TAMPA – It was a rock fight. Although that might be unkind to rock fights.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were without their top three wide receivers Sunday. The Green Bay Packers were missing receivers Sammy Watkins and Christian Watson. Both offenses played like incomplete units before a record attendance of 69,197, incapable of doing much against top NFL defenses.

Whether the Packers defense truly is better than the Buccaneers unit remains to be seen. Tampa Bay was more depleted, and Green Bay took advantage in a 14-12 win at Raymond James Stadium. Still, a Packers defense expected to be elite has played like it the past two weeks, holding the Buccaneers and Chicago Bears to 22 points and just one touchdown apiece.

Tampa Bay's lone touchdown came with 14 seconds left. Quarterback Tom Brady drove his offense 91 yards on 13 plays. On the 2-point conversion, linebacker De’Vondre Campbell got in Brady’s throwing window, knocking away a potential game-tying pass.

BOX SCORE:Packers 14, Buccaneers 12

The win improved the Packers to 2-1 on the season, officially putting their stinker of an opener at the Minnesota Vikings behind them. It’s not unlike last season, when the Packers had a blowout loss in the opener, but used a big road win in San Francisco to springboard their season in Week 3.

Packers ease David Bakhtiari back

David Bakhtiari might’ve made his 2022 debut Sunday, but he’s not yet all the way back. The Packers were determined not to give their left tackle too much work too soon, rotating him with backup Yosh Nijman. It was a different approach than the Packers took when Bakhtiari played at the Detroit Lions in last season’s finale, where he started the first four drives but left early in the fourth. Bakhtiari had just 27 snaps at the Lions. He played 34 snaps in six possessions Sunday.

More:David Bakhtiari is playing vs. the Buccaneers today and the Packers' offensive linemen have customized T-shirts made

Aaron Jones fumble was a turning point

At the end of the Packers' third drive, it looked like they were poised to take a commanding 21-3 lead. Aaron Rodgers threw third-and-goal pass to Aaron Jones in the right slot, and the Packers running back was in position to at least give coach Matt LaFleur an option to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David and defensive lineman Vita Vea combined to tackle Jones, dislodging him from the football. Jones’ fumble, recovered by Vea in the end zone, was a turning point for the Packers offense. The Packers gained 206 yards on 28 plays on their first three drives, scoring 14 points. They had just 69 yards yards on 32 plays in the game’s final eight drives that didn’t end with kneel downs. The last time Jones lost a fumble after a reception was in the third quarter of the 2020 NFC championship game – against the Buccaneers.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Romeo Doubs is defended by Tampa Bay's Logan Ryan (26) and Jamel Dean. Doubs had eight catches on eight targets for 71 yards and his first career touchdown.

Packers' rookies Quay Walker, Romeo Doubs impressive

Quay Walker’s progression has been impressive through his first three games, taking another step Sunday with the first forced fumble of his career. Walker tracked Buccaneers receiver Breshad Perriman downfield and stripped the football away after a 14-yard gain, allowing safety Darnell Savage to recover. Walker isn’t the only Packers rookie making plays, though. Romeo Doubs, their fourth-round receiver, appears to be getting more comfortable. Doubs caught everything Aaron Rodgers threw to him Sunday – literally. He had eight catches on eight targets for 71 yards and his first career touchdown, a 5-yard score on the opening drive. 

Allen Lazard keeps finding end zone

Allen Lazard has four catches in two games this season. Half of them have been touchdowns. Lazard caught his second score of the season on a 6-yard slant from Aaron Rodgers in the second quarter. It’s clear Rodgers’ chemistry with his new top receiver is solid. Since last season, Lazard has seven touchdown catches from Rodgers in his last seven games. It wasn’t a big game overall for Lazard – just two catches on three targets for 13 yards – but his familiarity with Rodgers is important in a passing game with so many different pieces.

Keisean Nixon shows Packers secondary has depth

Jaire Alexander left during the Packers opening series with a groin injury and didn’t return. That’s worrisome in the long term, but his absence allowed Keisean Nixon to show the Packers secondary has more depth than expected. Nixon forced his first career fumble in the second half, poking the football from Bucs receiver Russell Gage. Defensive lineman Jarran Reed quickly ran over to recover the loose football. On his next special-teams rep, Nixon caught a Pat O’Donnell punt at the 2-yard line. His blend of defense and special teams is precisely what the Packers needed more of this offseason.

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