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Friday, May 7, 2021

Buccaneers begin to believe: They can create results on offense, too

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The Buccaneers and the Packers returned to Tampa Bay on Sunday for a low-scoring, not-that-intense game at Raymond James Stadium that pushed Tampa Bay’s record to 3-3. The Bucs defense continued to lead the way.

In addition to the loss, the Packers (3-3) surrendered 476 yards and 28 points, in what was a bad game on every level for them. The Bucs also got big contributions from rookies Ronald Jones II and Peyton Barber. But some of their most impactful plays came as a result of breakdowns in Green Bay’s offense.

Green Bay’s offense kept scoreless for 21 minutes. The Bucs defense continued to frustrate Aaron Rodgers, who was just 8-for-18 passing with an interception and a lost fumble, and for the second time this season couldn’t convert on third down. That was particularly painful, because they entered the game ranked 13th in the league in third-down conversion percentage.

It was the early part of the game, though, that showed Tampa Bay’s defense is quite good. The Packers had just taken a 6-0 lead with an eight-play drive capped by a Jordy Nelson touchdown reception on fourth-and-1.

That appeared to spark the Bucs, though, as they responded with an eight-play drive of their own that featured 54 rushing yards from Barber. The final play of the drive was an interception by Kevin Pierre-Louis, and the Bucs took over the ball at the Packers’ 28.

Barber, in particular, did a good job pushing the Packers’ defense away from the line of scrimmage. He had 14 carries for 83 yards.

But Rodgers was more impressive on the other side of the ball. He completed 24 of his 35 attempts and used James Starks as a receiver for a 15-yard touchdown pass to create a 7-6 edge. That score came at the start of the fourth quarter.

The Bucs then took the lead, moving up 7-6 on a safety that came on a special teams gaffe, as Aaron Jones took a loose ball out of the end zone. The fumble didn’t come easy. It had a speed factor that led to some confusion as the officials tried to figure out whether the ball had been touched.

The Buccaneers took the lead for good on a Ryan Fitzpatrick touchdown run on a naked bootleg to the left side. After a three-and-out drive by the Packers, that lead was 17-6 after another Buccaneers’ defensive play. Pierre-Louis broke up a pass in the end zone, and as the ball came back to the Bucs at the 20, Jameis Winston ran down the field to score the touchdown.

The Packers had some late scoring chances. They drove into Tampa Bay territory again on their final drive, setting up the riskier play in the end zone for Rodgers. He connected with Davante Adams for an 18-yard gain down to the 8-yard line. The Bucs then called timeout. The Packers got the ball back with 24 seconds left, but didn’t get a shot at the end zone.

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