Aaron Rodgers looked in the FOX television came near the end of his post-game on-field interview, smiled, and said: “It’s going to be a fun flight home.”
The Packers have great reason to celebrate. They are 2-1 and tied for the NFC North Division lead after a dramatic and hard-fought 14-12 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a scorching afternoon at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.
This one was not for the feint of heart.
Both the Green Bay and Tampa Bay defenses dominated play. And it took a clutch play by All-Pro linebacker De’Vondre Campbell on Tampa Bay’s two-point conversion pass with 14 seconds remaining that secured the win after the Buccaneers had pulled to within 14-12 after Tom Brady’s short scoring pass for their only touchdown of the game. Campbell leaped up and batted away Brady’s pass in the end zone intend for Russell Gage as the Packers’ bench erupted in celebration.
But it wasn’t over yet. Receiver Allen Lazard of the Green Bay special teams unit recovered the ensuing onside kick and Rodgers ended the contest with a kneel-down out of the victory formation. Green Bay’s special teams, long the team’s Achilles Heel, were superb in their coverage units as punter Pat O’Donnell pinned the Bucs inside their 20-yard line five times.
“That was the story of the game,” head coach Matt LaFleur said. “The game was won by our defense and on special teams. That was the difference for us.”
Campbell was all over the filed and finished with 14 tackles, Kenny Clark had two sacks, and Keisean Nixon more than held his own after replacing an injured Jaire Alexander (groin) by forcing a fumble and recording a pass defensed on an end-zone aerial that forced a field goal.
The Green Bay defense made a statement, and so did Tampa Bay’s. After surrendering two early touchdowns to the Packers, the Buccaneers defense played stellar football, shutting Rodgers and the offense out the rest of the game and at one point forcing Green Bay to 0-8 on third-down conversions. Green Bay sacked Brady three times and limited Leonard Fournette to just 35 yards on 12 carries. They also forced two fumbles that stymied Tampa Bay drives and held the Bucs to just 12 first downs until their final 89-yard drive.
Rodgers and Brady were both without key receivers—and the Packers definitely caught the GOAT at an opportune time with limited targets to throw to.
Green Bay was missing Sammy Watkins (IR) and rookie Christian Watson (hamstring) but three players stepped up in the NFC divisional clash—shown exclusively in Western Wisconsin by FOX 25/48—on a day the running game was styimied.
Romeo Doubs, a fourth-round draft pick, caught Rodgers’ first touchdown pass and registered eight catches for 73 yards. That rookie total was only exceeded in a single game by Max McGee, who caught nine in 1954.
Lazard caught Rodger’s second touchdown aerial and a crucial 26-yarder on a blitz-beater from Rodgers in the fourth quarter to continue a Packers drive. Randall Cobb, ill all week, stepped up to catch two passes for 57 yards.
Doubs received praise from his quarterback and head coach. “You guys can all see his acceleration and his strong hands,” LaFleur said.
The offense was elevated with the return of left tackle David Bakhtiari, who rotated in the sweltering Florida heat and got his first game action of the 2022 season.
“I didn’t really notice anything (with Bakhtiari),” Rodgers said. “I got hit maybe 3-4 times, one sack. That’s a dream type of day, especially against that front on the road.
“Hopefully Dave is feeling better and can play a little bit more next week.”
“A great win for us, obviously a lot of things for clean up,” LaFleur said.
The Packers return home Sunday to host the New England Patriots in a 3:25 p.m. game at Lambeau Field.