Game: Green Bay Packers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Game Result: Green Bay Packers 26, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
The battle of the bays, as it has been billed in the past, featured two defenses that couldn’t stop the run at all, as both teams totaled 364 yards on the ground. Coming into this game, both teams ranked 22nd or worse in total yards on the ground. Brett Hundley was a miserable 13/22 through the air for only 84 yards, which was dwarfed by Jameis Winston in his return as he went 21/32 for 270 yards. The Packers were outgained by 119 yards on the day, but, when they needed a play, they got one from Aaron Jones, who had been absent the past three weeks.
Brett Hundley and the Packers offense have needed the defense to bail them out this season, since Aaron Rodgers injury. The defense showed up and got just enough out of the offense to put them over the top. They totaled seven sacks on the day while putting Winston under constant pressure. Dean Lowry was the savior of the day when he returned a fumble by Winston 62 yards for a score. The Packers were also able to block a punt, which set the offense up in great field position, that ultimately lead to a Jamaal Williams touchdown. If the Packers can get their defense and special teams to perform at this level when/if Rodgers returns, the team would have a very good shot at the playoffs.
Jones returned from his knee injury and received only one carry, which didn’t come till overtime, but he did run it in for a touchdown from 20 yards out. Williams has been successful in back to back weeks filling in for both Jones and Ty Montgomery. Heading into the stretch run of the season, the Packers will have two strong running backs that will cause opposing defensive coordinators fits. Rodgers returned to the practice field this week and is eligible to return in week 15 against the Carolina Panthers. If teams have to account for both Rodgers and the backs, life will be very difficult for them.
Winston spread the wealth on the day, as he connected with 10 different receivers on the day. He will need to work on his ball security after he had two fumbles on the day, however, with the Buccaneers eliminated from the playoffs, he can focus on developing his skills, as he prepares to head into the offseason. He’ll also need to get star wide receiver Mike Evans more involved, as he finished the day with only two catches for 33 yards on six targets. Evans and Winston have had a great connection, since Winston entered the NFL, and they will need to get reacquainted very quickly.
The Packers (6-6) head to Cleveland to take on the Browns (0-11) as of this writing in what could be their final game without Rodgers, as they make that playoff push and look to run the table once again. The Buccaneers (4-8) head back home to take on the Detroit Lions (6-6) in hopes of ending their two-game skid.
Be sure to follow me on twitter @GbridgfordNFL.