Bucs face red-hot quarterback in Rodgers

by Gary Shelton on October 14, 2020

in general

Pierre-Paul happy to play against Rodgers./TIM WIRT

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

After opening their season against Drew Brees, the Tampa Bay Bucs might think they know about great quarterbacks.

After they followed up against Teddy Bridgewater, and sensational rookie Justin Herbert, and ageless Nick Foles, the Bucs might think they are ready for big game.

On the other hand, they haven't seen anything yet.

This week, the Bucs go against one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL,

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Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. This season, Rodgers has a 128.4 rating. He's thrown for 13 touchdowns with no interceptions for 1,214 yards in just four games. He's been sacked just three times. No one has held the Packers to fewer than 30 points this season.

“He’s playing at a really high level," said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians. "One thing (is) you have to get after him – that’s for sure. You can’t play scared. Knowing that the ball is going up – back-shoulder throws, he’s the best there is. You’ve got to cover your guys (and) you’ve got to do a great job. I think more so (it is) the improvisational plays when he gets out of there. That’s really when he’s at his best.”

Rodgers, however, has been other-worldly.

Statistically, the Bucs have fared fairly well against the pass. But they've allowed a rating of 91.2.

“It’s like he does everything right," said the Bucs' Jason Pierre-Paul. "You try not to make those big mistakes. In a game like last week, we definitely would have lost. He picks on your mistakes. We've got to be football sound."

The Bucs, 3-2 and in a three-way tie for the NFC South lead, will try to overcome the loss of defensive tackle Vita Via, who has anchored a solid run defense.

“It’s always been about the next man up," said replacement Rakeem Nunez-Roches. Seeing one of your brothers go down like that – it’s heartbreaking. Since I came in the league, adversity has always challenged me. (Former Chiefs NT) Dontari Poe went down before and I had to do the same thing again – step in and fill big shoes.

“Something can happen at any moment. You don’t want to be sitting there, ‘I’m preparing for five plays or 10 plays.’ One day someone wakes up with a stomach sickness and now you’re in there for 40 plays and it shows in your preparation. You’re out there making mistakes, losing downs or you’re getting cut out of your gap because you didn’t put yourself in the best situation to be successful. When the opportunity comes, you just want to be ready. I always prepare like I’m that guy [and] I’m going to be out there for 40 plays. Regardless of what happens on Sunday, I feel like I’m going to be out there for 40 plays. I always play like that [and] I always come to work like that. It’s just my joy, so I take pride in what I do.”

Pierre-Paul expects Nunez-Rochez to be good.

“I think he has the perfect opportunity to show what he’s got," Pierre-Paul said. "Obviously, he’s never been in a situation like this before and I’m actually excited for him. I’m sad that Vita’s gone, but at the same time, he gets to show the world and showcase his talent. Nacho, he’s actually a good player, too. He just hasn’t had the playing time so you could see. I’m actually waiting for Nacho to get out there and see what he can do.”

Like the rest of the Bucs, Nunez-Roches must control the penalties.

“We did a bunch of self-scouting," Arians said. "There’s a lot of good things. The biggest negative thing is there are games where we have too many self-inflicted penalties and put ourselves behind the chains. Does it happen every week? No. But when they happen, they happen in bunches and we have to correct that. I think offensively things (have gone) really, really well up until last week with the red zone.

"We’re still running the ball well – third-down conversion could be better, but they’re going to be better if we don’t get in third-and-long all the time. Defensively, again, just technique (and) getting our head around on back- shoulder fades, those type of things. (We are) playing very aggressive [and] doing a great job against the run. We’ve got to do a better job of getting off third down, also. (We are) playing penalty-free football on special teams really well. Our return game is picking up a little bit. (Bears WR Cordarrelle) Patterson brought a bunch of kickoffs back, but when you come from nine (yards) deep (in the end zone) and you really get to the 26 or 27 (yard line), you only gain two or three yards. So, it wasn’t that bad of a kickoff return against a great returner. I think we’re in great shape. Obviously, (losing) Vita and O.J. [Howard] – we’ll have time to get plans to replacing them. Everybody should be ready to go by Thursday.”

Quarterback Tom Brady also expressed frustration over the penalties.

“Just be yourself," Arians said. "I don’t have any problem with it. At least I don’t have to go back there and cuss them out – they’ve already gotten an earful by the time I get over there. Tom’s got to be Tom. I’m not going to ask him to be somebody different. He does a good job of patting them on the back, too. He might explode, but he’s going to go down there, pat them on the back and get them going.”

The Bucs play the Packers at Raymond James Stadium Sunday at 4:25 p.m.

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