Can Bucs slow Packers’ Rodgers again?

by Gary Shelton on January 24, 2021

in general

Evans needs a big game for Bucs./JEFFREY KING

Sunday, 3 a.m.

In the shadow of the scoreboard, perhaps you forget. But early in the afternoon of October 18, things were going along just fine for Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers and his team were rolling. On the road, they led the Tampa Bay Bucs 10-0, and Rodgers seemed to be adding another page to his MVP resume. He had hit eight of his first 12 passes, and all seemed right in the world of cheese.

And then his day went straight to hell.

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He was picked off by Mike Edwards, who returned the ball 37 yards to the Packers' 2 and set up a Bucs' touchdown. He then was picked off by Jamel Dean, who ran it back 32 yards for a score. He had a 23-yard pass overturned by a replay. He was called for intentional grounding. And the meek Bucs' secondary suddenly was making plays in a 38-10 victory.

Rodgers finished that day with just 16 completions (a season low) for 160 yada and a rating of just 35.4. (He hit just eight of his last 23 throws). Mind you, Rodgers had 14 regular season games with a rating of more than 100. It was the only game all year he didn't throw for a touchdown. It was the only game all year that he threw two picks. It was one of only two games he was sacked at least four times.

Possible explanation? Maybe it was someone else. Maybe Rodgers was missing that day, and a stand-in took his place. That couldn't have been Rodgers, could it?

And if so, could it be again?

The Bucs, who are coming off another impressive game against the Saints, need to at least make Rodgers appear normal today. They need turnovers. They need pressure.

What they don't need is for Rodgers to blow up in the manner in which he is capable.

Let's face it. It won't be as cold as the locals prefer today, but for the Bucs, it will be a test. Lambeau Field is probably the NFL's biggest home field advantage in January and, with Rodgers, it's like playing the Spartans in Sparta.

Can the Bucs do it? Sure they can, if they're close to perfect, if they can control the ball and keep the Packers out of the end zone.

Are they likely to do it? They'll need a better start than most weeks. They'll need a big game from Mike Evans, perhaps another from Chris Godwin. They'll need to run the ball. Another interception or two wouldn't hurt, either.

Hey, say what you will. The Bucs have had a great year, and they've finally grown into the team we thought they could be.

But today, everything adds up to Green Bay's favor. If the Bucs win, yes, you can call it an upset.

Prediction: Green Bay 24, Tampa Bay 17.

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