The Packers (2-2) dropped their second consecutive game in troubling fashion. As was the case against the Cowboys, the Packers couldn't protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers. While the Packers ran the ball OK against Dallas, they did next to nothing after Ryan Grant's productive opening drive. And again, the Packers' offense was dismal third down.
But perhaps most troubling of all, the Packers' defense for the third time in four games this season couldn't stop the run. The Buccaneers' duo of Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn – a good but not great combo – ran the ball a combined 36 times for 174 yards.
To add injury to insult, Rodgers sustained what he thought might be a separated right (throwing) shoulder during the third quarter. He'll undergo testing on the injury in Green Bay on Monday, and his status for next week against Atlanta is uncertain.
The Buccaneers (3-1) likely would have posted a commanding win if not for an interception by Tramon Williams to thwart a drive deep into Green Bay territory, an interception by Nick Collins that set up a touchdown and an interception by Charles Woodson that he returned 62 yards for a touchdown to put the Packers ahead briefly 21-20 with 13 minutes, 43 seconds remaining in regulation.
The final stats told the tale of the Buccaneers' dominance. Even with the three interceptions, the Packers lost the turnover battle 4-3. Tampa Bay outgained Green Bay 327 to 187, including 178 to 28 on the ground. The Buccaneers picked up 20 first downs to the Packers' eight. The mobile Rodgers was sacked three times while the Packers failed to take down the Bucs' lead-footed Brian Griese. The Buccaneers possessed the ball for 36:50 compared to the Packers' 23:10.
"Offensively, we were poor," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We've just made a number of the same mistakes that we've made the first three weeks. Penalties. Turnovers. It's very difficult to win a football game like that."
If not for 25- and 48-yard touchdown passes from Rodgers to Greg Jennings, the Packers' offense would have been completely inept. Green Bay didn't run a single play from the Tampa Bay red zone and managed just one first down in the second half. A dropped pass by Brandon Jackson led to the first of Rodgers' three interceptions. Jennings dropped a pass at Tampa Bay's 30 that could have given the Packers a shot at a field goal to end the first half to cut the deficit to 13-10. Grant rushed for 3 yards on his final 12 carries, and his fumble midway through the third quarter was returned 38 yards for a touchdown by Jermaine Phillips to give the Bucs a 20-7 lead. And the game-killing interception came when Rodgers was demolished when nobody bothered to block the Bucs' leading sacker, Greg White.
And the special teams, so strong last season and counted on to be just as good this season, performed poorly. Derrick Frost's net average on five punts was just 30.2 yards. The Bucs averaged 28.8 yards on kickoff returns compared to 16.7 for Green Bay.
Still, the Packers were in position to win after Woodson's interception. But a three-and-out possession – directed by backup quarterback Matt Flynn with Rodgers sidelined – and a horrendous punt by Frost set the Bucs up at the Packers' 35-yard line with 8:30 remaining.
The combination of the Packers' offensive ineptitude, the heat and humidity and a short-handed defensive line took its toll on the defense. On third-and-1, Graham blasted for 4 yards. On third-and-2, Griese had all day and scrambled for 3. The Bucs settled for Matt Bryant's third short field goal to pull ahead 23-21 with 2:26 remaining.
Rodgers had a chance to be a hero by leading the winning drive with an injured shoulder. Instead, he was pressured by Gaines Adams into a first-down throwaway and was intercepted by Adams on second down when White came untouched off Rodgers' blind side.
Graham then jetted 47 yards to set up his 1-yard plunge to put away the game.
"We won a very important game today against a very good team," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "I'm really proud of our football team. That's two weeks in a row we've showed a lot of grit coming from behind in the fourth quarter against two very good teams."