It was the best of times and the worst of times for the Packers' passing attack. The positives included Aaron Rodgers' lofting a superb deep ball to James Jones (four catches for 103 yards) in stride off a double move for a 74-yard touchdown pass (Rodgers' career long) on Green Bay's second offensive play of the game, Donald Driver's reeling in a deep throw while tight-roping along the sideline for a 32-yard touchdown and Rodgers' improvising well on his sore feet for some big gains on the run, highlighted by a 12-yard TD. Yet, the negatives were critical in the final outcome. A supposedly enhanced offensive line with the return of veteran tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher to the lineup wound up getting Rodgers sacked six times for the second straight game. Left guard Daryn Colledge didn't play well in the protection phase. Rodgers' season-worst 57.6 passer rating was influenced heavily by a career-high-tying three interceptions. He badly underthrew Driver on the first one. The other two throws should have been caught, particularly a third-quarter heave down the middle that Rodgers managed to thread between four defenders but Greg Jennings let it go off his hands at the goal line. Jennings, who had five catches for 61 yards, remains an enigma this season. The Packers had next to nothing out of their tight ends with playmaker Jermichael Finley out with a knee injury.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A
Ryan Grant had a big day in defeat.
Chris O'Meara/AP Images
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus
Josh Freeman's stat line of 14-of-31 accuracy for 205 yards and 86.1 passer rating in his first NFL start doesn't jump out as being anything special. Yet, a pedestrian Packers defense turned Freeman into an overnight hero as he rallied the Bucs down the stretch to their first victory. Green Bay threw a good volume of blitzes at Freeman, but its only sack was of the coverage variety by linebacker A.J. Hawk when Freeman was flushed out of the pocket. The Packers' lone takeaway was by safety Nick Collins on an underthrown deep ball. A would-be pick by Hawk was nullified by his illegal-contact penalty, keeping alive the Bucs' game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. The series included cornerback Al Harris giving Michael Clayton the space to come back for a 29-yard reception on an underthrown pass inside the Packers' 15. Dime back Jarrett Bush later bit hard on a pump fake by Freeman, leaving Sammie Stroughter open in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown on fourth down. Earlier in the Bucs' comeback, safety Atari Bigby was lax in coverage on a scramble by Freeman and flip to an open Kellen Winslow in the end zone. The Packers also were a mess in coverage on a middle screen to running back Derrick Ward, who slipped tackles for a 38-yard gain on third-and-10 to end the first quarter. Ward also beat linebacker Aaron Kampman in coverage for a 6-yard touchdown early in the game.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus
The frequent blitzing did enable the Packers to choke off several runs before they developed. Consequently, Tampa Bay couldn't muster anything of significance on the ground. The Bucs were held to 81 yards in 25 attempts for a lowly average of 3.2 yards. The long run was an 11-yard scramble by Freeman. Carnell Williams was ineffective as the featured back, running 16 times for only 56 yards (3.5 average). Hawk and fellow linebacker Nick Barnett combined for a dozen tackles. Rookie lineman B.J. Raji (three tackles) was assertive.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D-minus
The Packers gift-wrapped 13 points for Tampa Bay with the two biggest of several blunders by their special-teams units on the day. John Kuhn, the personal protector, blew his protection assignment, allowing Geno Hayes to blast through the middle of the line and block Jeremy Kapinos' second-quarter punt, which Ronde Barber returned 31 yards for a touchdown. Then, after the Packers went ahead 28-17 early in the fourth quarter, they allowed Clifton Smith to return the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to the Green Bay 17, leading to an easy six points for the Bucs three plays later to get them started on their comeback kick. Tramon Williams muffed the kickoff to start the second half and exacerbated his cardinal sin by getting tackled at the Packers' 4. Williams averaged only 4.5 yards in four punt returns. He had a 27-yard return erased by a holding penalty on rookie Brandon Underwood. Green, who opened the game handling the kickoff returns, had one good runback of 37 yards. Mason Crosby's booming kickoffs on a windy afternoon resulted in three touchbacks.
The Packers' season is on the brink at the midway point after they suffered the ignominy of losing to the previously winless Bucs. Green Bay exhibited no sense of urgency coming off its disappointing loss to the Minnesota Vikings the previous week, and it showed when the Packers played almost lifeless in throwing away a 28-17 lead in the fourth quarter. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum is under fire for another bad showing by his charges, who continue to give up momentum-changing long returns and kill their own big runbacks with silly penalties. Head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy's insistence on going with time-consuming pass plays out of five- and seven-step drops by Rodgers is ludicrous. The sacks have piled up to a league-worst 37, and Rodgers is fortunate he hasn't suffered more serious injuries than the foot and toe sprains he's nursing. Dom Capers' 3-4 defensive scheme clearly isn't working when a more liberal use of blitzes nets only one sack on a first-time starting quarterback.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.