When the Packers Have The Ball:
Obviously, the Packers need to guard against complacency. But things could get late real early for a Buccaneers defense that was thoroughly embarrased down in Tampa last week at the hands of the Houston Texans.
The Bucs are not without talent on the defensive side of the ball. The problem is they are not playing with any semblance of cohesion. The biggest problem for this Buccaneers team when it faces the Packers will be head coach Raheem Morris’ tendency to manufacture pressure by blitzing. Obviously, that will get his team beat more often than not against Rodgers and the potent Packers offense.
One tactic that could bear fruit for Morris and the Bucs is sending veteran cornerback Ronde Barber from the slot. The Vikings were actually successful a few times doing this on Monday night, sending corner Antonie Winfield from the offenses left to widen out the protection, which enabled Jared Allen to loop back inside to press Rodgers into a sack.
Obviously the Bucs don’t have a Jared Allen on their roster, but their young defensive end Adrian Clayborn has some talent and could cause problems. And the secondary, in addition to Barber, does have some talent in the form of cornerback Aqib Talib and nickel corner E.J. Biggers, who while small, is fast and aggressive.
The problem for the Bucs is at the safety position. Teams are sitting back in a two-deep safety look, as they should, when facing the Packers. If the Bucs plan on doing the same thing, they’ll need much better play from both Sean Jones and Tanard Jackson. Look for Rodgers and McCarthy to attack both vertically with Jermichael Finley and Greg Jennings.
Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman has clearly regressed since emerging in 2010 as what looked like a promising young quarterback the team could build around in the coming years.
While still extremely talented, Freeman is simply being asked to do too much. It’s not that he can’t handle it – it’s that he isn’t getting the type of performances from his supporting cast that would enable him to win games the way he was last year, be that in the running game with a banged up LeGarrette Blount or the pass caching of guys like Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow. (Ex-Packer Kregg Lumpkin has taken over as the Bucs’ third down back)
Look for the Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers to ease off on some of the pressure calls we saw Monday night against Christian Ponder. Freeman, while maybe not playing to the level he’s capable of, is wicked smart and very good at reading defenses. Packers fans (and players) won’t soon forget the way he picked apart Capers’ defense down in Tampa back in 2009, when all the football watching world thought he would struggle in his first NFL start against a Capers-led defense.
One other thing the Packers defense needs to be cognizant of is just how hard Freeman is to tackle. Much like Ben Roethlisberger or Cam Newton, its one thing to get to him – and quite another thing to get him on the ground.
Not to mention, they simply need to wrap up and tackle the ball carrier. One of the reasons the Bucs were able to shock them back in ’09 was due to a terrible display of tackling by the defense.
In fact, both the inability to get Freeman and the horrific tackling were on display during this one play:
Enough Already, Who Wins?
The Buccaneers will no doubt throw the kitchen sink at the Packers on offense, from screens to flea flickers to every kind of misdirection known to man. They have little to lose and are no doubt smarting after getting embarrassed by the Texans in their home stadium last week.
But Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense, even in what looks like will be cold and windy conditions, will simply put up too many points for the Buccaneers to have a real shot.