GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers weren’t just out to give the Green Bay Packers a scare in the middle of their perfect season.
Raheem Morris and his team really thought they had a chance to hand the reigning Super Bowl champions their first loss of the season. And until Aaron Rodgers’ deep pass ended up in the arms of wide receiver Jordy Nelson for a game-clinching 40-yard touchdown, it looked like the Buccaneers had a chance.
Josh Freeman threw for 342 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions, LeGarrette Blount bounced off tacklers all day on his way to a 107-yard rushing performance and the Buccaneers’ late rally came up just short in a 35-26 loss to the Packers on Sunday.
“I felt great about the whole game,” Morris said. “Our guys did a nice job competing. We came out and played the way we wanted to play. We played aggressive. We played hard and tried to get a win. Try to steal one from the champs.”
The Buccaneers (4-6) have lost four straight, but this wasn’t anything like being blown out at home by Houston last week.
“I thought we were going to come back and win it,” wide receiver Mike Williams said. “It just happened we fell short today.”
Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth didn’t want to hear about moral victories.
“There is no moral victory,” Haynesworth said. “Moral victory is for teams that are not that good and go out and play OK against another team. This team is good and we have a lot of talent.”
With a 10-0 record going into a Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit, the Packers remain perfect, even if their quarterback walked away expecting much more from himself. Rodgers threw for 299 yards with three touchdowns, including a pair to Nelson, but wasn’t happy with the way he played.
“I’m just frustrated,” Rodgers said. “I didn’t throw the ball very well. I’m not trying to be ridiculously humble right now, I’m just frustrated. The ball wasn’t coming out the way I wanted it to today.”
Some of the credit goes to an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that Rodgers said played more man-to-man coverage than the Packers are used to seeing.
“We weren’t going to be played scared regardless of how good they are,” cornerback Ronde Barber said. “They put their pads on the same way we do. They got a lot of good players, so do we. We are in it to win. There is no sitting back and letting it happen. We were going to go get them. We tried, gave ourselves a great opportunity. Get one more third stop on their touchdown, I think we win this game. It was the one stop we didn’t get.”
Tampa Bay was penalized nine times for 55 yards, but Morris wasn’t using it as an excuse.
“Penalties are what they are, they are judgment calls and the judgment went against us a lot of times,” Morris said. “It is what it is.”
The Buccaneers trailed by only four and seemed to have some momentum when they tried a surprise onside kick before halftime. After a replay review gave the ball to Green Bay at Tampa Bay’s 38, Rodgers drove for a 5-yard touchdown to Nelson that gave the Packers a 21-10 lead.
Tampa Bay then had a touchdown taken off the board in the third quarter when Kellen Winslow was called for offensive pass interference. The Buccaneers settled for a 32-yard field goal by Connor Barth.
“I really felt we made enough to plays to beat those guys,” Winslow said. “It is hard to win when you put the game in the refs’ hands.”
The Buccaneers’ defense got a stop, and Freeman directed an eight-play, 91-yard scoring drive that ended with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams. Tampa Bay tried to tie it with a 2-point conversion, but Winslow — who had a pair of big gains on the drive — dropped a catchable ball in the end zone.
Packers running back James Starks did the majority of the work in an eight-play, 85-yard scoring drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by Kuhn.
But the Buccaneers got another chance when Rodgers threw an interception to Elbert Mack — only Rodgers’ fourth pick this season — and Freeman threw a 37-yard pass to Arrelious Benn to set up first-and-goal at the 2.
Freeman then threw a touchdown to Dezmon Briscoe and the Buccaneers kicked the extra point to cut the Packers’ lead to 28-26 with 4:25 left.
Tampa Bay tried another onside kick, but the Packers recovered and Rodgers found Nelson to put the game away.
Morris knew he might get second-guessed for the onside kicks but wasn’t apologizing.
“We wanted to get the ball and win,” Morris said. “We are not going to apologize for being aggressive. When you play the Green Bay Packers, you’ve got to play aggressive, you’ve got to go out and make plays. (You’ve) got to steal possessions.”
Source: Chris Jenkins – AP