Packers vs. Buccaneers score, takeaways: Aaron Rodgers tops Tom Brady in low-scoring game decided on last play
This potential NFC title game preview was a defensive battle
The Green Bay Packers moved to 2-1 on Sunday, as they defeated Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their home opener, 14-12. This was Aaron Rodgers' second-career win over Brady in five total contests, including playoffs, and their first matchup since the 2020 NFC Championship game.
This game came down to the very final play. Brady led the Buccaneers 89 yards down the field to cut the deficit to two points with a touchdown pass to Russell Gage with just 14 seconds remaining. However, there was a miscommunication on the potential game-tying two-point conversion, and the Buccaneers drew a delay-of-game penalty. That cost them five yards, and Brady couldn't find Gage in the end zone to tie the game.
Both star quarterbacks were missing multiple starting wide receivers, which explains the shortage of points scored. Rodgers completed 27 of 35 passes for 255 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while Brady completed 31 of 42 passes for 271 yards and one touchdown. For the Packers, rookie Romeo Doubs stepped up at receiver, catching all eight of his targets for 73 yards and one touchdown. For Brady, Gage was his favorite target. He caught 12 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, but also lost a fumble.
This was a tale of two halves, as 17 of 26 total points were scored in the first two quarters. After Green Bay dominated the first half, this affair turned into a slugfest dominated by both defenses.
Let's take a look at what happened in Tampa on Sunday.
Why the Packers won
The Packers looked like the better team on both sides of the ball for the majority of Sunday afternoon. They were fundamentally sound on defense and took advantage of miscues, then spread the ball around on offense efficiently. We can't give all the credit to the offense since it struggled mightily in the second half, but its quick start ensured the Packers would move to 2-1.
The game began with a Tampa field goal, but then Rodgers led the offense 75 yards down the field on 10 plays to score the first touchdown of the game. Doubs was the main weapon Rodgers worked through, as he caught three passes for 35 yards -- including the touchdown. After a Buccaneers three-and-out, Rodgers again led the offense 71 yards down the field on 12 plays for the second touchdown of the game -- a six-yard pass to Lazard. Those were the only points the Packers scored all game, and they were all they ended up needing.
Doubs is someone to keep an eye on, as he caught all eight targets for 73 yards and one touchdown. Rodgers has to be excited about his development.
Why the Buccaneers lost
The Buccaneers entered Sunday 2-0, but you had to wonder how victorious and confident this team and fan base really felt. Brady and Co. downed Dak Prescott and the disappointing Dallas Cowboys in Week 1, then defeated the New Orleans Saints and the obviously-injured Jameis Winston last week. Still, this team averaged fewer points per game entering Week 3 than the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets and New York Giants. The Buccaneers have failed to score a touchdown in the first half this season. Only they and the Giants can say that.
The headline of this matchup wasn't Rodgers vs. Brady, but the injuries among the wide receivers on both sides. Julio Jones has a knee issue, Chris Godwin is still working back from a hamstring injury and Mike Evans was suspended due to his role in a fight last week. That left Gage, who was questionable to play initially due to a hamstring injury, and Breshad Perriman as Brady's top two wide receivers. Both lost fumbles Sunday.
Brady not having his top weapons clearly hurt, and the fact that he is working with backup offensive linemen showed up again, as they allowed three sacks and were flagged multiple times. Maybe the stat of the game was that the Buccaneers converted just 2 of 11 third-down attempts. Yikes.
After Brady led the Buccaneers 89 yards down the field late in the fourth quarter to score Tampa Bay's first touchdown of the game and pull within two points, it felt like we were going to overtime. But then, Brady and the offense somehow drew a delay-of-game penalty. After the ball was moved back to the seven-yard line, it felt like all the momentum swung in the Packers' favor again. Sure enough, Brady wasn't able to convert.
Play of the game
De'Vondre Campbell is an underrated player, and he took it upon himself to make the game-winning play.
The Packers return to Lambeau next week to host the 1-2 New England Patriots. Quarterback Mac Jones went down with a left leg injury Sunday, and it may be an issue that forces him to miss some time. As for the Buccaneers, they will host the 2-1 Kansas City Chiefs on "Sunday Night Football." Patrick Mahomes and Co. just suffered a surprising, 20-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
DELAY OF GAME ON THE TWO-POINT CONVERSION ARE YOU SERIOUS
Russell Gage!!!! Star of the game. Hauls in the touchdown with 14 seconds left. He has 12 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown!
RUSSELL GAGE— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 25, 2022
20 seconds to go! This quickly turned into a thriller. Bucs have the ball on the 1-yard line.
Maybe the Buccaneers should have gone up-tempo all game. This is the first time they are driving effectively. Up to 10 plays, 79 yards.
Eight-point game! This is a one-score affair. Brady hasn't got anything going up to this point, but there's a reason he's the GOAT. He's got that clutch factor. Watch for some short passing over the middle, and some quick pace.
Today's attendance of 69,197 marks the largest attendance for a Buccaneers game in Raymond James Stadium history.— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) September 25, 2022
Doesn't look like they were very serious. Good try though.
There's been no offense this half! Defensive slugfest. Looks like Aaron Rodgers is going to stay on the field on fourth down. wow