Okay, so I’m a Packers fan, and I don’t want to overreact to one loss, but today’s performance was very disheartening. Aaron Rodgers busted out a Key & Peele celebration on a called-back touchdown with 1:23 remaining in the first quarter. They punched it in right after that to go up 10-0 and then they never scored again, ceding 38 unanswered points to the Buccaneers.
Tom Brady and the Bucs deserve a lot of credit for how they performed. Todd Bowles’ defense, which flew under the radar screen when Tampa added the most accomplished QB of all-time among other offensive weapons, was swarming. Rodgers rarely had time to throw the ball. That was no accident.
But still. Rodgers came into this game neck-and-neck with Russell Wilson in the race to be NFL MVP. He hadn’t thrown an interception all year. But on Sunday, he threw just the third pick-six of his career on an atrocious misread. The second interception was fluky, off Davante Adams’ hands, and not Rodgers’ fault. But then he missed Marcedes Lewis wide open down the seam for what would have been a big gain, possibly even a touchdown. He also later under-threw Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who was open deep and would’ve scored a touchdown if hit in-stride.
If Rodgers hits Lewis and Valdes-Scantling on those plays, it’s a whole different ballgame. But he didn’t. And even if he had, there’s no guarantee that the Packers defense would have gotten the requisite stops. That’s a concern for another time.
Rodgers threw for just 160 yards, a mere 4.6 yards per attempt. He completed fewer than half of his passes and got sacked four times. This felt like the 2019 NFC Championship game against the 49ers all over again.
It’s easy for me to sit on the couch and say he should be able to make things happen. He’s the one staring down the barrel of defensive line behemoths as soon as he takes the snap. However, he’s not going to win a second Super Bowl without having to defeat formidable pass rushes along the way.
A wonky reason the Packers struggled on offense today was the absence of Tyler Ervin. This is a peculiar thing to say considering he had nine touches in four games, but his motion and misdirection in the backfield was the foundation of a lot of balls that found other players wide open. Left tackle David Bakhtiari went down with a chest injury in the second half, and it would be a catastrophe for the Packers if he misses extended time.
The hope is that this game was an aberration, a series of unfortunate events for the Packers, who were coming off a pandemic bye and facing a good Tampa Bay team. The Packers certainly look better than the Chicago Bears, but the Bears have found ugly ways to win and are a half game up in the NFC North at 5-1. It would be too alarmist to say that the Packers relinquished all their optimism for the season today, but the performance brought back some old concerns.