Packers stomp Bucs, set up NFC title showdown
The Sports Xchange TAMPA, Fla. -- A week after a performance he called a "stinker," Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers found himself battling with the flu and a strained calf. With the way the Packers' defense played Sunday afternoon at ...
The Sports Xchange
TAMPA, Fla. - A week after a performance he called a “stinker,” Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers found himself battling with the flu and a strained calf.
With the way the Packers’ defense played Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium, Rodgers didn’t need to do much as Green Bay clinched its sixth straight playoff berth under coach Mike McCarthy.
The Packers punched their postseason ticket and set up a de facto NFC North championship game against the Detroit Lions by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-3 at Raymond James Stadium.
The Packers (11-4) rebounded from a 21-13 loss at Buffalo last week but did so largely behind their defense, which harassed Bucs quarterback Josh McCown all afternoon, sacked him seven times and allowed only 109 total yards.
Green Bay’s defense hasn’t given up a touchdown in two weeks.
“Obviously this is a game we needed to qualify for the playoffs. As we leave here, looking forward to next week for the opportunity to win the division,” McCarthy said. “It started and ended with defense today, just the constant pressure, the seven sacks. They controlled the game for us today.”
Rodgers, meanwhile, was under the weather all week and strained his calf on the Packers’ second series.
He still finished the game with 318 yards and a late touchdown on 31-for-40 passing. Receiver Randall Cobb reeled in 11 passes for 131 yards, and Jordy Nelson had nine receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown.
“Yeah, it was tough. I didn’t think I could run very well. I was able to just kind of push through it,” Rodgers said. “The line did a good job blocking so I didn’t really have to move a whole lot to get out of the pocket.”
Running back Eddie Lacy racked up 99 yards and a 44-yard touchdown on 17 carries as he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on the season.
The Packers will face the Lions next week at Lambeau Field in their regular-season finale. The winner will finish atop the NFC North.
The Buccaneers (2-13) have not won a game at home this season. They will play the Saints next week to wrap up the regular season and are still in contention for the No. 1 overall draft pick.
“This is where we are right now. We’re not always going to be down like this,” Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. “Yeah, with one game left, we can’t change it all overnight, and I can’t change exactly why we’re here. We are here, but we won’t be always.”
Playing in front of a large green-and-gold contingent on the road, the Packers got off to a sluggish start but broke through toward the end of the first quarter. Lacy took a pitch to Rodgers’ left, broke one tackle and rushed untouched into the end zone.
The Packers and Bucs traded field goals in the second quarter, as Mason Crosby connected from 42 yards out and Patrick Murray put Tampa Bay on the board as the first half expired.
Crosby tacked on a 25-yarder with 10:19 left to play, putting the Packers ahead by 10.
The Bucs’ offense looked punchless all day. With four minutes remaining in the first half, they had accumulated negative total yardage.
McCown completed 12 of 26 passes for 147 yards and an interception. Running back Doug Martin only managed 17 yards on the ground against a Packers defense that had struggled against the run.
“We’re hunkering down right down, and we’re fighting, and we’re trying to get better,” McCown said. “We’re pushing through some things. But it’s tough.”
Still, Tampa Bay kept it close until Green Bay sealed the victory late in the fourth quarter. Rodgers capped a nine-play, 71-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Nelson with 2:45 remaining.
NOTES: Buccaneers OT Anthony Collins was listed among the team’s inactive players for the third straight week Sunday after losing his starting left tackle job last week. Tampa Bay signed Collins to a five-year, $30 million deal in March, but his future with the team appears to be in doubt. ... Packers OT Bryan Bulaga (concussion) was active. ... Bucs LB Mason Foster (Achilles) left the game in the first quarter and did not return. ... General Martin E. Dempsey, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, was at Sunday’s game as a special guest of the Bucs.