Packers beat Bucs, set up showdown for NFC North title
Dec. 22, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Green Bay still has some unfinished business before heading into the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
The Packers clinched a berth with a 20-3 victory over the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers, setting up a showdown with Detroit for the NFL North title next Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Coach Mike McCarthy likes his team's chances, despite not getting as much offensive production as usual in losing to Buffalo and wearing down Tampa Bay the past two weeks.
"We've won six out of seven games, so I'd like to classify that as playing a lot of solid football, that's for sure," McCarthy said. "We'll clean this game up (Monday); we'll be on it. We'll also start on Detroit. I like where we're at, and I really like this football team. ... I feel good about the offense, defense and special teams."
Aaron Rodgers threw for 318 yards and one touchdown in Sunday's win over the Bucs, however the Packers' defense carried the day.
Tampa Bay's sputtering offense was limited to a season-low 109 net yards; Josh McCown was sacked seven times and intercepted once; and Green Bay held running back Doug Martin to 17 yards rushing on 10 carries.
"It started and ended with defense, just the constant pressure, the seven sacks. They controlled the game for us," McCarthy said.
Rodgers threw a 1-yard TD pass to Jordy Nelson late in the fourth quarter, and Eddie Lacy scored on a 44-yard run and finished with 99 rushing on 17 attempts for Green Bay (11-4). Nelson had nine receptions for 113 yards. Randall Cobb had a big day, too, with 11 catches for 131 yards.
"I battled the flu the past couple of days pretty bad, and that's why I was surprised I hurt my calf because I hydrated like no other (week)," Rodgers said. "I was drinking a ton of water before the game.
"Unfortunately, the calf kind of gave up on me there. But it was a good win for us. The defense played great. Offensively, it wasn't pretty, but we had enough points to win."
Rodgers said he was injured during Green Bay's second possession. He rebounded from the only game this season in which he's failed to throw for a touchdown by completing 31 of 40 passes without an interception.
He expects to play next week against the Lions (11-4).
"It's too early to give a 100-percent guarantee," the quarterback said. "But it would definitely take a lot to hold me out of that game."
The Bucs (2-13) have lost five straight and remain in contention for the first overall pick in the 2015 draft.
"We picked the worst possible time to play our worst (offensive) game," Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith said. "We'd liked to have fought them a lot harder than we did. I think the guys tried to play hard. Defensively we hung in there and kept them out of the end zone a lot. But it's hard to win games when you put up that kind of offensive production ... which was very little."
The Bucs kept it close with a solid if not particularly flashy defensive performance. They forced Rodgers' fourth turnover in two weeks with Michael Johnson's sack-fumble, and a goal-line stand denied the Packers points in the third quarter after Lacy gained 5 yards on first down to the Bucs 1. Lacy and John Kuhn were stopped for no gain on the next two plays, then Rodgers threw an incompletion in the end zone on fourth down.
"To see the defense and the way that it played, it's frustrating, man," McCown said. "You can't do that (the offensive performance). We've got to be better than that."
Some reasons the Packers bounced back from an eight-point loss to Buffalo, and the Bucs came up short yet again.
QUARTERBACK WOES: McCown was 12 of 26 for 147 yards. Nearly half of that came on two completions — a 40-yarder to Vincent Jackson and 22-yarder to Mike Eavans. In addition to being sacked seven times, the 35-year-old QB was hit on five other occasions.
PEPPERS GET IT DONE: Julius Peppers had two of Green Bay's seven sacks and forced a fumble. In 17 career games against Tampa Bay, Peppers has 17 1/2 sacks, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and an interception returned for a TD.
RUN, EDDIE, RUN: Lacy just missed rushing for 100 yards. But including a 5-yard gain on his only pass reception, he topped 100 yards from scrimmage for the eighth straight game. He hiked his season rushing total to 1,039 yards and nine TDs.
CAN'T RUN: Playing from behind from late in the first quarter on, the Bucs only ran the ball 14 times. Rookie Charles Sims finished with minus-1 on four attempts. Martin gained 12 on six carries in the first half, and managed 5 on the four running plays the Bucs called after halftime.
HOME-FIELD DISADVANTAGE: The Bucs fell to 0-7 at home.
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