Sunday, September 28, 2008

Final: Packers 21 - Buccaneers 30

The Pack was able to turn 3 interceptions courtesy of Bucs QB Brian Griese into 14 points in the second half, which included a 68-yard interception return for a TD by Charles Woodson. But, in the end, it was all for naught.

Taking the lead 21-20, the Packers found themselves without starting QB Aaron Rodgers for a series. So, for everyone who was wondering how many games it would take before Rodgers' injury proneness (is that a word???) would appear, the answer is: four. Rookie QB Matt Flynn had to come in after Rodgers left the game after throwing a 48-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings. It appeared as if Rodgers may have landed funny on an earlier play. But as soon as he threw the TD pass Rodgers went to the sidelines hanging his right arm a bit. He was seen on the sidelines throwing the ball, and eventually returned to the game. More on that in a bit.

The Packers defense also lost Cullen Jenkins to some unspecified arm/shoulder injury suffered on a missed sack on Griese, necessitating a lot of shuffling on the defensive line. Combining that personnel situation with a hot and tired line allowed for a lot of missed tackles and first down conversions that probably should not have been late in the game.

In addition, continued short punts from Derrick Frost and poor punt coverage set up Tampa Bay for the go-ahead field goal with 2:26 left in the game.

Rodgers did return to the game, as noted earlier. But...was intercepted for the third time in today's game when he was hit in the back while throwing. No one put a hand on the outside rusher. Looked as if TE Donald Lee was supposed to block before releasing to the outside; he never touched the rusher at all, allowing Rodgers to be blindsided, leading to the off-target throw and easy pick.

And it wasn't Warrick Dunne who was the back-breaker, or even Michael Bennett, who didn't see the field at all. Ernest Graham broke tackles and rushed about 40 yards to the 1-yard line to set up the final Bucs' TD.

As Darryl "Moose" Johnson said during the TV commentary, for the second time in two weeks the Buccaneers stole a game. Indeed they did. But the Packers basically kept the door open all day long with sloppy play on both sides of the ball.

So, instead of being 3-1 after today, the Pack sits at 2-2. The loss to the Cowboys was a loss to a better team. The loss today -- as with the Wisconsin Badgers' loss to Michigan yesterday -- is one which the team allowed to happen. Those are the ones that really stick in your craw.

The Packers play the Falcons at Lambeau next weekend. It could be just what the doctor ordered to try to get the wheels back on the track. But the Packers have some real work to do. And injuries are starting to take a toll far too early in the season. If it's anything more than a little tweak to Rodgers, and we have to go with our rookie QBs, the entire outlook for the season could change in a real hurry. Let's hope not.