In the locker room after the game, “playoff mode” was a common phrase. That’s because if the Packers are going to make the postseason, they will likely need to run the table for the second straight year.
That includes finding a way to win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“At the end of the day, we did what we had to do to win the game. I’m proud of the guys the way they just kept pounding away, kept working. Like I said, I think it speaks volumes of the offense playing the defense, special teams did a really good job,” said head coach Mike McCarthy.
“Just happy. I really don’t care how we got it done, but we got it done. That’s all that matters,” said quarterback Brett Hundley.
Offensively the Packers had their fair share of problems against a Tampa Bay defense that is near the bottom of the league. Brett Hundley finished the day just 84 yards passing against the Bucs’ 32nd ranked secondary.
“I don’t know how many plays we had on offense today – not that many – and going three-and-out like that, it just hurts our defense, and it doesn’t allow us to get in a rhythm. So we just try to figure out a way to get at least one first down to get our rhythm going, and when we needed it, we had it, but we would like to put together the full game of it where we’re not just three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out. We’d rather be able to put it together all 60 minutes,” said Hundley.
Carrying the load on Sunday was the Packers ground game, specifically Jamaal Williams. The rookie out of BYU stepped up in place of Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery in recent weeks, and had the first 100 yard game of his career against Tampa Bay.
“I think it helps the offense a lot. It takes the pressure off of Brett and just lets him know he don’t got to do it all by himself. And let him know we’re here to help him; we’re here to make his job easier a little bit more. So, you know, running the ball…as long as we get 4 or 5 yards each time, we’re in good shape,” said Jamaal Williams.
Williams had one touchdown on Sunday, which was set up in part by a punt block by Kyler Fackrell. Green Bay went in front after the Williams touchdown, but the offensive woes continued.
Another spark came from the defense. Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston fumbled while being sacked by Kenny Clark, and fellow second year defensive lineman Dean Lowry was right there for the scoop. Sixty one yards later Lowry was in the endzone and Green Bay held a ten point lead.
“It was a play-action play and Kenny sacked him pretty quick, so the ball popped out pretty quickly. And I saw it and I saw some blockers on the side of me and I just ran. I was trying to get there as fast as I could, and I got there and did the Lambeau Leap. That was a pretty special play. Mostly it was adrenaline though; I don’t remember it much honestly, so I’m looking forward to watching the tape on it,” said Dean Lowry.
As a whole, Sunday was one of the best performances of the season up front. The Packers were able to get to Winston seven times, including a two and a half sack performance by Clay Matthews. The Packers star pass rusher missed last week’s game due to a groin injury, and nearly doubled his season sack total.
If there was one issue for the Packers defense on Sunday it was defending the run, and time of possession. Tampa Bay was able to rack up 165 yards on the ground, and spent most of the second half on the field. The Buccaneers took advantage, taking the lead on Cameron Brate’s second touchdown of the game to give Tampa Bay a 20-17 lead.
Brett Hundley and the Packers offense were able to drive deep into Buccaneers territory, but ultimately had to settle for a 22-yard Mason Crosby field goal to tie the game at 20.
In overtime the Packers offense finished off the win on the ground. A pair of runs by Hundley and Williams got the ball rolling. Aaron Jones finished it off on his lone carry of the afternoon. The rookie running back bounced it out for the 20 yard touchdown, the game winner.
“It’s a great feeling, just all the glory to God, without him I wouldn’t have made it through. My teammates around here, they’re great. They just stood by my side the whole time,” said Aaron Jones.
“It just says he’s ready to play. I think the young man, you know, he’s comfortable. Jamaal has done a tremendous job. You never have enough good players and it’ll be exciting to go forward with those two guys,” said McCarthy.”
As for the big picture, Green Bay still needs to get a win over Cleveland next week in order set up the situation where Aaron Rodgers could come off of injured reserve in week 15. That option continues to become more of a real possibility with Rodgers practicing on Saturday, and the Packers playoff hopes still alive.
“Aaron looked great yesterday at practice and I think it definitely gives your football team a shot. I know it was good for everybody, but it was really good for him, too. I know he really enjoyed being back out there in a practice climate,” said McCarthy.