There are a lot of ways to win a football game. The Green Bay Packers usually win because of the right arm of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But Sunday in Tampa Bay, the Green Bay defense took it upon itself to get the Packers back into the playoffs with a dominant performance that included seven sacks, one interception and just three Tampa Bay points.
The 20-3 win ensures Green Bay of a wild card berth and sets up a showdown next Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Detroit Lions with the NFC North title on the line.
Despite getting 318 yards passing from Rodgers, 99 yards rushing from Eddie Lacy and over 100 yards each from Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, the Green Bay offense just couldn’t put way the Bucs, not until the final minutes when Rodgers found Nelson for a one-yard touchdown to seal the 17-point win. There was a failed try on a fourth-and-one at the Tampa one-yard line in the third and a missed field goal in the second. But in the end, it didn’t matter—the defense owned the day.
Clay Matthews, one of the big reasons for the dominant play of the Packer defense, registered 2.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. He also added a pass deflection. Julius Peppers added two sacks of his own, including one in which he literally obliterated Bucs’ quarterback Josh McCown.
In all, the Bucs managed just 163 yards and six first downs. They had just 16 rushing yards. They drove it into Green Bay territory twice. Once in each half and came away with just three points. The effort may have come against the lowly Bucs but there is no question, the Green Bay defense is finding its groove.
Matthews and Peppers are terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. The former USC standout added another double digit sack season to his resume, while continuing to help the Green Bay run defense get better and better. Since his move to inside linebacker, the Packers are only allowing 82 yards per game on the ground and just around 3.6 yards per carry. Those are tremendous numbers and if the Packers can continue them next week and in the playoffs, they can make a run in the NFC.
But beyond Matthews and Peppers, others are stepping up. Morgan Burnett was everywhere yesterday. He finished the game with 10 tackles, half a sack and a tackle for loss. Mike Daniels had a sack. Mike Neal had a sack. Datone Jones had half a sack and an interception. The defense, which at one time was thought to be the Packers weakness is now becoming a strength. And after yesterday’s performance the defense is ranked 11th in yards allowed per game in the NFL. The defense has also gone eight quarters, on the road, without allowing a single offensive touchdown.
Sure, the Packers offense will need to get rolling again if Green Bay is going to reach the promise land. But with Rodgers, Nelson, Cobb, Lacy and that offensive line, it’s a matter of when not if the Packers start lighting up scoreboards like a broken pinball machine. And if they do and the defense can continue its dominant play, the Packers might just have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with mighty Seattle.