In the sweltering Florida heat, the Green Bay Packers managed to eke out a 14-12 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon, a win that pushed their record to 2-1 on the season and could buoy them to some new heights moving forward. However, the heat affected the game a bit, and the Packers used a heavy rotation at a few positions to try to combat the conditions.
One of the most notable areas was at left tackle, where the heat was one variable that Matt LaFleur analyzed when deciding to rotate David Bakhtiari and Yosh Nijman. The two alternated drives at that spot, both looking solid against a formidable Buccaneers pass rush that managed only a single sack on the day.
Green Bay rotated its own pass-rushers as well, trying to keep Preston Smith and Rashan Gary fresh for critical downs. The only player to miss any notable time with cramping in the heat was center Josh Myers, who sat out the final three plays on offense but is expected to be fine.
Instead, the lone significant injury in the game was to cornerback Jaire Alexander, who left the field during the first drive with a groin injury and did not return. With Alexander gone, the Packers kicked Rasul Douglas back out to the perimeter and inserted Keisean Nixon in the slot. Nixon responded with a tremendous game, making six tackles, forcing a fumble, and even downing a punt on the one-yard line while playing more total snaps (between defense and special teams) than anyone else on the team.
It was a banner day for Nixon, who put up some great tape. Hopefully Alexander will be available next week — the Packers reportedly believe that his injury will not be a long-term one — but if he does need to miss time, there’s reason to believe that the team has at least a solid player who can step up in his absence.
OFFENSE (62 total plays)
Aaron Rodgers 62
Rodgers had an excellent first half, with a passer rating over 140 and two touchdowns, but his effectiveness dropped off significantly as the offense as a whole struggled following Aaron Jones’ fumble near the goal line on the third drive. Rodgers would finish 27-for-35 with 255 yards, those two scores, and an uncharacteristic interception over the middle for a final rating of 103.9.
Aaron Jones 39, AJ Dillon 33
The Packers’ running game struggled on Sunday, even as pass protection was solid. Both backs carried the football 12 times apiece, but they averaged just 3.0 and 2.7 yards per carry (Jones and Dillon, respectively). Neither was much of a factor in the passing game, either; Jones caught three passes for 11 yards, while Dillon had two grabs for six yards.
The Packers continue to run significant snaps out of the pony package, but they have yet to have major success with it, particularly when both line up flanking Rodgers in the shotgun.
Allen Lazard 56, Romeo Doubs 55, Randall Cobb 25, Juwann Winfree 13, Amari Rodgers 3
With no Sammy Watkins (on injured reserve) or Christian Watson (inactive with a hamstring injury), Doubs stepped up as the Packers’ number two receiver opposite Lazard and had himself a big day. He caught all eight of his targets, racking up 73 yards and scoring the game’s first touchdown — his first regular season score as a pro.
Meanwhile, Lazard was targeted six times, catching four passes for 45 yards and a score. His big grab of 26 was one of just three first downs in the entire second half for the Packers’ offense. Cobb had the game’s longest play, a 40-yard catch-and-run off an RPO, and he added another 17-yard gain to convert a third down.
Robert Tonyan 36, Marcedes Lewis 22, Tyler Davis 19, Josiah Deguara 9
Rodgers fed Tonyan quite a bit in this game, sending seven targets his way. Tonyan caught six of them for a total of 37 yards. Meanwhile, Davis caught two passes for 26 yards, including a big 23-yarder up the left sideline that he nearly took into the end zone.
Jon Runyan, Jr. 62, Royce Newman 62, Elgton Jenkins 62, Josh Myers 59, David Bakhtiari 35, Yosh Nijman 27, Jake Hanson 3
The left tackle rotation was the big story up front, but the play of the line overall in pass protection was excellent regardless of who was manning that position. Rodgers was sacked just once, and although the Bucs were credited with six total QB hits, it felt like he had solid pockets consistently. It was in the run game where the line seemed to struggle considerably.
Besides the tackle rotation, the only other change was at center late in the game. Myers had to leave late after cramping up, and Jake Hanson came on to replace him for the final three plays of the game. Notably, however, one of those was the Bucs’ only sack, which came from rookie Logan Hall at the expense of the right side of the line.
DEFENSE (65 total plays)
Kenny Clark 50, Jarran Reed 40, Dean Lowry 33, T.J. Slaton 13, Devonte Wyatt 7
The Packers used their 3-3-5 “Penny” front on occasion early in this game, but were able to move away from that and into their traditional 2-4-5 nickel throughout most of the contest. As a result, the snaps for the linemen were a bit light, with Clark as usual playing the most.
He made the most of them as well, recording two sacks, his first of the season. Clark seems to like playing against the Buccaneers, as he now has 4.5 sacks in four career games (including the postseason).
Preston Smith 51, Rashan Gary 43, JJ Enagbare 23, Jonathan Garvin 12
The Packers got another sack from Gary in this game, giving him one in each of the team’s first three games. He and Smith rotated out fairly frequently and fairly early on, with the rookie Enagbare even seeing some snaps on key downs in the first half. Interestingly, however, Gary was the only member of this group to record even a single tackle, as the rest were shut out entirely.
De’Vondre Campbell 65, Quay Walker 55
Instead of the edge players doing much, it was Campbell cleaning up most of the run plays on the interior. He posted a whopping 14 total tackles, his second-most in a single game as a Packer behind a 16-tackle game against the Bears last year. He saved his biggest play for the passing game, however, making the game-saving pass breakup on Tom Brady’s throw to Russell Gage on the Bucs’ two-point conversion attempt.
Walker had five tackles, but his signature play was stripping the football from wideout Breshad Perriman when the Bucs were getting moving in the first half.
Adrian Amos 65, Darnell Savage 65
The Packers’ safety play took a major step forward on Sunday, as Amos looked more like his old self and Savage was much better as well. Amos had three tackles, including one for a big loss on a swing pass to Leonard Fournette, and a hit on Brady. Savage was around the football, scooping up the fumble Walker had forced while providing excellent coverage on Gage on the two-pointer.
Eric Stokes 65, Rasul Douglas 63, Keisean Nixon 57, Jaire Alexander 6, Shemar Jean-Charles 2
Alexander’s absence paved the way for Nixon’s big day, and he responded with six tackles on defense, another on special teams, and a forced fumble of his own. His coverage wasn’t perfect, but he did more than a good enough job to instill confidence in him moving forward. Douglas gave up a couple of completions from the slot on the opening drive of the game, but actually looked a bit more comfortable and aggressive on the perimeter after Alexander’s injury. He had eight total tackles and broke up a pair of passes.
Stokes was not tested much, putting up a solid game with just a single tackle.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Tyler Davis 23, Tipa Galeai 20, Dallin Leavitt 20, Isaiah McDuffie 20, Josiah Deguara 18, Rudy Ford 17, Keisean Nixon 16, Amari Rodgers 11, Jonathan Garvin 10, Patrick Taylor 10