Few expected Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady came down to two great defensive performances, but that was the case in Week 3 as the Green Bay Packers held on to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-12.
Surprisingly, the Packers were cruising early on as Rodgers and the offense jumped out to an early 14-3 lead. Green Bay seemed to be clicking against a Tampa Bay defense that had only allowed 13 points coming into the game. However, the Buccaneers eventually tightened up after forcing a crucial Aaron Jones fumble on the goal line that could have put them in an even deeper hole.
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The Packers’ offense never really got back on track after the turnover and struggled mightily on third down after converting their first five attempts. Tampa Bay’s defense was able to get off the field on eight straight third downs to keep Brady alive.
Penalties and too many missed opportunities by Green Bay eventually granted Brady one final drive to tie the game. The Buccaneers reached the Packers’ 1-yard line, where Brady found Russell Gage in the endzone to set up the two-point try. However, a delay of game penalty proved costly for Tampa Bay as it forced Brady to make a desperate throw to a blanketed Gage. Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell happened to be in the right place at the right time to knock down the pass and secure the win for his team.
It was a high-character win for the Packers, especially the defense. They remained stout for basically the entire game, with guys stepping up in key moments. Of course, the offense gave them the early lead, and special teams also held up their end of the bargain, so it was a complete team effort.
It took some great individual performances in all three phases for Green Bay to come out on top in Week 3, so let’s take a look at the standouts that helped them improve to 2-1.
Sunday marked 633 days since Bakhtiari’s initial knee injury that turned into a nightmare. After three surgeries and a stressful rehabilitation process, Bakhtiari made his 2022 season debut against the Buccaneers despite being on a pitch count. The team made the unconventional decision to rotate between him and Yosh Nijman on every other drive so Bakhtiari could get better acclimatized. It ended up working out for Green Bay, whose offensive line collectively did an outstanding job against Tampa Bay’s pass rush. Rodgers called it a “dream game” from a defensive standpoint, as he was only touched a handful of times and sacked once. Bakhtiari did not appear to suffer any setbacks like he did last year when he tested his knee against the Detroit Lions, which means the Packers could have their All-Pro left tackle back on a full-time basis very soon.
Coming into the week, Doubs knew he was going to get his fair share of opportunities. Green Bay’s rookie wide receiver made the most of them, too, catching all eight of his targets for 73 yards and scoring his first career touchdown in the process. After making plays throughout training camp and the preseason, this was the first time Doubs stepped into the spotlight during the regular season. The Packers were down Sammy Watkins and Christian Watson in Sunday’s game, but Doubs looked comfortable stepping into a bigger role. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for Green Bay’s promising fourth-rounder.
When Jaire Alexander exited the game on the first drive with a groin injury, it was Nixon who took his place. The Packers were forced to rearrange their corners, moving Rasul Douglas to the outside so Nixon could play his usual spot in the slot. Nixon rose to the occasion better than anyone expected when he forced a fumble to prevent a possible scoring drive for Tampa Bay. On top of causing a huge turnover, Nixon also prevented a touchdown thanks to great coverage on the wide receiver Breshad Perryman. Not only did Nixon make plays on defense, but he also had a noticeable impact on special teams. All night long, Nixon provided great punt coverage and even downed a punt at the Buccaneers’ 2-yard line.
There is nothing glamorous about being a gunner on special teams, but Ford deserves a ton of credit for his Week 3 performance. Like Nixon, Ford also provided outstanding punt coverage and even added a tackle to the stat sheet. Both Rodgers and LaFleur praised Ford for his performance during their post-game press conferences. It’s been a while since Green Bay has had someone look as polished as Ford on special teams.
Another special teamer? Why not. This may have been the Packers’ best game from a special teams’ perspective in years. Aside from a questionable run into the kicker penalty, they looked sharp in every facet. O’Donnell was able to flip the field on several occasions, averaging 48.4 yards per punt on seven attempts. He also showed some pinpoint accuracy when Nixon downed one of his punts at the 2-yard line. O’Donnell has looked great so far, but it will be interesting to see if he can continue to punt like this over the course of the season, especially once the weather turns.
In his first three NFL games, Walker has lived up to the first-round hype. Walker’s speed and athleticism were once again on full display as he finished with five tackles and a momentum-changing forced fumble. After Jones fumbled on one end of the field, the Buccaneers were poised to take advantage of the takeaway with points of their own. They reached Green Bay’s 40-yard line, where Brady completed a pass to Perryman over the middle. Perriman was met immediately by Walker, who punched the ball loose for it to be recovered by safety Darnell Savage. Walker looks every bit of the playmaker the Packers thought they were getting and chose an ideal time for his first career turnover-causing play.
Don’t be surprised if Gary leads the Packers in pressure yet again. He was the team’s most consistent pass rusher when it came to pressuring Brady, despite finishing with one fewer sack than defensive tackle Kenny Clark. Gary recorded his third sack of the season on a third down during the second quarter to give the ball back to the offense. He impacted the game as a run defender as well, thanks to a couple of nice stops on Leonard Fournette, including a tackle for no gain. Gary’s day ended with three tackles, one sack, and a tackle for loss. He also drew a holding penalty.
Clark took advantage of a beat-up Tampa Bay offensive line to log the fifth multi-sack game of his career. According to Pro Football Focus, Clark forced 10 pressures entering Sunday’s game but was still without a sack. That changed during the first drive when he sacked Brady to bring up fourth down. Clark received help from fellow defensive tackle Jarran Reed on his second sack, which created an extremely long third-down attempt. It’s safe to say his consistency as a pass rusher is starting to pay off.
Campbell is still very much the anchor of the Packers’ defense. Not only is he one of the most reliable players week in and week out, but he is always around the ball in big moments. We touched on it earlier, but Campbell helped seal the win with his leaping pass deflection on the Buccaneers’ two-point conversion attempt. He was also a key component in limiting the Buccaneers to only 34 rushing yards as a team. Campbell racked up a team-high 14 tackles, including one tackle for loss, which was a nice bounce back after a pair of un-Campbell-like performances the first two weeks. Campbell missed three tackles over the first two games and wasn’t very effective in last week’s dismal showing against the Chicago Bears when they ran for 180 yards. Luckily, Campbell got back on track this week and played more like the All-Pro he was a season ago.