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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017
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Bucs fall short in 35-26 loss to Packers

GREEN BAY, Wisc. - Well, you can't say they didn't try. After coach Raheem Morris questioned players' effort in a lopsided loss to Houston last week, the energy was definitely back on both sides of the ball for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Try as they might, though, the Bucs still couldn't beat the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, who improved to 10-0 by posting a 35-26 victory that didn't come as easily as the final score might indicate. Thanks to an aggressive game plan in which Morris' goal was to "steal possessions'' from the Packers, the Bucs had the Packers on the ropes late but couldn't deliver a knockout blow.
"Sometimes things just don't add up for you,'' Bucs right guard Davin Joseph said after the team's fourth consecutive loss and fifth in their last six games. "We were pretty successful in the red zone today and we moved the ball, but we just didn't make enough plays to win. There were some plays that we needed to make today and we just didn't get them.'' Two of those plays involved tight end Kellen Winslow, who caught nine passes for 132 yards but failed to put critical points on the board on two occasions in the second half. The first came on a third-and-3 play from the Packers 4-yard line with 5:07 left in the third quarter, when an apparent Winslow touchdown reception was nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty. Officials ruled Winslow pushed off a defender to gain separation on the play. The Bucs settled for a 23-yard field goal by Connor Barth that cut their deficit to 21-13. One drive later, the Bucs were in position to tie the game after quarterback Josh Freeman hit Mike Williams with a 9-yard touchdown pass. But Winslow dropped Freeman's throw on a 2-point conversion attempt, leaving Green Bay with a 21-19 edge. The general feeling throughout the locker room was the team squandered an opportunity to pull off a big upset. "I thought everybody went out there today and gave everything they had, but in the end we just weren't sharp enough,'' Freeman said. "We just didn't make enough big plays; we didn't score enough points.'' They certainly had their chances. After falling behind 14-0 early in the second quarter the Bucs made it 14-7 on LeGarrette Blount's career-long 54-yard touchdown run. They were in position to tie the game one possession later. Three plays from inside the Packers 10 failed to produce a touchdown, however, so the Bucs, who ranked last in the league in red-zone efficiency with just 11 touchdowns in 28 chances, again settled for a 32-yard Barth field goal and 14-10 deficit. "It's tough when you're playing a team like the Packers and they're driving and getting touchdowns and early on all we were getting was field goals,'' Freeman said. "It was good that we were moving the ball, but at the same time, that's not enough.'' Not against a team like the Packers. That's why Morris took time out from coaching effort last week to devise an aggressive game plan. The idea was to take advantage of the one-on-one opportunities receivers would face against the Packers defense, to test the Packers' receivers with similar single coverage and to steal possessions. The first two tactics worked rather well. Freeman and the Bucs receivers had one of their better days, producing 28 receptions for 342 yards — a career high for Freeman — and two touchdowns. The Bucs secondary, meanwhile, gave up three touchdown passes, but covered well enough to produce two sacks of Aaron Rodgers and a fourth-quarter interception by Elbert Mack that led to the Bucs' final touchdown. The only tactic that didn't work was the one for stealing possessions. The Bucs failed on two occasions to secure the ball after attempting an onside kick. The first came in the second quarter, after Barth's first field goal, and led directly to a third Packers touchdown and 21-10 halftime lead. The second came after the Bucs' final score, a 2-yard touchdown pass to Dezmon Briscoe that cut Green Bay's lead to 28-26 with 4:25 left to play. Green Bay recovered and, three plays later, scored on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson that finally sealed the victory. "You need to make plays and the fourth quarter came down to who makes the last play and at the end of the game it was them," Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber said. "But we gave ourselves an opportunity to win. "Everybody sits back in zone defenses and lets (Rodgers) dice you. We weren't going to do that. We were going to play man and blitz them. We were going to do everything that everyone else is scared to do to them."
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