Sloppy play allows Buccaneers to blindside reeling Packers
Wearing one of those ghastly creamsicle jerseys that are an ugly reminder of Tampa Bay’s past, rookie Josh Freeman helped the Buccaneers beat the visiting Packers, 38-28, Sunday.
The third quarterback selected in this year’s NFL draft led the previously winless Bucs over the Packers, ending the league’s longest losing streak at 11 games.
“He kept his composure and made plays,” Packers linebacker Nick Barnett said.
The loss was the second straight for Green Bay, which fell to Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings the week before.
The Packers were a 10-point favorite over the Bucs. The shocking defeat dropped the Packers to 4-4 at the halfway point of the season. The Packers are now in essence four games behind NFC North Division leading Minnesota (7-1) because of the two losses to the Vikings this season.
The Packers’ postseason hopes rest with the two wild-card playoff spots in an NFC in which they are tied with Chicago and out of the running at the No. 8 position.
“It doesn’t feel good. This one definitely hurt,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I’m disappointed in the way we played. We have some recurring problems that we have not cleaned up yet.”
Playing with poise that belied his inexperience, Freeman passed for 205 yards and three touchdowns, including a 7-yard throw to Sammie Stroughter on fourth-and-4 for the go-ahead TD with under 5 minutes to play.
Freeman completed 14 of 31 passes with just one interception. A critical second pick by Green Bay’s A.J. Hawk was wiped out by an illegal contact penalty against Hawk during Tampa Bay’s go-ahead drive.
Three plays later, Freeman threw 29 yards to Michael Clayton to set up his second TD pass of the day.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns for Green Bay (4-4). The league’s top-rated passer also threw three interceptions and had one returned for a TD that put the game out of reach in the final minute.
Rodgers was also sacked six times, hiking Green Bay’s NFL-worst total to 37 in eight games.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Rodgers said. “I think our offense and special teams put our defense in a tough position.”
“I think everyone’s stunned,” linebacker Nick Barnett said. “Nobody expected that.”
Four of the Bucs’ touchdowns came on two special-teams lapses, and two were scored or set up by interceptions.
McCarthy said his team did not look past the Bucs.
“We did not take the team lightly at all because of the record,” McCarthy said. “ I was very concerned coming into this game. Any time (you play) a team coming off the bye week —if anything, we may have overworked (the players). That’s something I’ve got to look into. This is my responsibililty. We were not prepared to the level that we should have been.”
The Packers outgained the Bucs, 404-279, and dominated time of possession, 35:17 to 24:43.
But John Kuhn blew an blocking assignment on a punt that allowed Geno Hayes a free lane up the middle and he blocked Jeremy Kapinos’ second-quarter punt. Ronde Barber returned it for a 31-yard score.
A second special-teams mistake set up another TD when Clifton Smith returned a third-quarter kickoff 83 yards.
“This has to hurt us so bad that we can’t never ever play like this again,” Pickett said. “That’s the only way we’re going to turn it around. If we don’t, we’re going to have a long year.”
-- Green Bay running back Ahman Green gained 45 yards rushing and has 8,208 yards rushing with the Packers, surpassing Hall of Famer Jim Taylor (8,207) for the most rushing yards in franchise history.
-- Jones finished with four receptions for 103 yards for Green Bay. Grant rushed for 96 yards on 21 attempts.
-- Packers RT Mark Tauscher (knee) played for the first time this season, but was not able to finish the game.