Monday, November 17, 2003

Packers 20, Tampa Bay 13. As Darren Sharper commented after the game, they have to figure out why they are winning in Tampa Bay and Minnesota this year, but keep losing close games in Green Bay. If the Packers had won their two close defeats at Green Bay this season to Philadelphia and Kansas City, then it is likely the Packers are being talked about as a favorite for the Super Bowl at 7-3. This doesn't say as much about the Packers as it does about the parity in the NFC this season. Brett Favre had his worst game of the season (although the first half of week 1 vs. Minnesota was his worst half game of the season) but the defense had its best game. With the exception of the two big Thomas Jones runs, the Packers defense dominated Tampa Bay's offense.

First Quarter: After Tampa Bay's first punt, Antonio Chapman had a great punt return to start the drive at the Packers 47. Special teams and defense needed to make more plays, and both units delivered this week, although Tampa Bay is one of the weakest special team units in the NFL. The Packers only had two good looking drives in the game, where they passed and ran the ball effectively, but both drives ended with touchdowns. On their second drive, which led to their first touchdown, Favre completed 4 passes on the drive (he only completed 13 in the entire game) and 3 of them were on 3rd down. Ahman Green is already getting good yards running the ball. The difference between Green this season and past seasons is his production in the first halves of games. Tampa Bay had three drives in the first quarter, didn't convert a single 3rd down, and had one of the more laughable drives of the NFL season when they had three penalties in a row that resulted in only 3 penalty yards because they were pinned back so far against their end zone. Packers 7, Tampa Bay 0.

Second Quarter: Najah Davenport comes in to spell Green a couple times, 3 rushes in the first half, and every time he came in even I knew it was a running play. He gained no yards on his 3 rushes. I thought the Packers were being too obvious with their personnel packages, but in the second half it turned out to be a setup as they start running pass plays with Davenport in the backfield. A turnover! After only 2 turnovers in the last 4 games, a fumble recovery is big news. The Packers forced 3 turnovers in this game alone. Unfortunately the great field position only leads to a field goal. Thomas Jones second run of the game is a 61 yard explosion. Jones ran to Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's side and the linebacker on that side (Na'il Diggs?) is blocked out of the play. Its bad news, but remember its only one of three big plays for Tampa Bay on offense all game while the rest of the time Green Bay dominated them. And the Packers hold them to a field goal. Great kickoff return by Davenport, of all people, leads to a field goal. With about 7 minutes left in the second quarter, Tampa Bay converts its only 3rd down of the game, and the drive ends in a punt. After Nick Barnett (What the heck is he doing so far down the field in coverage? Well it worked) intercepts Brad Johnson, the Packers spend the rest of the half confused: Are they going to try for one more score? Are they going to run out the clock? The Packers call a time out while Tampa Bay is trying to run out the clock, Mike Sherman is shown on the sidelines shaking his head in disbelief, and after a couple of 3 and outs on offense, Tampa Bay gets great field position on a bad Josh Bidwell punt and two Keyshawn Johnson pass completions later, Tampa Bay gets a gift field goal. Packers 13, Tampa Bay 6.

Third Quarter: Tampa Bay starts the half out with a rerun of Jones's big run over Gbaja-Biamila and Diggs's side which leads to a Keenan McCardell touchdown against Mike McKenzie. It seemed like a good start to the half for Tampa Bay, but their offense didn't do much after that drive. McCardell ran a nice route and Johnson put the ball right where it was needed, and McKenzie couldn't do much about it. Gbaja-Biamila hasn't been an obvious problem against the run this season until these two big Jones runs, and I don't know if its a problem or just well executed plays by Tampa Bay. The rest of the quarter is filled with drive killing penalties and failed 3rd down conversions. Favre threw an interception on a deep pass to Donald Driver on the type of forced pass he hadn't tried to throw in weeks. Everyone was covered on the rollout, but instead of throwing the ball away, he tried to force it into double coverage. Favre does make a great 3rd down completion to Robert Ferguson at the end of the quarter from the end zone which sparks a dominant 98 yard touchdown drive, so all is forgiven. Packers 13, Tampa Bay 13.

Fourth Quarter: Touchdown! Nothing sucks the life out of an opponent like a 98 yard almost 10 minute touchdown drive. Almost all of the plays were runs, and Tampa Bay just couldn't stop the Packers. Favre only threw 4 passes on the drive, all completions, and 3 of them were on 3rd down. This is the best run offense in the entire NFL right now. Favre only attempts 2 more passes on the next 2 drives. Tampa Bay has 3 more chances to get some offense going, but they can only manage 42 yards on the 3 drives and the last drive ends with a Sharper interception on a hail mary pass. Packers 20, Tampa Bay 13.

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