The Packers offensive line did not perform to the usual standard Sunday afternoon against the Buccaneers.
The Green Bay Packers suffered their first loss of the season Sunday afternoon 38-10 at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their top-ranked defense. While the majority of the criticism and scorn following the game has been directed towards Aaron Rodgers as well as the defense, a good chunk of it should be shared by the offensive line as well.
The Packers’ offensive line – anchored by left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Corey Linsley, who rank second and first at their position, respectively, according to Pro Football Focus – entered Sunday’s contest as one of the best in the NFL at both pass and run protection. But, apparently, someone forgot to inform the Buccaneers defense.
Tampa Bay’s linebackers began the game with a bundle of pent up energy and seemingly exploded to the ball on every play.
Green Bay rushed the ball 21 times for a total of 94 yards and one touchdown, however, 60 of those yards came on four carries; as of this writing, Tampa Bay is allowing the fewest rushing yards per game in the NFL (64.3), 24 fewer than the third-place Indianapolis Colts (Pittsburgh is second with 66.2 yards per game).
Additionally, in a somewhat surprising twist, the Buccaneers’ pass rush dominated the battle to control the line of scrimmage all afternoon as well. According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers was pressured on an astounding 41.4 percent of dropbacks, including eight of the team’s 15 pass attempts on third down. He was sacked five times and knocked down on countless other occasions after being sacked only three times in the previous four games combined.
The bulk of the pressure came from Tampa Bay’s interior linemen, who consistently collapsed the pocket and forced Rodgers to throw off his back foot. Rodgers’ uncharacteristic skittishness caused by the Tampa Bay pass rush led to interceptions on back-to-back possessions – the first being a pick-six – for the first time since 2017.
Rodgers credited the Buccaneers’ defense after the game when speaking to reporters via Zoom and attempted to shift the blame for the team’s poor offensive performance away from the offensive line and onto himself.
"“I think [the pressure caused by Tampa Bay] does throw off the rhythm [of the offense], but just like how not getting sacked is a group effort – it’s not just great blocking, but timely throws and guys getting open – the same thing is when there’s sacks. There’s disrupting the timing of the passing game, maybe not pulling the trigger – we’ll have to go back and look at the film for if there were times I could have got it out maybe – but they got a good pressure plan and we didn’t do a great job of all getting on the same page.”"
Packers’ head coach Matt LaFleur acknowledged that his team’s offensive woes were frustrating, but emphasized that the team need to learn from their mistakes.
"“Nothing was working outside of those first two drives. It was definitely a frustrating deal when they continue to bring pressure and you don’t have any good answers for it and you can’t beat it. We’ll take a good, hard look at the film and try to learn as much as we can from it.”"
It was always highly unlikely that any team would go undefeated this season and the Green Bay Packers were no exception. One of the reasons why it is so difficult to run the table is because occasionally teams underperform compared to expectations and/or experience a lapse on at least one side of the ball. That was the case with the Packers Sunday afternoon when the offensive line failed to perform to their standard.
The poor performance that led to the loss to the Buccaneers may prove to be a single-game blip on the radar, but the offensive line will have to do better at protecting Rodgers and opening holes for the likes of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams if the Packers want to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy this season. Luckily for Green Bay, they have an opportunity to redeem themselves next week against the Houston Texans.