Rodgers' Late TD Helps Packers Beat Bucs 35-26
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers was having an off day by his own lofty standards, and the Green Bay Packers were getting all they could handle from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With Green Bay leading by two points and trying to fend off a Tampa Bay rally in the fourth quarter, Rodgers found Jordy Nelson for a clinching 40-yard touchdown with 2:55 remaining to hold on for a 35-26 victory Sunday.
Despite the late-game drama, the Packers ran their record to 10-0, leaving them as the NFL's lone undefeated team going into a Thanksgiving Day matchup at Detroit.
Josh Freeman threw for 342 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Buccaneers (4-6), who have lost four straight but didn't back down against one of the NFL's elite teams.
LeGarrette Blount had 107 yards rushing for Tampa Bay, including a 54-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
The Buccaneers trailed by only four points and seemed to have some momentum when they tried a surprise onside kick before halftime. After a replay review gave the ball to Green Bay at the Tampa Bay 38-yard line,
Rodgers drove for a 5-yard touchdown to Nelson that gave the Packers a 21-10 lead going into the half.
Tampa Bay then had a touchdown taken off the board in the third quarter when Kellen Winslow was called for offensive pass interference. The Buccaneers settled for a 32-yard field goal by Connor Barth, cutting Green Bay's lead to 21-13.
The Buccaneers' defense got a stop, and Freeman directed an eight-play, 91-yard scoring drive that ended with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams.
Tampa Bay tried to tie it with a 2-point conversion, but Winslow -- who had a pair of big gains on the drive -- dropped a catchable ball in the end zone.
Packers running back James Starks did the majority of the work in an eight-play, 85-yard scoring drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by John Kuhn.
But the Buccaneers got another chance when Rodgers threw an interception to Elbert Mack -- only Rodgers' fourth pick this season -- and Freeman threw a 37-yard pass to Arrelious Benn to set up first-and-goal at the 4.
Freeman then threw a touchdown to Dezmon Briscoe and the Buccaneers kicked the extra point to cut the Packers' lead to 28-26 with 4:25 left.
Tampa Bay tried another onside kick, but the Packers recovered and Rodgers found Nelson to put the game away.
A late interception gave the Packers' Mason Crosby a shot at a late 29-yard field goal -- but he missed.
The Buccaneers gave the Packers one of their toughest games of the year despite a rough start.
Tampa Bay's defense started off by backing the Packers up near their own end zone where Green Bay faced third-and-16 on its own 6. Two Tampa Bay players were penalized for neutral zone infractions, but the Bucs still stopped the Packers short on third down.
Then the Buccaneers got a big rush up the middle on punter Tim Masthay, who fumbled the ball, picked it back up and ran for a first down -- then coughed the ball up again, but got lucky when it bounced out of bounds.
Rodgers made the most of the Packers' big break, driving Green Bay to the Tampa Bay 12-yard line, where he scrambled to convert a third down. Rodgers kept the ball again on the next play and took a big hit on the shoulder from Ronde Barber, stopping him short of the goal line.
Rodgers then handed the ball to big defensive lineman B.J. Raji, who plunged one yard for a touchdown