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News » Rodgers, Packs' offense goes back on attack


Rodgers, Packs' offense goes back on attack


Rodgers, Packs' offense goes back on attack
This weekend, the Packers and Aaron Rodgers hope to rebound against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL's battle of the Bays.


Not too long ago the Packers and Bucs were division rivals, right about the time Rodgers was taking wood shop in high school. But with the division realignment implemented in 2002, Tampa Bay moved into its comfy new home in the NFC South.

The rivalry that once resided in the former NFC Central is gone, but what remains memorable is how poorly the Bucs always faired in Wisconsin. In 23 road trips, they came back losers 17 times after being outscored by an average of more than 11 points per game. From 1990 to the old division's last season of 2001, the Bucs never won there.

Perhaps the most memorable of these games — and the Bucs' futility — was the 1985 "thriller" played in one of the worst blizzards the NFL has ever seen. The Bucs were destroyed 21-0, hardly even mounting a drive. They were outgained 512 yards...to 65.

NFL Week 4

Week 4 action

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Analysis

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Video

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Photos

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  • NFL Week 3's best
  • Biggest moments

Wearing their all-white road uniforms, you could barely see the orange buccaneer on the helmet amidst the ice-covered field and driving snow. It looked like a bunch of logos running around the field naked. Green Bay defensive backs couldn't see the running routes for Tampa Bay receivers Jimmie Giles and Kevin House. Unfortunately, neither could quarterback Steve Young.

A refugee of the USFL's Los Angeles Express, Young was the centerpiece of a rebuilding team. The '85 Buccaneers were developing a young roster around their lefty quarterback, star linebacker Hugh Green, and running back James Wilder.

Make that trying to build. Green was never happy with the new regime, or his contract, and held out all preseason. Losing wasn't exactly an aphrodisiac for staying in Tampa either. Green's discontent eventually precipitated a trade with the Miami Dolphins.

Meanwhile, Wilder set a league record with 407 carries in 1984 and the offense rode him until the wheels fell off the next season. New head coach Leeman Bennett put much of his offense on Wilder's back to the point that Wilder would — literally hurt his back and never have a 1,000 yard season again after 1985.

Much of the duress of the franchise was because of its inability to develop a quarterback (Bears anyone?) and in 1985, that quarterback was Young. His indoctrination to the NFL was rough, but this blizzard-fest in December was the worst. When he wasn't being sacked, he was missing receivers. And forget reading coverage — he couldn't read the names on the jerseys in his own huddle. Everyone and everything was covered, including one half of announcer Jim Hill's head, making it resemble a half-eaten snow cone.

Young would eventually recover from his performance, but Bennett and the Bucs wouldn't. The team lost the rest of its games en route to a 2-14 season and owner Hugh Culverhouse gave up on Bennett following another two-win season in 1986.

Things didn't get much better as their first round draft pick — some guy named Bo Jackson — decided not to sign with the team at all, sitting out the season to play left field for the Kansas City Royals. Young would be traded to the 49ers after the '86 season, and the rest is history.

Now Rodgers, another young quarterback dealing with adversity, albeit of a different nature, is hoping to have the success Young did in his legendary career. Next up: Tampa Bay, this time in Florida.

Film Study

In this week's Film Study, we'll take a look at what Rodgers and the Packers offense needs to do to beat the 2008 Bucs.

Last Sunday's game against Dallas presented several opportunities for the Packer offense. The Cowboys are known to be vulnerable in pass coverage while being far more effective against the run. On the other side, the Packer offense prepared for this deficiency by using utililizing four wideouts in its spread attack as well as passing on first down.

Of the Packers first 20 snaps, 14 of them were pass plays. That doesn't show up on the stat sheet because Rodgers was sacked twice and mishandled the ball on the last play of the first quarter, so only 11 passes were actually thrown.

It's worth mentioning that I normally look at specifics, like corners allowing too much cushion, how teams pass protect, or other examples of the "game within the game." In this case, however, I couldn't get past how much Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was putting the game on the shoulders of his inexperienced quarterback. From one point late in the first quarter to another early in the second, the Packers called nine straight pass plays. Devoid of any rhythm in the passing game, the Packers found themselves down 13-6 at halftime.

On their first possession of the third quarter, the Packers came out running, handing the ball off to Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson five straight times for 29 yards. The offensive line was getting a push on the Dallas front seven, and the Pack would end up kicking a field goal and closing the gap to 13-9.

After the Cowboys scored to make it 20-9, the Packers went right back to their Marino-esque offense, throwing on five of the next six plays. With more than a quarter to play, and only down 11, there was no need to start flinging the ball up and down the field.

Ignoring the run allowed the Cowboys to crash the pocket with linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis, something that arouses Dallas head coach Wade Phillips even more than crocodile-skin cowboy boots. It also made Rodgers' third career start an unsuccessful one.

McCarthy may want to consider going back to a formula that worked for Brett Favre and his offense the back half of last season: putting the ball in the belly of one Ryan Grant.

What I learned

The hole doesn't get any shallower this week as Rodgers faces Tampa's defense. However, it's not any better against the run than the Cowboys, allowing a plump 121.3 yards per game.

So why not run Ryan Grant until the wheels fall off? Even if it fails early, the Buc defense will be forced to respect it, opening up the passing game for a talented group of receivers led by Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. I believe Green Bay's line can win some battles up front against Tampa's front seven although I think Barrett Ruud is a solid player at middle linebacker.

The Buc offense isn't going to score 40 points even with Packers corner Al Harris out. While Brian Griese did throw for 409 yards last week, it took 67 passes to get there. Griese also threw three interceptions. If he repeats that performance, there's no reason for the Packers to risk turnovers, sacks, and Rodgers' health by spreading the field and constantly throwing.

Pick: Packers

Odds and ends

  • Gary Plummer, the former Chargers, 49ers, and Los Angeles Express linebacker, confirmed to me this past year a story about Steve Young's USFL experience. Young, who had a $40 million contract with the Express, once ran to the ATM to retrieve money for a driver who refused to drive the team bus one more foot if he didn't get paid. The organization, as well as the USFL, was broke. The bus remained parked until Young got back with the cash.

  • Flozell Adams watch: Big Flo' made a drive-saving fumble recovery in the second quarter when the score was only 10-6. He also dominated defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. KGB's line? Nada. No tackles or sacks

  • I don't think Young received that $40 million from the USFL.

  • I mentioned last week that my truck was totaled. My insurance confirmed they won't fix it. Anyone got a 1985 Fiero for sale, maroon-on-maroon? Aftermarket moonroof maybe?

    Elliot Harrison is the head researcher on FSN's Pro Football Preview.



  • Author:Fox Sports
    Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
    Added: September 28, 2008

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