TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — So much for Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers.
A stingy Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense turned a rare meeting between the Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks into a mismatch on Sunday.
Brady outplayed Rodgers, however a young Bucs secondary was equally impressive in setting the tone for a 38-10 rout of the previously unbeaten Packers, who unraveled after taking a 10-0 lead and limiting Tampa Bay to just five offensive plays in the first quarter.
Rodgers threw two interceptions — Green Bay’s first turnovers of the season — within a three-pass span of the second quarter to turn the 10-point lead into a 14-10 deficit.
Cornerback Jamel Dean returned the first pick 32 yards for a touchdown. Safety Mike Edwards ran the other back 38 yards to the Packers 2 to set up another TD.
“Jamel made a hell of a play. It was a huge play. It sparked us,” Brady said.
“That pick-6 changed the entire ballgame,” coach Bruce Arians said.
It was the 43-year-old Brady’s first signature victory since signing with the Bucs (4-2) after a historic 20-year run with the New England Patriots, which included nine NFL title game appearances and six championships.
He got his favorite target from his days with the Patriots into the mix, throwing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski for a 28-10 halftime lead. It was Gronkowski’s first TD since December 2018 and the 79th for the quarterback/tight end tandem — tied for fourth on the all-time list with Miami’s Dan Marino and Mark Clayton.
“I thought everybody stepped up and stepped in,” Arians said.
Brady also threw a 7-yard TD pass to rookie Tyler Johnson and Ronald Jones rushed for 113 yards and a pair of TDs for Tampa Bay, which didn’t turn the ball over, allow a sack or commit a single penalty after being flagged 11 times in a one-point loss to Chicago in its previous game.
“We took care of what beat us last week,” linebacker Devin White said.
Both of Rodgers’ interceptions — his first with multiple picks since throwing three in a loss to Carolina on Dec. 17, 2017 — came on throws intended for Davante Adams, who had a team-leading six catches for 61 yards in his return from a hamstring injury that sidelined him two games.
“I don’t feel like we ever got into a rhythm. Even with 10 points to start the game, we had off-schedule plays to kind of keep drives alive,” Rodgers said.
“I felt good about both throws. Missed the one slightly inside today, the other just looked like it was tight coverage,” Rodgers added. “Those were frustrating plays, especially up 10-0 there, giving them basically 14 points, obviously changed the momentum of the game. I don’t feel like we were very efficient before that. We obviously weren’t very efficient after that.”
Rodgers finished 16 of 35 for 160 yards and no touchdowns after completing 70.5 percent of his passes and throwing for 13 TDs and no interceptions in Green Bay’s first four games.
Brady, meanwhile, was 17 of 27 for 166 yards and two TDs without an interception. Gronkowski led the Bucs with five receptions for 78 yards — his best game since ending a one-year retirement to join Brady in Tampa Bay.
“I thought Tom and Rob had great connections. We got the matchup we were looking for on the fade ball,” Arians said. “Gronk did a heck of a job adjusting on that ball and getting the touchdown. I just wish he could have spiked it with his right shoulder, but his right shoulder’s hurt.”
It was just the third time Brady and Rodgers have faced each other in their long successful careers.
And although both insisted during the week that it wasn’t Brady vs. Rodgers, the friends expressed mutual admiration for one another’s accomplishments while acknowledging it would be fun sharing the field with the Packers trying to remain unbeaten and the Bucs looking to gauge their progress against one of the NFL’s top teams.
Brady noted how important it would be to minimize mistakes, something no quarterback had done better through the first five weeks of the season.
In addition to becoming the first team in NFL history to score at least 150 points and commit no turnovers through the first four games of a season, the Packers had only allowed three sacks before Sunday.
The Bucs had two of their four sacks by halftime.
“It was a pretty frustrating day. We got outcoached, got outplayed. You’ve got to give the Bucs all the credit in the world. They had a good game plan and they really took it to us in really all three phases,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said.
“We’ve just got to make sure we stick together. We’ve got to bounce back. … If you really look critically throughout the course of our week, it wasn’t our best (week of practice) and it showed today. That’s what happens,” LaFleur added. “We’ll find out what we’re all about. We’ve got to hit that reset button and bounce back.”
BRADY VS. RODGERS
Brady and Rodgers split their two previous head-to-head meetings, with the Packers winning 26-21 in 2014 at Green Bay and New England winning 31-17 at home in 2018, while Brady was playing for the Patriots.
Packers: LT David Bakhtiari left in the third quarter with a chest injury, leaving Green Bay to play the remainder of the game without its best offensive lineman. S Darnell Savage (quad) missed a portion of the second half… CB Kevin King (quadriceps) and RB Tyler Ervin (wrist) were inactive.
Buccaneers: RB Leonard Fournette (ankle) sat out for the second time in three games. DL Khalil Davis (ankle) also was inactive because of injury.
Packers: at Houston next Sunday
Buccaneers: at Las Vegas next Sunday night.
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