TAMPA—There’s no better feeling for a defensive back than to look back for the ball and see the quarterback on his backside.
The Packers defense overwhelmed the Buccaneers in a 20-3 victory on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, and a season-high seven sacks did the bulk of the damage.
“I thought they had about 15, actually,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “That’s the type of pressure I felt they were getting. That’s a good sign when you feel that, because we don’t get a chance to see it.”
Clay Matthews paced the pressure-generating front seven with 2 ½ sacks, his second straight two-sack game. Julius Peppers added a pair of sacks, his first two-sack game as a member of the Packers.
Mike Neal added one while Morgan Burnett, Mike Daniels and Datone Jones had a half-sack apiece.
“We love those guys to death,” Burnett said of the front seven, a group he often joined from his safety position to make it an eight-man front in leading the team with 10 tackles. “They make our jobs easy.”
The 54 lost yards kept the Buccaneers under 100 net yards for the game until a 10-yard completion just before the two-minute warning. Tampa Bay finished with just 109 yards and went three-and-out on five straight possessions to start the game and six of the first seven.
“Those are the type of games you enjoy as a pass rusher, when you’re holding them to three-and-out,” said Matthews, who now has a team-best 10 sacks, the fourth time in his career he has hit double digits. “It wasn’t just me. Peppers had two, Mike Neal got after it, guys up and down the board. Especially as a front seven, that’s what you like to see.”
After those first five three-and-outs, the Bucs had zero net yards on the day. By game’s end, running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims combined for only 16 rushing yards on 14 carries, and QB Josh McCown managed just a 48.1 passer rating.
McCown’s frustrating day was punctuated when Packers defensive end Datone Jones intercepted a fluttering pass on the Bucs’ final drive.
The only notable mistake the defense made was allowing a 40-yard pass to Vincent Jackson late in the second quarter, leading to Tampa Bay’s only points. But considering that one play accounted for more than one-third of the Bucs’ yardage, it hardly mattered.
Most important, the Packers defense kept its opponent out of the end zone for a second straight game. Buffalo’s offense didn’t score a touchdown last week, either.
“We’re jelling, we’re molding,” Daniels said. “It’s a growth, a process, and it’s far from done.”
Williams acknowledged the Bills and Bucs don’t have the offensive firepower that playoff teams possess, but the important thing is the consistency the unit has shown since the one bad half two weeks ago against the Falcons.
That’s been the only rough spot on defense since the bye week as the Packers have gone 6-1.
“We’re doing what we need to do, especially for the part of the season we’re at,” Williams said. “We need to be playing good defense.”
The defense is playing its best football of the season heading into an NFC North showdown with the Lions for the division title next week.
With a win, the Packers will finish no worse than the No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC and earn a bye. With a loss, they’ll be a wild-card entrant.
“All I see is Detroit,” Daniels said. “That’s all that matters.”
Concluded Matthews: “We have to keep it going. No letdowns.” COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE