TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers did just enough to beat Tom Brady and the short-handed Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The NFL MVP threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns, and the Packers withstood a late rally led by Brady to hold off the Bucs for a 14-12 victory in the first meeting between the teams since Tampa Bay won the NFC championship game two seasons ago.
“It’s Week 3. It feels good for sure. There could be some tiebreakers and stuff down the line when you beat a team like this,” Rodgers said after defeating Brady for the first time in three tries since the seven-time Super Bowl champion joined the Bucs in 2020.
“I have a ton of respect for him. He’s been a trailblazer at the position for a long time,” Rodgers said. “I’ve had a lot of fun competing against Tom over the years and it’s always nice to come out on top.”
Rodgers tossed TD passes of 5 yards to Romeo Doubs and 6 yards to Allen Lazard on his team’s first two possessions, while the Bucs’ offense sputtered much of the day without star receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Julio Jones.
For the second straight week, the Bucs (2-1) were held without a touchdown into the fourth quarter. Brady finally got them into the end zone on a 1-yard pass to Russell Gage, capping an 89-yard drive with 14 seconds remaining.
Tampa Bay’s bid to force overtime with a 2-point conversion was thwarted, first by a delay-of-game penalty and then an incomplete pass that was tipped by Packers linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, who also had 14 tackles.
The Packers (2-1) forced two turnovers and held Tampa Bay to fewer than 200 net yards before the Bucs’ final drive.
“One thing we always talk to our guys about is how are you going to respond when adversity strikes, specifically our defense,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “To allow a touchdown there in a two-minute drive and just to reset themselves and play that final play. It was a gritty team win. We had a lot of guys step up.”
Rodgers completed 27 of 35 passes and was intercepted once in the first matchup in NFL history in which each starting quarterback has won at least three regular-season league MVP awards.
Rodgers has won four, including the past two, while Brady has three MVPs.
Ryan Succop kicked a pair of 45-yard field goals for the Bucs, the second trimming Green Bay’s lead to 14-6 midway through the third quarter.
Brady, who won three of four previous head-to-head matchups with Rodgers, finished 31 of 42 passing for 271 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked three times and got minimal help from a rushing attack that produced 34 yards on 14 attempts.
“Too many plays where we were behind the sticks, penalties, turnovers, missed opportunities,” Brady said. “The defense played great. We have to do a better job. We haven’t scored many points all season.”
The 45-year-old Brady actually had Tampa Bay’s longest run of the day, an 18-yard scramble that was nullified by a holding penalty in the third quarter. He broke the brace he wears on his left knee when he slid at the end of the run.
After leading the NFL in completions, passing yards and touchdowns last season, Brady has has thrown for 673 yards, three TDs and one interception through three games.
With Evans serving a one-game suspension for his role in an on-field brawl the previous week at New Orleans and without Godwin and Jones — two of Brady’s other primary receivers — the Bucs were forced to rely on Gage, Breshad Perriman, Scotty Miller, Jaelon Darden and newly signed Cole Beasley against the Packers.
Rodgers led long scoring drives on Green Bay’s first two possessions, building a 14-3 halftime lead that could have been bigger.
Aaron Jones fumbled into the end zone after a 3-yard reception to the Bucs 2, costing the Packers a chance to add at least three points late in the second quarter. The Green Bay offense was never the same after that.
Safety Ryan Logan recovered the fumble that kept the Packers from building on their lead, and later had an interception that led to Succop’s second field goal.
Bucs coach Todd Bowles noted his defense settled after a slow start, keeping Tampa Bay in the game. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough.
“There were a few things that happened that we can’t let happen,” Bowles said. “We had six crucial penalties. We made dumb mistakes.”