GREEN BAY, Wis. – For the third time in as many years, the Green Bay Packers will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The living-legend quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, will be the national focus.
The internal focus of the quarterbacks, however, is improvement. With the Monday night slate to be played, the Packers are 25th in the NFL in scoring with 17.0 points per game while the Buccaneers are 20th with 19.0 points per game. In 2020, when the teams played in the regular season and again with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the Packers were No. 1 in scoring and the Bucs were No. 3.
“I’m just trying to temper expectations,” Rodgers said after a mostly dominating 27-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night. “Obviously, I’m going to enjoy the heck out of this one tonight, but we’ve got a big one next week, a tough road trip, and it’s got to be better. This was better than Week 1 but we’ve got to be better than this if we want to compete with Tampa.”
Brady was singing a similar tune after a 20-10 victory at the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The Buccaneers are a woeful 25th in total offense, 22nd on third down and 30th in the red zone.
“It’s always exciting to go up against the good teams, and I feel like we faced two good teams earlier in the year that we started with,” Brady said on the SiriusXM podcast Let’s Go! with Tom Brady, Larry Fitzgerald and Jim Gray. “We’re facing a third one now and we’ve got to rise to the challenge. And we’re playing at home for the first time; it’s our home opener. I’m excited to be out there in front of our home crowd. But it’s going to take better football on offense than what we’ve played. We’ve got to start playing the way that we’re capable. And I’ve got to start doing a better job, and it starts this week.”
Brady and Rodgers are the gold standards. Brady has the ultimate success with an unfathomable seven Super Bowl wins. He has the individual success, too. The 45-year-old is No. 1 in NFL history in a bunch of categories, including yards (84,922) and touchdown passes (626).
Rodgers is No. 1 all-time in touchdown-to-interception ratio. Against Chicago, he became the fifth quarterback with 450 touchdown passes. With 451 touchdown passes vs. 94 interceptions, he’s got an outside shot at reaching 500 touchdown passes before he throws his 100th interception.
As two of football’s quarterbacking icons, the focus will be on them this week. Their focus will be on getting better offensively to meet the challenge on the other side of the football. The Buccaneers have allowed just 13 points in two games. Green Bay’s defense, which considers itself one of the best in the business, has caught Brady’s attention.
“It’s a tough game. It’s a big challenge,” Brady said. “I got a lot of studying on the plane last night. It’s a new defensive coordinator since the last time we played them and they have some really talented players on defense, really physical up front, some great edge rushers. Rashan Gary is a former Michigan guy that I love and he’s a great player, rushes the quarterback so well. They have really athletic linebackers, first-round pick this year [Quay Walker joining All-Pro De’Vondre Campbell].
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“And then guys in the secondary, Jaire Alexander’s one of the great young corners in the game. I think one of the highest paid guys in the game, too. So, they’re good at the secondary, they’re very good at linebacker, they get a lot of pass rush. They have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time in Aaron leading them and they played great last night. I watched a lot of that game. We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us.”
Rodgers and coach Matt LaFleur agree about the challenge that awaits. In a world filled with hyperbole, LaFleur saying Brady is “one of the greatest to every do it” seems like an enormous understatement.
“It’s going to be a great challenge because they’ve got stars in every phase of their ball,” LaFleur said. “Being around a bunch of those guys at the Pro Bowl, got a lot of respect for the players. It’s going to be a great challenge for us to go down to Tampa in their environment and we’re going to have to be our best.”
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