TAMPA – Aaron Rodgers came out the winner against Tom Brady in the latest showdown featuring the GOATs, but it was anything but a gunslinger shootout.
It was more like survival for the Green Bay Packers quarterback, who withstood the pressure of one of the NFL’s best defenses and banked on an early cushion to secure a 14-12 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A crowd of 69,197 witnessed the drama – the largest ever for a regular-season game at Raymond James Stadium – and it might not mark the last time we’ll see Brady and Rodgers face off.
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Remember, these teams could meet again in the NFC playoffs as they did two seasons ago when the Bucs won the NFC title at Lambeau Field en route to their Super Bowl crown.
This time, the sigh of relief for Rodgers and the Pack came down to a two-point conversion attempt with 14 seconds left, when Brady’s pass for Russell Gage in the corner of the end zone was batted away. The Bucs had the opportunity to tie the game with a 13-play, 89-yard drive capped by Brady’s 1-yard throw to Gage over the middle.
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The result left both teams at 2-1.
Rodgers finished 27-of-35 for 255 yards with two TDs, which capped two first-half drives that gave Green Bay a 14-3 halftime edge.
Brady was 31-of-42 for 271 yards with a touchdown. Without suspended receiver Mike Evans and injured wideouts Julio Jones and Chris Godwin, Gage was the go-to target, garnering 12receptions for 87 yards.
And, hey, the outcome gave Rodgers a reprieve in Florida. Finally. Also:
Weary defense: The Packers seized control of the game early in a surprising fashion by keeping the vaunted Bucs defense on the field. Green Bay’s two touchdown drives on consecutive possessions in the first half consisted of a combined 22 plays and more than 21 minutes of possession – in steamy, 90-degree heat. Before the Bucs D forced a turnover on a third-and-goal, the Packers had a second-quarter yardage advantage of 149-2. That lopsided edge says much about wearing down a D that rallied to return to form for the second half after a much-needed halftime break.
Tom Brady’s escape didn’t count: On a third down late in the third quarter, Brady, 45, provided an unusual highlight with his legs – ducking in the pocket to dodge a sack, then sprinting 18 yards for an apparent first down. You’d expect that from Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray. But Brady? Call them vintage wheels. And it’s too bad that it didn’t count. The play was wiped out as third-string tackle Brandon Walton was flagged for holding. Nonetheless, it would have been the third-longest run of Brady’s 23-year NFL career and longest since 2007.
Fresh faces: Cole Beasley was signed by the Buccaneers on Tuesday to bolster an injury-stricken wide receiver corps and immediately made his presence felt by snagging a 4-yard catch on a fourth down to extend the opening drive. On the next play, tight end Kyle Rudolph – signed in the offseason, but making his debut on Sunday – posted his first catch as a Buc for a 12-yard gain. With Evans suspended for the game and injuries still keeping Jones (knee) and Godwin (hamstring) sidelined, the Bucs are desperate for whatever help they can get in the passing game.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Packers hold on to beat Bucs after Tom Brady's pass attempt fails