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Packers draw a Buccaneers team in win-now mode with star QB Tom Brady


Jim Owczarski   | Packers News
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Fifth in a 13-part series on the opponents the Green Bay Packers are scheduled to face during the 2020 regular season.

GREEN BAY - The 2019 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were an interesting team, to say the least, winning four straight at one point and losing six of their nine games by one possession. The No. 3 offense in the NFL also scored the third-most points in the league, but the defense was No. 29 in points allowed.

Erstwhile franchise quarterback Jameis Winston threw for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns, but he also threw 30 interceptions and was sacked 47 times in leading the top passing offense in football. Defensively, the Buccaneers were the top-ranked unit in the league against the run but were No. 30 against the pass.

The challenge for Tampa Bay was putting it all together on a consistent basis, and the young talent on offense and head coach Bruce Arians no doubt enticed Tom Brady to sign in the offseason to help do that. Mike Evans caught 67 passes for 1,157 yards and Chris Godwin caught 86 balls for 1,333 yards. Running back Ronald Jones III rushed for 724 yards in nine starts and caught 31 passes.

Defensively, there is a mix of talent. Veterans Ndamukong Suh (33), Jason Pierre-Paul (31) and Lavonte David (30) are the stalwarts while recent high draft picks in linebacker Devin White, defensive tackle Vita Vea and corner Sean Murphy-Bunting are emerging. Also returning is league-leading sacker Shaquil Barrett.

With the addition of Brady, the Bucs are clearly in a win-now mode and feel they have the right mix of talent to put together a championship run in 2020 with his presence in the locker room and on the field.

Here are three things to know about the Buccaneers:

Tom Brady

After two decades spanning 285 regular-season games, 41 playoff games, nine Super Bowls, six championships and three Most Valuable Player awards, Brady left New England as a free agent and settled on Tampa Bay. In 2019, Brady did not earn a Pro Bowl berth in a season in which he played all 16 games for the first time since 2006. He posted his lowest rating (88.0), completion percentage (60.8%) and yards per attempt (6.8) since 2013. Brady will be 43 by the start of the regular season, making him the oldest starting quarterback in the league since Vinny Testaverde started six times for the 2007 Carolina Panthers at the age of 44.

Young and old

The addition of Brady helped the Buccaneers to trade for retired tight end Rob Gronkowski, who sat out all of 2018. The 31-year-old “Gronk” – a four-time All-Pro and three-time Super Bowl champion – believes he still has something left in the tank. In 2018, he caught 47 passes for 682 yards and three scores. His addition led many to think they might trade 2017 first-round pick O.J. Howard, an underachieving prospect who has not caught more than 34 passes in a season. But at 6 feet, 6 inches and 251 pounds Howard remains an athletic talent and the Buccaneers hope whatever Gronkowski has left can help Howard realize some of his potential.

Can Barrett repeat?

An undrafted free agent out of Colorado State in 2014, Shaquil Barrett spent five seasons in Denver and had a total of 14 sacks. In his first season in Tampa Bay last year, the 27-year-old led the NFL with 19.5 sacks and went to the Pro Bowl. He also made his first career interception and forced six fumbles. It was a true breakout season and now the 6-foot-2, 250-pound outside linebacker will have to do it again to help a defense that was often playing on its heels thanks to 41 turnovers committed by the offense.

Packers schedule glimpse

Oct. 18, at Buccaneers, 3:25 p.m., FOX

Week before: Bye.

Week after: at Houston, Oct. 25.

On the horizon: vs. Minnesota, Nov. 1.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Coach: Bruce Arians (56-39-1 overall, second season with the Buccaneers).

2019 record: 7-9, second in NFC South.

Scoring offense: 28.6 (3rd in NFL).

Total offense: 397.9 (3rd).

Scoring defense: 28.1 (29th).

Total defense: 343.9 (15th).

Series: Packers lead, 33-21-1.

Last meeting: It took extra time for the Packers to top the Buccaneers 26-20 on Dec. 3, 2017, with Aaron Jones winning the game on a 20-yard touchdown run in overtime. It was his only carry of the game. The Buccaneers scored 10 fourth-quarter points to take a 20-17 lead but Mason Crosby forced the extra session with a 22-yard field goal. Jamaal Williams ran for 113 yards and a score while quarterback Brett Hundley ran for 66 as the Packers had just 16 first downs and 276 yards of total offense. Jordy Nelson caught five passes for 17 yards and Davante Adams four for 42. For Tampa Bay, Winston went 21-for-32 for 270 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers sacked him seven times, however, including three by Clay Matthews and 1.5 by Kenny Clark.

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