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(Sunday, November 8th)
Final Score: Tampa Bay 38, Green Bay 28
Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - It was a game of firsts for the Buccaneers as rookie quarterback Josh Freeman got Tampa Bay off the schneid in his first NFL start by throwing three touchdown passes, two of those coming in the fourth quarter, in a 38-28 come-from-behind win over Green Bay that saw the club and first-year coach Raheem Morris pick up their first win.
Freeman directed a short scoring drive to find Kellen Winslow on a seven-yard TD shortly after Green Bay went up 11 on a bruising 12-yard TD run by Aaron Rodgers two minutes into the fourth. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the hosts down 28-23, but Freeman came back to engineer a 72-yard drive for the go-ahead score.
The Bucs reached the Packers' seven with 4 1/2 minutes to go and on 4th-and-4 Freeman found fellow rookie Sammie Stroughter for his first NFL touchdown. This time the two-point try was successful as Freeman was sharp on a pass to Michael Clayton to take a 31-28 lead.
Tampa Bay kept the pressure on Rodgers and forced a quick punt. The Pack was able to regain possession with 1:35 left on the clock but Rodgers was picked off by safety Tanard Jackson, who raced 35 yards the other way for the final score.
It was Freeman, though, that proved to be the difference in the Bucs earning their first win as the Kansas State product threw for 205 yards on 14-of-31 pass attempts with an interception. Derrick Ward was the recipient of his first career TD pass in the opening quarter.
Taken 17th overall in April's draft, Freeman became Tampa Bay's third starting quarterback this season after the benching of Josh Johnson following four ineffective games leading the offense.
"I felt really relaxed, really at peace. I got a great week of preparation. I knew exactly what we would be seeing," said Freeman of his first professional starting assignment.
It was a complete game effort for Tampa Bay (1-7). The defense stepped up with six sacks and three interceptions of Rodgers.
A heady play from linebacker Geno Hayes resulted in seven as he shot the gap over center to block a punt that was returned 31 yards for a touchdown by veteran corner Ronde Barber.
The Buccaneers snapped an 11-game winless stretch overall dating back to last season.
A banged up Rodgers threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-35 efficiency, but was again let down by his offensive line. The Packers (4-4) came in allowing the most sacks in the league and only added to that total in dropping their second straight game.
Ryan Grant rushed for 96 yards and a score on 21 carries while Donald Driver and James Jones both caught TD passes in the setback.
"We've had two tough losses in a row and we need to handle the adversity that's in front of us," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said while referencing an emotionally draining loss to former Packer Brett Favre and the Vikings.
It looked to be more of the same for the Buccaneers to start the game as Rodgers opened with a 74-yard TD strike to Jones up the right sideline on Green Bay's second play from scrimmage.
Elbert Mack, burned on the deep ball, exacted a measure of revenge by picking off Rodgers on the next series and returning it 36 yards to the Green Bay eight-yard line. Two plays later, Freeman hit Ward on a six-yard score.
"It's pretty frustrating. It was a different game today -- big play, second play of the game, come back throw a pick. The offense didn't do a whole lot," said Rodgers.
The Packers responded by marching 69 yards in 11 plays with Grant's two-yard run putting the finishing touches on the drive for a 14-7 advantage.
The Bucs forced a punt on Green Bay's first series of the second quarter, and tied the game when Hayes went unchecked through the middle of the line for the block and resulting score.
Rodgers then led a methodical drive in which he scrambled for seven on third down to keep things moving before airing it out to Driver for a 32-yard touchdown and a 21-14 edge close to midway through the period.
A series of punts followed, and Freeman shook off his only pick just a possession earlier to lead a series that encompassed 12 plays and 74 yards as Connor Barth's 38-yard field goal made it a 21-17 halftime deficit.
The offenses sputtered during a scoreless third quarter, that ended with Green Bay on the move from its own 38. Rodgers was sacked on second down at the Tampa Bay six-yard line moments into the final quarter but rebounded with his rushing score, bowling over a pair of defenders at the goal line to do so.
It was the Packers' first scoring drive of the season that had also sustained a sack of the QB.
Freeman, who became the youngest starting QB in team history at 21, also ran for 20 yards on four carries...Rodgers ended with 26 rushing yards...Ahman Green totaled 45 yards on six carries to become the franchise's all-time leading rusher -- surpassing Jim Taylor's 8,207 yards...Jones finished with 103 yards on four catches while Greg Jennings had five grabs for 61 yards. Driver accumulated 71 yards on four receptions for Green Bay...Winslow garnered 57 yards on four catches for Tampa Bay, which saw Cadillac Williams gain 56 yards on 16 touches...The Bucs played without their top receiving threat as Antonio Bryant missed his second game of the year due to a lingering knee ailment...Green Bay has a 29-21-1 lead in the all-time series with Tampa Bay, but has lost each of its last three meetings against the Bucs. Tampa Bay was a 30-21 home winner when the teams met in Week 4 of last season...The Buccaneers honored the 30-year anniversary of the 1979 team, Tampa's first to make the playoffs, and donned their throwback creamsicle Orange uniforms...It was Jackson's third straight game with an interception...Clifton Smith racked up 161 total return yards, including an 83-yard kickoff return to help set up Freeman's initial TD toss in the fourth quarter.
11/08 18:52:25 ET