The NFL’s Battle of the Bays on Sunday — with its marquee matchup of two late-career, future first-ballot Hall of Fame passers — came down to a simple thing.
One had time to throw, the other didn’t.
Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady did, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers didn’t.
Final score: Brady’s Buccaneers 38, Rodgers’ Packers 10.
Sure, Rodgers and the Pack dominated the first quarter to jump out to a 10-0 lead. In the process the 36-year-old completed eight of 12 passes for 107 yards. He looked indomitable.
But thereafter it was all Brady and the Bucs, to the tune of 38 unanswered points.
In starting a season as sharply as he ever has in his glorious 13 seasons at the helm of the Packers offence, Rodgers had been sacked only three times, in four wins without a loss. And didn’t throw a single interception.
Sunday? Sacked four times, intercepted twice. And hit 12 times by the underrated, merciless Bucs pass rush. The first pick came early in the second quarter, and turned the game. Thereafter Rodgers went 8-of-21 for 53 yards, before being yanked midway through the fourth quarter with victory out of reach.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians praised his defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles, for how he mixed up his defensive fronts, coverages and looks.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Aaron confused,” Arians said.
Rodgers’ replacement, Tim Boyle, got hit and sacked on his lone dropback. That kind of day.
Meantime, Brady wasn’t sacked once. His offensive line protected him so well he was hit only four times. The 43-year-old, of course, always helps himself by deciding on a target so quickly, so often, the ball is away usually well before a defender can lay a glove on him.
It was classic big-game Brady. He’s still got it. If not yet for four full quarters yet as a Buc.
The game was decided in the second and third quarters, when Brady completed 15 of 22 for 151 yards, including his first touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski as Buccaneers. Gronk had a game-high 78 receiving yards, on five catches.
If running back Ronald (RoJo) Jones hadn’t run for 113 yards and two scores, and the Tampa Bay defence not so fearsome, Arians might have needed Brady to throw for more than 166 yards on the night.
The Bucs were so sharp and motivated after blowing a win at Chicago two Thursdays ago, they did not commit a single penalty — for only the second time in franchise history.
Was it a signature win for the Bucs? We’ll see.
Tampa Bay is now 4-2, Green Bay 4-1.
BAD TO THE BONE
Which is the worst team in the NFL this season? Hoo-boy, there are a slew of contenders — more than usual by the third week of October, it seems.
The two New York teams — both 0-5 after Canadian Thanksgiving — already were effectively out of playoff contention.
The Jets, though, are now the league’s only winless team after dropping to 0-6 Sunday in truly Jets fashion — getting shut out in the highest-scoring season so far in the NFL’s 100-year history. The Jets lost to the Dolphins in Miami, 24-0.
Surely, head coach Adam Gase won’t last much longer in Year 2 of his short, miserable reign with the Green-and-White.
The Giants, though, scored their first win of the season Sunday —only when practically-as-inept, one-win Washington stupidly went for two after scoring a final-minute touchdown, to pull within one point. On the decisive conversion attempt, Washington QB Kyle Allen scrambled around frantically before throwing the ball into the ground.
Both teams are 1-5, just a whisker behind the eroding Philadelphia Eagles (1-4-1), whose late-game comeback against Baltimore fell short on their own botched two-point conversion attempt.
The Giants play at the Eagles on Thursday. Heart be still.
The Houston Texans and their up/down QB Deshaun Watson finally had a solid day on offence this season, but — like the Buffalo Bills five days earlier — their defence could do little to slow down Titans RB Derrick Henry, QB Ryan Tannehill and the buzz-saw Tennessee attack.
Tennessee (5-0) is feasting on everyone. Houston (1-5) is done like dinner.
The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) let it be known they aren’t out of the running for the No. 1 overall draft pick, despite the Jets’ seeming early-season lock on it. The Jags lost meekly at home, 34-16, to a Detroit Lions team that had won once since October of LAST year.
That leaves two other miserable teams that squared off Sunday.
And it was maybe the most head-scratching result of the day, if not the season. Winless Atlanta blew away the host Minnesota Vikings, 40-23 in a game that wasn’t that close. Both teams are now 1-5.
If you have any idea how Kirk Cousins will perform from week to week, kindly share that info with me by each Friday before I pick my weekly NFL winners.
Last Sunday night, Cousins did more than enough for Minnesota to defeat maybe the NFL’s best team, the undefeated Seahawks, in a last-moment 27-26 loss in Seattle.
This Sunday, Cousins didn’t do nearly enough in their own stadium to defeat maybe the NFL’s worst team — a reeling Falcons outfit that had quit on the season only seven days earlier with the firing of their GM and head coach.
The Vikings’ first-half possessions against maybe the league’s worst defence ended like this: interception, punt, punt, turnover on downs, interception, interception, capitulation-handoff.
Right, three first-half picks by Cousins. He padded his day with a Tonka dump-truck full of garbage-time stats. So what.
Did Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer give any thought to benching Cousins during his struggles?
“No,” Zimmer replied tersely.
Between salary and bonuses, Cousins is earning $40 million this season — all guaranteed.
Forty-mil just doesn’t go as far as it used to.
The Vikings are the most disappointing team this season. And that’s saying something.
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