How Todd Bowles’ Bucs have stifled Aaron Rodgers and the Packers

By Carmen Vitali
FOX Sports activities NFC North Author

Tampa hasn’t been form to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers over the past couple of years. 

Buccaneers apart, earlier than the Packers dropped their season opener this yr to a division rival, they dropped their season opener final yr in a lopsided loss to the New Orleans Saints that was performed in Raymond James Stadium attributable to inclement climate in New Orleans. The rating was 38-3. 

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Then there’s Rodgers’ document towards Tampa Bay for the reason that arrival of 1 Todd Robert Bowles. As defensive coordinator of the Bucs, Bowles placed on a clinic towards Rodgers and the Packers. Each video games have been within the 2020 season — one within the common season, one within the postseason, with the latter stinging infinitely extra. Rodgers was intercepted within the sport. He was sacked 5 occasions. And he suffered defeat in yet one more NFC Championship sport.

He, predictably, holds Bowles in excessive regard.

“I believe Todd Bowles has finished a great job of [disguising things] through the years,” Rodgers advised Barstool Sports activities. “I believe he is a extremely good coach. You possibly can all the time inform, schematically, what coaches are the very best based mostly on how the league adjusts.” 

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He went on to elucidate what everyone knows: It is a copycat league. Groups noticed Atlanta attain the Tremendous Bowl underneath the tutelage of then-offensive-coordinator Kyle Shanahan in 2017. He took his offense to San Francisco and in Rodgers’ phrases, now about 9 groups are operating that type of offense — together with the Packers. The identical goes for protection, however Bowles deviates from the norm and as a substitute deploys one thing largely his personal. It follows the identical ideas Mike Zimmer’s defenses did in Minnesota. These teams all the time gave Rodgers bother, and the importance of the groups’ rivalry amplified issues.

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Bowles has been extra profitable towards Rodgers than some other coach can declare to be. Within the two conferences between Rodgers and a Bowles-led protection in Tampa, Rodgers has spent a whole lot of time on the bottom. He is been sacked 9 occasions in two video games, together with the aforementioned 5 occasions within the 2020 NFC Championship that earned the Bucs a visit to the Tremendous Bowl. 

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In Week 6 of the 2020 season, with the Packers taking part in in Tampa, Rodgers not solely was sacked 4 occasions however he was picked off twice, together with simply the third pick-six of his profession due to Bucs cornerback Jamel Dean. Rodgers posted the third-lowest passer score of his profession at simply 35.4.

Dean saved that ball, in fact. He is nonetheless ready for Rodgers to signal it.

However what’s it that makes Bowles’ defenses so efficient towards Rodgers? What does he know that seemingly the remainder of the league does not? 

Truthfully, even he does not appear to have a solution.

“I want I really knew that and I may use it each time, however I have no idea,” he mentioned. “We coated lengthy sufficient for the fellows to get some strain, however you by no means, ever cease him. He could have an off day or the road could let one thing by way of however it’s by no means him. He is in all probability one of many smartest quarterbacks I’ve ever performed towards. I’ve a respect for him as a result of with him, they’re all the time in each ball sport and you may’t say that about all people within the league.”

The true reply probably lies someplace in the truth that there’s a component of shock with Bowles’ defenses each time you see them. They do not look or behave the identical every time. It is arduous to select up on any form of tendencies or patterns. 

“They all the time sort of look comparable so far as the entrance goes to vary, the strain goes to vary,” Rodgers mentioned Wednesday, dryly. “The appears to be like are going to be — there’s a whole lot of various things they throw at you. However they’re all the time adapting their personnel.”

They will additionally use their personnel in several methods. 

Observe:

Why sure, that’s security Jordan Whitehead lined up within the 0-technique as a nostril deal with. What on God’s inexperienced earth do you anticipate as an offensive lineman in case you see that? Bowles’ defenses create confusion — nay, chaos — and if it might probably’t throw Rodgers off, it’s going to at the least throw off the gamers round him.

However make no mistake, the Packers offense, led by Rodgers, can provide that confusion proper again.

“The best way they characteristic and arrange their offense is simply a whole lot of shifting elements,” defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers mentioned. “It actually messes together with your eye self-discipline. They get receivers getting into movement, then a good finish flashing again. Then the play motion and the linebackers get sucked up and someone’s broad open. In the event that they keep again then they hit them with a run. Their offense is ideally suited to [Rodgers’] ability set.”

In an interview with Tony Dungy on Sunday Night time Soccer within the season opener, Bowles went as far as to say seeing Rodgers on the schedule is “scary.” He did not elaborate on precisely what he meant then, however he did now that he is about to face him.

“When you’ve guys that may see all the subject and throw the ball from a bunch of angles and be simply as correct as if no person was round them, that makes them very scary,” Bowles mentioned. “Your complete crew is on discover for 4 quarters. You possibly can’t cheat by hook or by crook. You possibly can’t go to sleep. They do not offer you an opportunity to take a break. And you do not have a breather. You gotta simply consistently be on it till the sport is over as a result of they all the time have the specter of coming again.”

If that wasn’t sufficient, Rodgers can also be armed with a playcaller who is aware of him inside and outside and is proactive in his personal proper.

“LaFleur does a great job of giving him the solutions to the check,” Bowles mentioned. “And by that I imply if it is not the play that you just see, and you then see this, test to that test. It’s like he all the time is aware of the place his get out of jail free card is and a whole lot of quarterbacks do not know that. They know that first choice of their offense and that is it. He is aware of his first, second, third and fourth choice and may eliminate it that rapidly. In order that makes him very particular.”

As ready as Bowles will likely be for Aaron Rodgers come Sunday, it is going to be as much as the gamers to execute it. What do you inform them a few man you simply brazenly known as “scary”?

“We anticipate him to make his performs,” Kacy Rodgers mentioned. “If he makes a play, you simply should go to the following one and preserve taking part in. Sixty minutes is a very long time. Have a brief reminiscence.”

Rodgers involves city with an offense that appears a bit completely different than what the Bucs have seen from the Packers prior to now. Large receiver Davante Adams is gone, and with him, 1 / 4 of the crew’s touchdowns final yr. Inexperienced Bay had one other gradual begin to the season, dropping their season opener to the Minnesota Vikings, however then bounced again emphatically final week towards one other division opponent within the Chicago Bears. They leaned closely not on Rodgers’ arm, as they’ve prior to now, however on the legs of each operating backs A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones. The latter went off for 132 yards dashing and scored as each a runner and receiver. Dillon had 18 carries himself. The Packers could also be figuring issues out by getting the bottom sport extra concerned for now, however Rodgers’ arm will not keep passive for lengthy.

Dealing with one of many league’s notoriously stout dashing defenses this weekend in Tampa may pressure Rodgers to determine issues out by way of the air earlier than he wished. However the Bucs are nonetheless betting he’ll be okay irrespective of who’s throwing the ball. And one other chess match between Bowles and Rodgers will ensue.

“I believe he’s very smart,” Bowles mentioned. “He throws one of many prettiest fade balls. He has one of many quickest releases the place it does not even appear to be he is tossing it. He can toss it. His data of the sport is among the tops within the league, and if we weren’t taking part in him, I really like watching him. That is the reality.”

“Hats off to the man. I am bored with going through him, really,” Bowles laughs, with a touch of exasperation. “You lose much more sleep going through him than you do a whole lot of different quarterbacks.”

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports activities. Carmen had earlier stops with The Draft Community and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, together with 2020, which added the title of Tremendous Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You possibly can comply with Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.


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