TAMPA, Fla. — Things had been going so smoothly for Green Bay that Aaron Rodgers figured the Packers were due for a dose of reality.
The NFL’s highest-scoring offense was virtually unstoppable through the first four weeks of the season and the opening quarter of Sunday’s 38-10 loss to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The last three quarters showed it’s a lot tougher to move the ball and score at will than it seemed during the team’s best start since 2015.
While Brady outplayed Rodgers, the real story was the job the Bucs defense did on the Packers after Green Bay scored a field goal and touchdown on its first two possessions.
“You don’t ever want to lose like this; I felt like we needed a little bit of a wake-up call at some point this season because things have been so good and there’s been so much talk maybe outside the building about the ease with which we’re moving the ball on offense and scoring,” Rodgers said.
The Packers (4-1) entered Sunday as the first team in league history to score at least 150 points without committing a turnover in the first four games.
They were averaging 445.5 yards and 38 points per game. And it looked like they might be headed for another big day when Rodgers built a 10-0 lead while controlling the ball for just over 12 minutes and limiting Tampa Bay to just five offensive plays in the opening quarter.
Two interceptions within a three-pass span of the second quarter — one of them returned for a touchdown — changed the game. By halftime, Green Bay trailed 28-10 and the Bucs’ defense never let up.
The loss stopped a nine-game regular-season winning streak.
“You can never get comfortable in this league. As soon as you get comfortable, you get your butt whipped,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “I’m not saying that’s what happened. Give the Bucs all the credit. They came to play. They beat us in every facet, from coaching to playing to just going out there and being more physical and executing.
“I think everybody needs to be critical of themselves,” LaFleur said. “That’s the only way you learn and the only way you can bounce back and get better from this.”
The Packers finished with a season-low 201 yards, just 52 in the second half.
Rodgers 16 of 35 for 160 yards with no touchdowns and had his first game with multiple interceptions since 2017. The Packers yielded four sacks after only allowing three in the first four games.
“We never got into a very good rhythm. It definitely wasn’t my best game in terms of getting in the personnel and play-calling into the huddle,” LaFleur said.
“We looked really slow getting out of the huddle. I think there was a lot of thinking going on and if you look back at our previous four games, we hadn’t had a lot of mental errors,” the coach added. “But that falls on me. I gotta do a better job with our guys, making sure they’re dialed in, knowing what we’re asking of them and then ultimately those guys gotta take it out to the field and go out and execute.”
Rodgers said the Packers have to learn from the loss.
“I don’t think you want to totally flush something like this. I think you have to be as critical as you are during the wins as you are during the stinkers like tonight,” the quarterback said.
“It starts with the preparation, having a better week of practice, and then we have to play better. When you’re playing a really good defense like that … we’ve got to be able to move the ball efficiently, to get the ball out of my hand, to get open on time, and obviously I have to take care of the ball better.”