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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Smith: Some sacks from bad matchups on offensive line

TAMPA -- A day after his offensive line gave up a season-high seven sacks in a 20-3 loss to the Packers, Bucs coach Lovie Smith explained the struggles as a strength of the Packers lining up with an area that hasn't been a strength for Tampa Bay.

"In some games, it's not a good matchup. That wasn't a good matchup," he said. "For whatever reason, we didn't play well. We had some players playing in positions that were tough matchups."

Lovie Smith pointed to two sacks that came on rare substitutions to the line -- backup Garrett Gilkey played two plays as a sixth lineman and extra blocker, and on one, he gave up a sack to linebacker Clay Matthews. Josh Allen, an undrafted rookie who made his NFL debut a week earlier, played nine snaps at right guard for starter Patrick Omameh and was beaten by end Julius Peppers on another sack.

"There was a sack by Matthews on Gilkey. That's a tough duty," Smith said. "Josh Allen, getting him some reps, and Julius Peppers moved in. That's tough duty. Those were just a couple. Overall, their front was a lot better than we were yesterday." …

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Smith excited by high draft choice: "If you're going to be down here, you need to get something from it'

 

Every thorn has its rose. For Bucs coach Lovie Smith, it's the realization that his team could own the first or second pick in each round of the 2015 NFL draft

At 2-13, a loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium would clinch the top spot based on the worst won-loss record of opponents' strength of schedule. A win should net the Bucs no worse than the No. 2 overall pick. Currently, they hold a slight edge over the Tennessee Titans. …

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Defense's stand -- four stops at the 1 -- kept Bucs close

The Bucs' defense celebrates after Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws incomplete on a fourth and one during third quarter action.

DIRK SHADD | Times

The Bucs' defense celebrates after Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws incomplete on a fourth and one during third quarter action.

TAMPA -- On a day when the Bucs offense couldn't muster much of anything, Tampa Bay's defense put up a wall in the third quarter, stopping the Packers at the 1-yard line four straight times to keep the team within a touchdown.

Green Bay led 10-3 when the Bucs punted to open the third quarter, and the Packers drove down the field, going to third down just once in getting to the Tampa Bay 6-yard line.

Packers running back Eddie Lacy was stopped by safety Dashon Goldson at the 1-yard line, and then Lacy was again stopped at the 1 by defensive tackle Akeem Spence. On third and goal, fullback John Kuhn got the ball and again was stopped at the 1 by linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Da'Quan Bowers.

Opting to go for it, the Packers came with an empty backfield on fourth and goal, but Aaron Rodgers' quick pass down the middle, intended for receiver Randall Cobb, was broken up by nickel defensive back Leonard Johnson. …

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Bucs clinch top-two draft pick, get No. 1 with loss

With Oakland beating the Bills on Sunday for the Raiders' third win, the Bucs have locked up a top-two pick in the upcoming draft.

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With Oakland beating the Bills on Sunday for the Raiders' third win, the Bucs have locked up a top-two pick in the upcoming draft.

As it relates to the 2015 NFL draft, the Bucs control their own destiny.

With Oakland beating the Bills on Sunday for the Raiders' third win, the Bucs have locked up a top-two pick in the upcoming draft -- meaning they would have at worst the lesser of prized quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. And if the Bucs lose their regular-season finale next week at home against the Saints, they would pick No. 1 overall, barely edging the Titans on the league's strength-of-schedule tiebreaker.

The Bucs went into the weekend with a slim lead in the SOS tiebreaker -- essentially, if teams finish with the same record, the one whose opponents won fewer games gets to pick first. A pair of underdog winners -- the Texans beating the Ravens and the Giants beating the Rams -- helped the Bucs and hurt the Titans, enough to put the Bucs in control of the top of the draft. …

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Bucs disappointed to see Packer fans 'take over' stadium

It was disheartening for the Bucs to look up into Raymond James Stadium and see thousands of Green Bay fans in green and yellow, enjoying the warm weather and the scoreboard.

DIRK SHADD | Times

It was disheartening for the Bucs to look up into Raymond James Stadium and see thousands of Green Bay fans in green and yellow, enjoying the warm weather and the scoreboard.

TAMPA -- The Packers hadn't been here in five years and always travel well, but it was still disheartening for the Bucs to look up into Raymond James Stadium and see thousands of Green Bay fans in green and yellow, enjoying the warm weather and the scoreboard.

"It was a little shocking, for them to go in and take over our stadium," safety Dashon Goldson said after the 20-3 loss. "Not only to get a win, but take over our stadium. It was kind of surprising to me. I've never seen anything like that."

The announced attendance for the sellout was 64,247, the most for any Bucs home game since the Eagles brought their own green in Dec. 2012. Bucs coach Lovie Smith, familiar with how well the Packers travel from his own days in the NFC North with the Bears, stopped short of saying he was embarrassed by the turnout.

"I wouldn't use that word," Smith said. "I look forward to the day where we're playing good enough football where more of our fans want to come see us play. Right now, we're not. That's what it is. I've been in this situation before, where they've taken it over before. We'll have our day. But right now, we have to take it." …

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A step back: Offensive line allows season-high 7 sacks

The Bucs' offensive line gave up a season-high seven sacks in Sunday's 20-3 loss to Green Bay.

DIRK SHADD | Times

The Bucs' offensive line gave up a season-high seven sacks in Sunday's 20-3 loss to Green Bay.

TAMPA -- If the Bucs offensive line had seemed to take a step forward last week in shifting Demar Dotson to left tackle, there was a pronounced step back Sunday, as the line gave up a season-high seven sacks in a 20-3 loss to Green Bay.

"We didn't do our job today," said Evan Dietrich-Smith, who had played for the Packers until signing with Tampa Bay this spring. "We've got to give him time. We have to do whatever we can do ... We did some good things, and it might not have (always) been on us, but when it's us too many times, we've got to fix that trend."

The Bucs have allowed 49 sacks this season, the fourth-highest total in the NFL and already ahead of the 47 allowed last year, a total that prompted the team's front office to trade or release four of the five starters on the line. The lack of pass protection went along with disappointing run blocking as the team totaled just 16 yards on 14 carries running the ball. …

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Bucs' run game disappears with 16 yards vs. Packers

The Bucs' 16 yards on 14 carries were the lowest yardage total for the team since 1989, and the second-lowest in any NFL game this season.

DIRK SHADD | Times

The Bucs' 16 yards on 14 carries were the lowest yardage total for the team since 1989, and the second-lowest in any NFL game this season.

TAMPA -- The Bucs had hoped to establish their running game Sunday, knowing longer, sustained drives would keep Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense off the field.

"Something we came into the game with (was) to get 5 yards per carry, and we were unable to do that consistently today," starting running back Doug Martin said. "In the future, we want to do that."

Unable to do that consistently? The Bucs weren't able to do it once Sunday, with a long of 4 yards the entire game, finishing with 16 yards on 14 carries, the lowest yardage total for the team since 1989, and the second-lowest in any NFL game this season.

As a result, the Bucs also reset their season low for time of possession for the third week in a row, keeping the ball for just 21:22 while putting their defense on the field for 38:38. The Bucs were outgained by 322 yards, the fourth-largest differential in team history.

"It's tough when you have less than 20 yards rushing," said coach Lovie Smith, who ran just 14 times despite not trailing by more than 10 points until the final three minutes. …

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Bucs can't find offense in 20-3 loss to Packers

TAMPA -- The Bucs defense did its best to limit Aaron Rodgers on the scoreboard, but the Bucs offense barely showed up Sunday, struggling to get even 100 yards of total offense in a 20-3 loss before a sellout crowd at Raymond James Stadium.

With the loss, the Bucs (2-13) remain in position to land the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, but Sunday's loss puts them one game away from finishing winless at home for the first time since 1976. The Packers (11-4) clinched a playoff berth with the win, getting efficient play from Rodgers, who had 235 yards on 24-for-30 passing entering the fourth quarter.

The Bucs went three-and-out on their first five possessions, outgained 236-0 until a 56-yard drive at the end of the first half which netted a 43-yard Patrick Murray field goal to cut the Packers' lead to 10-3 at the half. …

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Live blog: Bucs trail Packers 13-3 in fourth

Greetings from Raymond James Stadium, where the Bucs are still seeking their first home win of the season, no easy task today against a Packers team that can clinch a playoff spot with a win today. Lots of updates coming throughout the game ...

3:10 p.m.: Bucs defense again is stout in the red zone, stopping the Packers inside the 10, but this time they come away with a Mason Crosby field goal to make it a two-score lead at 13-3. There's 10:19 left here in Tampa.

3 p.m.: Bucs defense has stepped up big -- goal-line stand to stop the Packers three times from the 1-yard line and keep this a 10-3 game into the fourth quarter. The Packers have been held to less than 24 points just once in the last 11 games ...

2:25 p.m.: Bucs got the offense going just before half -- 55 yards to set up Patrick Murray's 43-yard field goal to cut the Packers' lead to 10-3 at halftime ...

2:10 p.m.: Things have not improved for the Bucs, who have gone three-and-out on all five possessions and trail 10-0 after a Mason Crosby 42-yard field goal. It's a rough day, yardage-wise, as Packers have 236 and Bucs have zero. 4:55 left in the half ... …

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Bucs make tackle Anthony Collins inactive again

If there was any doubt about the message the Bucs are sending to Anthony Collins, the team's former starter at left tackle was made inactive for the second game in a row for today's game against the Packers.

Collins was benched last week for what Lovie Smith said was a "coach's decision," and after not appearing on the injury report all week, he's not dressing again, raising the possibility his playing days with the Bucs could be done. The Bucs will continue with Demar Dotson starting at left tackle and Oniel Cousins at right tackle, as they shifted to last week. The Bucs have Kevin Pamphile, Josh Allen and Garrett Gilkey active as backup linemen.

Two key defensive players are active and back in the lineup for the Bucs -- DT Clinton McDonald had missed the last three games with a hamstring injury and LB Mason Foster missed the last two with an Achilles injury. …

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Bucs' Tedford, healthy, lands with CFL's B.C. Lions

Two weeks after he was released from his contract by the Bucs, former offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford was formally introduced Friday as the new head coach of the CFL's B.C. Lions, saying he's healthy and eager to return to coaching.

Tedford, 53, underwent a surgical procedure in August to insert two stents near his heart, and after a few weeks of uncertainty, he was placed on indefinite medical leave on Sept. 23, leaving quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo to call the plays for the entire season. Tedford addressed his health on Friday in a story with the Vancouver Sun, saying "I've been good to go for a couple of months."

Two weeks ago, in a statement issued when he was released by the Bucs, Tedford had said the only the indefinite medical leave granted by the Bucs "would allow me the proper amount of time to rest and rehabilitate myself."

Here's a 15-minute video of Tedford being introduced with the Lions -- he makes a single passing reference to the NFL but not the Bucs, and he isn't asked on camera about his health.

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Martin seeks more progress from Bucs' running game

TAMPA -- Bucs running back Doug Martin, who rushed for a season-high 96 yards last week, understands that the more he's on the field Sunday, the less that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is, which is probably a good thing.

"We know what Aaron Rodgers can do, and that's something we talk about with our offense being on the field more, so we can keep their offense off the field," Martin said.

To do that, the Bucs need to sustain their running game into the second half, something they've struggled to do recently. In the last four games, the Bucs have averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in the second half -- Martin, who gained 180 yards on 30 carries in the first half of those games, has just 23 yards in 18 carries in the second half.

Bucs coach Lovie Smith said he didn't know why the team's run game hasn't been as effective in the second half of games.

"If I knew that, we'd be doing something about it," Smith said Friday. "We haven't done as good of a job as we need to during that time on anything, really. All you can do is just keep trying to get it done, to get some production from it." …

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Grand feat: Evans, Jackson could both pass 1,000 yards

It's a quirky statistical footnote in what has been a disappointing Bucs season, but just the same, rookie Mike Evans and veteran Vincent Jackson could become the first Bucs teammates to reach 1,000 receiving yards in the same season Sunday against the Packers.

If both players simply hit their average production, they'll pass the milestone -- Evans comes in with 948 yards, Jackson 931 -- with one more game still left against the Saints at home next week if they fall short.

From an NFL context, it's only so rare -- Green Bay's Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are both already over 1,000, as are Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Denver had two last year, as did Chicago with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

For the Bucs, it's certainly a rare opportunity. They've come painfully close before -- in 2012, Jackson had 1,384 yards, but Mike Williams finished with 996 -- but this is only the fourth time in 39 seasons they've had a pair of 800-yard receivers, let alone 1,000. In the Bucs' first 25 seasons, there were four 1,000-yard receiving seasons total, then a neat run of exactly one each season from 2001-08. …

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Holiday hope? Aaron Rodgers' odd history in Tampa

If you're among that faction of Bucs fans still actively rooting for the team to win, and as such you're searching for morsels of optimism with the Packers and hordes of their fans coming to town, well, here goes.

Aaron Rodgers, for whatever reason, has not played well in Raymond James Stadium.

We readily admit it's been a while since he's played here, so it's a small sample size, from back in the nearly mortal early stages of his NFL career.

Still, Tampa is something of a Kryptonite to his ridiculous career passing statistics. Consider this: In his two games in Tampa, he's not only lost both times, but he's thrown three interceptions in each game. In the other 116 games in his NFL career, in 31 other NFL stadiums combined, he has a total of one game throwing three interceptions.

Pick-sixes? In 3,761 career pass attempts over his 10 NFL seasons, even including the playoffs, Rodgers has thrown just one interception that was returned for a touchdown. And of course, that pick-six came in Tampa, when Tanard Jackson returned an errant throw 35 yards for a score with 35 seconds left in a 2009 game. …

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What has become of Josh Freeman?

Vincent Jackson has kept in touch with him and says he’s back at his home in Kansas City. Gerald McCoy says he has known him since high school and prays he can return to the NFL.

The last time the Packers played at Raymond James Stadium, on Nov. 8, 2009, Josh Freeman made his first NFL start at quarterback and won 38-28.

But since being released by the New York Giants May 30 –his third team in a year -- Freeman has flown beneath the NFL radar. In a league that employs quarterbacks such as Jimmy Clausen and Ryan Lindley, the guy who passed for 13,724 and 80 touchdowns in five NFL seasons is a relative ghost. …

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