GREEN BAY, Wisc. — Welcome to the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field. Well, except it wasn’t frozen. The Bucs caught a break Sunday. It wasn’t one of those classic sub-zero or snowy December games in Green Bay. In fact, it was downright comfortable with temperatures in the 40s for the whole game. But it still turned out to be a field of horrors for the Bucs.
Here are the grades for the Bucs’ 26-20 overtime loss to the Packers:
NOT SO SPECIAL
A big reason the Bucs lost again? Crummy special teams play. They gave up big kickoff returns: 121 yards on four returns. That’s more than 30 yards a return, and that’s way too much. On one return, kicker Patrick Murray had to make the tackle and that’s never a good thing. Meantime, can the Bucs get through three punt returns in a row without committing a penalty? The biggest special teams blunder was a blocked punt in the second quarter. That led to a Green Bay go-ahead touchdown. What happened? Koetter explained that one of the blockers got "overset,’’ meaning he lined up a little too far one way and then couldn’t catch up when the Packers criss-crossed a couple of would-be punt blockers. Oh, do you know who dialed up that Green Bay punt block? Ron Zook, the former Gators coach who is now Green Bay’s special teams coach. GRADE: D.
You smell Green Bay’s legendary Lambeau Field before you see it. That’s a compliment. Because once you get a couple of miles away from the NFL’s second-oldest stadium (behind Chicago’s Solider Field), you smell the tailgaters. Well, what they’re making, that is. Specifically, you smell the brats. Once inside the stadium, the rest of your senses are overwhelmed with history. Everything is green and yellow and you see names such as Lombardi, Starr, Taylor, Nitschke, Hornung and on and on. And it seems as if every single fan is wearing a jersey, whether it’s a current star such as Aaron Rodgers or Clay Matthews or a former star such as Brett Favre or Reggie White. For history, for tradition, for all-around football vibe, you won’t find anywhere better than Green Bay and, maybe, Pittsburgh. GRADE: A.
Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans was pretty quiet. Just two catches for 33 yards and didn’t make his first catch until the third quarter. "Well, we never go into a game thinking Mike Evans isn’t going to be involved,’’ Koetter said. "We ran the ball well, our screen game was good. We were having protection issues. I mean, there were times when we were trying to get the ball downfield and we couldn’t get the ball down because we didn’t have time.’’ Still, only two catches on six targets is a quiet day for one of Tampa Bay’s biggest pieces. GRADE: C.
THE BARBER IS IN
Huge day for Bucs running back Peyton Barber, who took over for the injured Doug Martin. He had 23 carries for 102 yards. He also caught four balls for 41 yards. Which leads to two questions: Should the Bucs have turned to Barber before now? He had 30 carries before Sunday. The other question is more rhetorical: Isn’t it time the Bucs move on from Martin? GRADE: B.
CAM THE MAN
The Bucs have a heck of a talent in tight end O.J. Howard, but they also have a heck of a tight end in Cameron Brate. Two more touchdown catches, including a spectacular one-handed grab Sunday. "Jameis gave me a good ball and I was lucky enough to hold on,’’ Brate said. Brate now has six TD catches on the season and 14 in two seasons — more than any other tight end in the NFL, along with Seattle’s Jimmy Graham. GRADE: B.