by Carmen Vitale
North FOX Sports NFC writer
Tampa hasn’t been kind to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the past two years.
Regardless of the Buccaneers, before the Packers dropped their season opener this year to a division rival, they dropped their season opener last year in a lopsided loss to the New Orleans Saints played at Raymond James Stadium due to bad weather in New Orleans. The score was 38-3.
Then there’s Rodgers’ record against Tampa Bay since the arrival of Todd Robert Bowles. As the Bucs’ defensive coordinator, he put the Bowles into a clinic against the Rodgers and Packers. They were both games in the 2020 season – one in the regular season, one in the post-season, and the last infinitely more stinging. Rodgers was intercepted in the match. He was sacked five times. And suffered defeat in another match of the NFC Championship.
He is, predictably, highly respected by the Bulls.
“I think Todd Bowles did a good job [disguising things] Over the years, “Rodgers told Bristol Sports.” I think he’s a really good coach. You can always select the top coaches schematically based on how the league is modified.”
He went on to explain what we all know: This is my copycat. Teams saw Atlanta reach the Super Bowl under the tutelage of then offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in 2017. He took his attack on San Francisco and in Rodgers’ words, now about nine teams operate that attacking style — including the Packers. Same goes for defense, but Bulls deviates from the norm and instead posts something of his own. It follows the same concepts as Mike Zimmer’s defenses in Minnesota. These combinations have always been causing problems for Rodgers, and the importance of the rivalry between the teams amplifies matters.
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Bowles has had more success against Rodgers than any other coach could claim. In two encounters between Rodgers and a Bulls-led defense in Tampa, Rodgers spent a lot of time on the ground. He’s been sacked nine times in two games, including the aforementioned five in the 2020 NFC Championship that earned the Bucs a trip to the Super Bowl.
In Week 6 of the 2020 season, with the Packers playing in Tampa, Rodgers was not only sacked four times, but picked twice, including his third pick-up of his career thanks to cornerback Jamal Dean. Rodgers recorded the third lowest rating for his career pass at just 35.4.
Dean kept that ball of course. Rodgers is still waiting to sign him.
But what makes Bowles’ defenses so effective against Rodgers? What does he know that the other members of the league don’t seem to know?
Honestly, he doesn’t even seem to have an answer.
“I wish I knew that already and could use it every time,” he said, “but I don’t know.” “We’ve covered long enough for the guys to get some pressure, but you never stop him. He might have a day off or he might leave the streak something but he never is. He’s probably one of the smartest quarterbacks ever. I played against him. I respect him because he’s With him, they are always in every game with the ball and you can’t say that about everyone in the league.”
It is possible that the real answer lies somewhere in the fact that there is an element of surprise with the Bulls’ defenses every time you see them. They don’t look or act the same every time. It’s hard to recognize any kind of tendencies or patterns.
“They look kind of the same as the front will change, the pressure will change,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “The look will be – there are a lot of different things they throw at you. But they always adapt their people.”
They will also use their people in different ways.
Why yes, this is Jordan Whitehead Safety Lined up in Tech 0 as a nose treatment. What would you expect on God’s Green Earth as an offensive lineman if you saw that? Bulls defenses create confusion – no, chaos – and if you can’t get rid of Rodgers, you will at least eliminate the players around him.
But make no mistake, the Packers attack, led by Rodgers, can give that right-back confusion.
“The way they look and perform their attack is just a lot of moving parts,” defensive coordinator Cassie Rodgers said. “It really messes with your eye discipline. They get receivers moving, then a narrow end flashes back. Then the playback and lineback movement is absorbed and one of them opens wide. If they stay behind, they hit them with a run. They are ideally suited to their offense.” [Rodgers’] skill set.
In an interview with Tony Dungey on Sunday Night Football for the season opener, the Bulls went so far as to say seeing Rodgers on the schedule is “scary”. He didn’t elaborate on exactly what he meant at the time, but he did now as he was about to confront him.
“When you have guys who can see the whole field and throw the ball from a bunch of angles and be accurate as if there’s no one around them, it makes them very intimidating,” Bowles said. “Your whole team is in notification for four quarters. You can’t cheat one way or the other. You can’t sleep. They don’t give you a chance to take a break. And you don’t have a break. You have to keep playing constantly until the game is over because they always have the risk of coming back.”
If that wasn’t enough, Rodgers is also armed with a play communicator who knows him inside and out and is proactive in his own right.
“Lafleur does a good job of giving him the answers to the test,” Bowles said. “And by that I mean if it’s not the play that you see, then you see this, check that choice. It’s like he always knows where he’s coming out of his jail free pass and a lot of the quarterbacks don’t know that. They know the first choice in their attack and that’s it. He knows his first, second, third and fourth choices and he can get away with it so quickly. That’s what makes him so special.”
As the Bowles get ready for Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, it will be up to the players to execute them. What do you tell them about the man you openly called “scary”?
“We expect him to do his plays,” Cassie Rodgers said. “If he makes a play, you just have to move on to the next stage and keep playing. Sixty minutes is a long time. You have a short memory.”
Rodgers comes into town with an offense that looks a little different than what the Bucs have seen from the Packers in the past. Wide receiver Davante Adams is gone, and with it, a quarter of the team’s relegation last year is gone. Green Bay had another slow start to the season, dropping the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, but then rebounding conclusively last week against another class opponent in the Chicago Bears. They leaned heavily not on Rodgers’ arm, as they had done in the past, but on the legs of my running back AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones. The latter sprinted for 132 yards and scored as a runner and receiver. Dillon had 18 carry himself. The Packers might be figuring things out by making the ground game more involved for now, but Rodgers’ arm won’t stay passive for long.
Facing one of the league’s notoriously rushing defenses this weekend in Tampa could force Rodgers to find things up in the air sooner than he wants. But the Bucs are still betting he’ll be fine no matter who throws the ball. There will be another chess match between Bulls and Rodgers.
“I think he’s very smart,” said Bowles. “He throws one of the most beautiful lackluster balls. He has one of the fastest shots as he doesn’t even seem to throw it. He can throw it. His knowledge of the game is one of the best in the league, and if we don’t play him, I love watching him. That’s the truth.”
Bowles laughs with a hint of exasperation: “Accept the man. I’m sick of confronting him, actually.” “You lose a lot more sleep that you encounter than you do in a lot of other players.”
Carmen Vitali covers NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen has had previous hiatus with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added a Super Bowl Champion title (and a Boat Parade participant) to her resume. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at Tweet embed.
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