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 Inexperienced 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 resulting from inclement climate in New Orleans. The rating was 38-3. 

Then there’s Rodgers’ report 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 recreation. He was sacked 5 occasions. And he suffered defeat in one more NFC Championship recreation.

He, predictably, holds Bowles in excessive regard.

“I think Todd Bowles has done a good job of [disguising things] over the years,” Rodgers informed Barstool Sports activities. “I think he’s a really good coach. You can always tell, schematically, what coaches are the best based on how the league adjusts.” 

He went on to elucidate what everyone knows: This can be a copycat league. Groups noticed Atlanta attain the Tremendous Bowl beneath 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 an alternative deploys one thing principally his personal. It follows the identical ideas Mike Zimmer’s defenses did in Minnesota. These teams at all times 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 quite a 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. 

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 would not? 

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

“I wish I actually knew that and I could use it every time, but I do not know,” he stated. “We covered long enough for the guys to get some pressure, but you never, ever stop him. He may have an off day or the line may let something through but it’s never him. He’s probably one of the smartest quarterbacks I’ve ever played against. I have a respect for him because with him, they’re always in every ball game and you can’t say that about everybody in the league.”

The true reply doubtless 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 laborious to select up on any kind of tendencies or patterns. 

“They always kind of look similar as far as the front is going to change, the pressure is going to change,” Rodgers stated Wednesday, dryly. “The looks are going to be — there’s a lot of different things they throw at you. But they’re always adapting their personnel.”

They’re going to additionally use their personnel in numerous 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 when you see that? Bowles’ defenses create confusion — nay, chaos — and if it may’t throw Rodgers off, it will no less than throw off the gamers round him.

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

“The way they feature and set up their offense is just a lot of moving parts,” defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers stated. “It really messes with your eye discipline. They get receivers going in motion, then a tight end flashing back. Then the play action and the linebackers get sucked up and somebody’s wide open. If they stay back then they hit them with a run. Their offense is ideally suited to [Rodgers’] skill 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 have guys that can see the entire field and throw the ball from a bunch of angles and be just as accurate as if nobody was around them, that makes them very scary,” Bowles stated. “Your entire team is on notice for four quarters. You can’t cheat one way or the other. You can’t fall asleep. They don’t give you a chance to take a break. And you don’t have a breather. You gotta just constantly be on it until the game is over because they always have the threat of coming back.”

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

“LaFleur does a good job of giving him the answers to the test,” Bowles stated. “And by that I mean if it’s not the play that you see, and then you see this, check to that check. It’s like he always knows where his get out of jail free card is and a lot of quarterbacks don’t know that. They know that first option in their offense and that’s it. He knows his first, second, third and fourth option and can get rid of it that quickly. So that makes him very special.”

As ready as Bowles will probably be for Aaron Rodgers come Sunday, it’ll be as much as the gamers to execute it. What do you inform them a couple of man you simply brazenly referred to as “scary”?

“We expect him to make his plays,” Kacy Rodgers stated. “If he makes a play, you just have to go to the next one and keep playing. Sixty minutes is a long time. Have a short memory.”

Rodgers involves city with an offense that appears a bit totally different than what the Bucs have seen from the Packers previously. Vast receiver Davante Adams is gone, and with him, 1 / 4 of the workforce’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 previously, 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 recreation 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 via the air before he needed. 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 think he is highly intelligent,” Bowles stated. “He throws one of the prettiest fade balls. He has one of the quickest releases where it doesn’t even look like he’s tossing it. He can toss it. His knowledge of the game is one of the tops in the league, and if we weren’t playing him, I love watching him. That’s the truth.”

“Hats off to the guy. I’m tired of facing him, actually,” Bowles laughs, with a touch of exasperation. “You lose a lot more sleep facing him than you do a lot of other 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 may comply with Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.


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