1:00 PM ET, November 8, 2009
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
With the hits on Aaron Rodgers beginning to take their toll, the Packers look to take advantage of a matchup with the winless Buccaneers on Sunday.
Green Bay (4-3) was hurt by its former star quarterback in a 38-26 loss to Minnesota and Brett Favre last Sunday. Rodgers fell to 0-2 against his one-time mentor despite throwing for 287 yards and three touchdowns without getting picked off.
If not for all the pressure he faced, Rodgers may have had an even bigger game. He was sacked six times, suffering a sprain on one foot and a sprained toe on the other.
McCarthy expects Rodgers to play against Tampa Bay (0-7), but the Packers need to find a way to give him better protection. Rodgers has been sacked a league-worst 31 times after being taken down 34 times all of last season, but has still managed to complete 65.3 percent of his passes for 1,989 yards and 14 TDs with two interceptions.
"Our sack numbers are clearly out of balance," said McCarthy, who is examining his options on the offensive line. "That's something we'll continue to work through."
McCarthy may replace rookie left tackle T.J. Lang with veteran Chad Clifton, who hasn't played a full game since the opener due to an ankle injury, and right tackle Allen Barbre is in danger of being benched in favor of Mark Tauscher.
Green Bay gave up a combined five sacks to Vikings defensive ends. The Packers now must contend with end Jimmy Wilkerson, who has 5 1/2 sacks, but he has been the Buccaneers' only real pass-rushing threat.
Tampa Bay's 11 sacks rank 29th in the NFL. Opposing quarterbacks have a 102.1 passer rating versus the Buccaneers, throwing 16 TDs.
Green Bay hasn't been much better at getting to the quarterback, totaling 12 sacks. Packers veterans continue to criticize defensive coordinator Dom Capers' new 3-4 defense.
Defensive end Cullen Jenkins was outspoken after Green Bay failed to sack Favre for the second time this season, saying the team is "in handcuffs" in Capers' scheme.
"It's tough," Jenkins said. "You come into the season with new stuff and you're told we're going to give you opportunities to do this and do opportunities to do that, and then you're not given them."
Cornerback Charles Woodson spoke out about Capers' play selection after the Packers' first loss to the Vikings on Oct. 5, but declined to point fingers after the last matchup.
After giving up 30 points or more for the third time this season, Green Bay will try to bounce back as it faces Tampa Bay rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, who is set to make his first start.
Freeman, the 17th pick in this year's draft, will try to boost an offense that has averaged 13.7 points. After sitting behind Byron Leftwich and Josh Johnson for seven weeks, Freeman comes off the Buccaneers' bye confident that he's ready for the challenge.
"Obviously, it's something that's very exciting to me. It's something that I'm not taking lightly," said Freeman said, whose only NFL action was two series in the fourth quarter of a 35-7 loss to New England on Oct. 25.
"I come out with a different swagger, I guess, because I'm the guy who's taking the majority of the snaps, and I've got to go out and radiate that type of deal or that type of swagger, so my teammates can catch on to it."
Freeman completed 2 of 4 passes for 16 yards versus the Patriots and was sacked twice. He's taking over a Buccaneers club that has lost 11 straight, the franchise's longest skid since dropping 26 in a row during its first two seasons.
Five of Tampa Bay's losses have been by double digits.
"Everything we've done to this point is who we are," first-year coach Raheem Morris said. "These guys are holding up, but we've got to do more than hold up. ... Holding up got you to 0-7. We're here to fight through, we're here to power through, we're here to be our best selves."
Tampa Bay beat visiting Green Bay 30-21 on Sept. 28, 2008, in the teams' last meeting as Rodgers was sacked three times and threw three interceptions. The Packers have lost six of their last seven road games against the Bucs.
More from ESPN.com
Schefter: Potent Packers poised for strong finish
Adam Schefter's Blitz: A favorable closing schedule could help Green Bay, which has been unstoppable at home, earn the NFC's top seed.
Packers-Buccaneers: 10 observations
After breaking down film of both teams, Scouts Inc. offers 10 things to watch in this week's Packers-Buccaneers matchup.
1. If you're the Packers, run, run and run some more: Green Bay should stick with a heavy dose of Ryan Grant in Tampa Bay. It will be very tempting to hit big plays against the Buccaneers' suspect secondary, but those could come off of play-action once the Packers' ground dominance is established. This obviously would help keep Aaron Rodgers from taking a ton of hits behind his weak offensive line.
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|Avg Points Allowed||21.5||28.9|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||GB|
|Rush Yds Allowed||GB|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Tampa Bay leads 5-2|
|Sep 28, 2008||GB 21, @TB 30|
|Sep 25, 2005||GB 16, TB 17|
|Nov 16, 2003||GB 20, @TB 13|
|Nov 24, 2002||GB 7, @TB 21|
|Nov 4, 2001||GB 21, TB 20|
|Oct 7, 2001||GB 10, @TB 14|