Tampa Bay’s ‘stout defense’ awaits Packers’ visit

GREEN BAY – It’s only been two games, but the numbers the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense has put up jump off the page.

Just 13 points allowed, best in the league. Ten sacks, also tops. Six takeaways, tied for third, one returned for a score.

“You could argue they could be the best defense in the National Football League,” Head Coach Matt LaFleur said Wednesday.

San Francisco and Buffalo are others off to hot starts, and the full season will sort out the final rankings, but Tampa Bay is the immediate challenge awaiting the Packers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

Led by Lavonte David and Devin White at inside linebacker, the massive Vita Vea in the middle of the defensive front, and a ball-hawking back end, the Buccaneers possess a long list of traits that make life difficult for opponents.

LaFleur’s description included the following words: speed, aggressiveness, complete, sound, disguising, complex, effort … and more would’ve emerged had he kept talking.

Of Green Bay’s many priorities to succeed in this matchup, one word carries the most weight – protect, as in both Aaron Rodgers and the football.

Last week, the Saints were involved in a defensive struggle with the Bucs until a slew of turnovers tilted the game Tampa Bay’s way. Both LaFleur and Rodgers referenced how the Buccaneers punch at the football, and a secondary that features a top cornerback tandem in Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean, plus Antoine Winfield Jr. and Sean Murphy-Bunting, has the ball skills to take advantage of any mistakes.

Rodgers noted the biggest difference between the Bucs’ defense now and when the Packers last faced them (twice) in the 2020 season is Winfield, who was a rookie safety then but playing more slot corner now and reminding Rodgers of his namesake father, a longtime and highly respected opponent with the Vikings.

“He can play anywhere,” Rodgers said of the younger Winfield. “He’s talented at multiple positions, can play in the slot, can catch the ball, can cover, can tackle, just like his dad. Can hit. He’s a special player.”

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