Rookie Dexter Jackson approached the fourth game of his pro career like it was his last chance to impress coaches and teammates.
The second-round pick out of Appalachian State had been struggling as a kick returner through three weeks, failing to provide Tampa Bay with the advantageous field position coveted by Coach Jon Gruden.
But Jackson played a pivotal role in Sunday's 30-21 victory against Green Bay, returning three kickoffs for 100 yards before dashing 19 yards with a fourth-quarter punt return that set up Matt Bryant's go-ahead field goal.
"I'm feeding off the guys around me and today I showed I can make plays," said Jackson, who had averaged only 3.0 yards in 10 previous punt returns. "My expectation level heading into this game was huge. At first, everything was a blur, but I trusted myself and used my speed to make a difference."
Jackson, who has yet to post an NFL reception, provided a boost by taking the second-half kickoff 45 yards, but that drive ended with a Brian Griese interception.
With the Packers nursing a 21-20 advantage midway through the fourth quarter, Jackson fielded Derrick Frost's punt at his own 45 and brought it back 19 yards. Six minutes later, Bryant hit from 24 yards out.
"We were noticing his punts were kind of short," Jackson said, "so I made sure I moved up a little. I trusted my blocks and thankfully, I was able to make a play."
Thanks in part to Jackson's solid performance in the return game, the Bucs established an average starting position at their own 42 for their 14 possessions.
INJURY UPDATE: Second-year S Sabby Piscitelli hurt his right elbow in the third quarter and did not return. He was unsure of the severity of the injury after the game.
"I collided with one of their receivers and my elbow kind of went the opposite way," said Piscitelli, whose right elbow was wrapped up tight in the locker room.
RUNNING IN EARNEST: Earnest Graham powered Tampa Bay's 178-yard ground game with a 111-yard effort, including a 47-yard burst in the final minutes that set up his own 1-yard scoring run.
"Earnest is amazing ... he almost had another walk-off home run," quipped C Jeff Faine, referring to Graham's late 68-yard TD run that sealed a Week 2 win against Atlanta.
Graham is averaging a gaudy 5.8 yards per carry and is on pace for 1,336 rushing yards, which would rank second in franchise history behind James Wilder's 1,544 in 1984.
"The offensive line did their job, gave me a cutback lane and I just got off to the races," Graham said. "I wish I would have finished it, but we ended up sticking it in on the next play."
POINT OF ATTACK: RT Jeremy Trueblood knew he faced a difficult challenge Sunday as he lined up opposite Pro Bowl DE Aaron Kampman, who entered the game with an NFL-high 31.5 sacks since 2006.
Kampman was limited to three tackles and seldom got near Brian Griese, who wasn't sacked Sunday as Tampa Bay's line kept Griese upright for the second consecutive week, spanning 97 pass attempts.
"I just tried to be physical against a very good defensive front," said Trueblood, who received minimal help. "Kampman's a great competitor who never slows down. I knew it would be a tough battle, but I wasn't nervous about it. My goal is to make the other guy scared of me."
EXTRA POINTS: Three injured starters - WR Joey Galloway, FB B.J. Askew and G Davin Joseph - were among Tampa Bay's inactives Sunday. DT Ryan Sims, T James Lee, LB Matt McCoy and rookie QB Josh Johnson also didn't dress and Jeff Garcia served as the emergency third QB. ... When LB Derrick Brooks grabbed a deflected pass on the opening play of the second quarter, it marked the first pick thrown by Aaron Rodgers in his first 109 attempts. MLB Barrett Ruud intercepted Rodgers 10 minutes later and DE Gaines Adams picked off a Rodgers pass at midfield with 2:11 remaining to thwart Green Bay's final threat. ... The Packers netted zero yards on the ground in the final three quarters, covering eight rushing attempts.