Packers linebacker Clay Matthews reacts to his third-quarter sack of Bills quarterback Trent Edwards during the home opener at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Sunday. Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette
Packers receiver Donald Driver leaps to the stands after his third-quarter touchdown catch against the Bills during the home opener at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Sunday. Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette
Packers 34, Bills 7
Buffalo 0 7 0 0 — 7
Green Bay 13 0 14 7 — 34
GB — FG Crosby 44, 11:49.
GB — FG Crosby 24, 7:35.
GB — Jackson 1 run (Crosby kick), :11.
Buf — Jackson 3 run (Lindell kick), 10:49.
GB — Driver 7 pass from Rodgers (Crosby kick), 8:32.
GB — Rodgers 9 run (Crosby kick), 1:56.
GB — J.Jones 30 pass from Rodgers (Crosby kick), 11:41.
A — 70,741.
First downs 14 18
Total Net Yards 186 346
Rushes-yards 32-124 27-91
Passing 62 255
Punt Returns 1-0 3-22
Kickoff Returns 7-192 2-61
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 2-9
Comp-Att-Int 11-18-2 19-29-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 4-40 0-0
Punts 5-46.4 3-40.3
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-0
Penalties-Yards 4-35 6-49
Time of Possession 29:04 30:56
RUSHING — Buffalo, Lynch 17-64, Jackson 9-39, T.Edwards 3-12, Parrish 1-4, Spiller 1-3, McIntyre 1-2. Green Bay, Kuhn 9-36, Jackson 11-29, Rodgers 5-20, Nance 2-6.
PASSING — Buffalo, T.Edwards 11-18-2-102. Green Bay, Rodgers 19-29-0-255.
RECEIVING — Buffalo, Spiller 4-23, St.Johnson 3-31, Parrish 2-34, Stupar 2-14. Green Bay, Finley 4-103, Driver 4-38, Jennings 3-36, J.Jones 3-32, Nelson 2-26, Johnson 1-11, Jackson 1-10, D.Lee 1-(minus 1).
MISSED FIELD GOALS — None.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers looks for throwing room against Bills linebacker Keith Ellison in the fourth quarter during the home opener at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Sunday. Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette
Conservative play calling and quarterback play can take an undermanned team only so far in the NFL.
In the Buffalo Bills’ case, it kept them relatively competitive with the Green Bay Packers for one half Sunday. But that was about it in the regular-season opener at Lambeau Field, where the Packers’ huge advantages at quarterback, receiver and pass rush made this game as stark a mismatch as the 34-7 final score suggests.
“That’s what we need to do to teams, we need to overwhelm them,” Packers defensive end Ryan Pickett said. “They come out fighting hard, but you just keep the pressure on them and eventually they’ll break. I felt like we did a good job keeping the pressure on them all game, and in the end our talent and plays and players took over.”
The win sets up a big early-season matchup next week between the NFC North Division’s two leaders, the Packers at the Bears. Both have opened the season 2-0 — the Bears won at Dallas on Sunday — and have jumped two games ahead of 0-2 Minnesota.
Sunday’s game probably didn’t reveal anything new about the Packers, considering the status of the two teams. The Packers, in their fifth season in coach Mike McCarthy’s program, have the makings of a Super Bowl contender. The Bills are starting over with a new coach in Chan Gailey and one of the least talented rosters in the league.
The differences start at quarterback, where the enormous gap in arm strength and athleticism between Aaron Rodgers and the Bills’ Trent Edwards was enough to determine the outcome.
Rodgers also has an array of talent to throw to in tight end Jermichael Finley (four catches for 103 yards) and receivers Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jordy Nelson (12 catches combined), whereas Edwards has only one playmaker in the passing game, receiver Lee Evans, and was unable to complete even a single ball to him.
The Packers also featured the best defensive players, not only in cornerback Charles Woodson, who was the NFL defensive player of the year last season, but also in outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who has been dominating the first two weeks with back-to-back three-sack games.
Gailey acknowledged that talent gap with his play calling from start to finish. His plan was to shorten the game by running the ball with halfbacks Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, and he stuck to it even when the Bills fell behind 13-0 in the first quarter, and again as the Packers’ lead ballooned in the second half. Aside from an 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, the Bills did basically nothing while putting up the kind of run-to-pass differential (32 runs to 22 passes) usually reserved for teams protecting a lead.
That’s a tough way to try to win against the NFL’s top-ranked run defense from last year.
“We felt like the best way to attack (the Packers) was to run the football, try to keep third downs in manageable distance, convert those and get the ball down the field,” Gailey said. “That was our thought process today. It worked on one drive and didn’t work the rest of the time.”
Or, as Packers linebacker Nick Barnett put it: “They kept running and running. They couldn’t throw the ball, to be honest with you.”
Edwards barely broke the 100-yard mark in passing yards (he had 102), finished with a rotten passer rating (37.0), and threw second-half interceptions to linebacker Brandon Chillar and rookie safety Morgan Burnett that sent the Packers on their way to the blowout.
On most of his dropbacks, Edwards was sacked or harried by Matthews, defensive end Cullen Jenkins or Barnett. After two games, it’s apparent Matthews deserves to be highlighted in defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ scheme and is on his way to monster season if he’s not waylaid by the hamstring injury that sidelined him for the final four weeks of training camp.
“Just glad (Matthews) is on our team, because he’s a big-time player,” Rodgers said. “We get on him and tease him about missing training camp the last couple years, but we’re just glad he plays on Sundays and plays the way he does.”
Though Rodgers wasn’t midseason sharp, he was neither sacked nor intercepted while putting up a passer rating of 116.3. He also scrambled for a 9-yard touchdown for the Packers’ final points, early in the fourth quarter.
Also, unlike last week at Philadelphia, Rodgers was able to get the ball to Finley in the open field. Buffalo played far more single coverage on the Packers’ dangerous tight end than the Eagles last week, and Finley burned the Bills for catches of 34 yards and 32 yards that set up 10 points in the first quarter, and catches of 22 yards and 15 yards that set up touchdowns in the second half. The 32-yarder was emblematic of the day, a total mismatch against outside linebacker Chris Kelsay, a converted defensive end.
“I probably got 80 percent one-on-one matchups (against Buffalo),” Finley said. “I guess they tried to be, I don’t know, different. That’s what you get when you’re different.”