GREEN BAY – Blake Martinez thought he forced a turnover, but after taking some body blows, hands to his face and some name-calling, the third-year linebacker lost his cool.
With just over two minutes to go in the first half of the Green Bay Packers’ 22-0 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Martinez and a pile of players surrounded Bills quarterback Josh Allen at his own 26-yard line after he scrambled.
As the pile moved, Martinez wrestled the ball away. He insisted he never heard a whistle to indicate Allen’s forward progress had stopped.
When everyone untangled, Martinez removed his helmet and began yelling and he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and extended the Bills' drive.
“Basically when Clay (Matthews) hit him I got in there, stripped the ball out and had the ball for probably five seconds during that tackle and I was trying to get out of the pile,” Martinez recalled. “The next thing you know I’m getting jabbed on my sides and I’m getting my helmet pulled and all of a sudden I get out and my helmet is up here.
"Normally, if I wasn’t mad, I’d just take my helmet off, fix it, put it back on. But obviously, I was mad in that sense and names were being called. Things were being said. I don’t want to repeat them, I pulled my helmet off extremely energetic, to say the least. It happened. At that point, I knew what I did wrong and obviously I won’t allow that to happen again.”
As all that was happening, cornerback Jaire Alexander pushed Allen to the ground.
“He said something to me,” Alexander said. “And then he’s going to give me an elbow. I was like, oh nah. Quarterback? I don’t care. So I had to do what I had to do. He did a good acting job. He sold it. But at the end of the day he was on the ground, so that’s all I care about.”
Alexander left the game early with a groin injury, but he could be seen sprinting out onto the field to celebrate with teammates after they made stops and he jogged back into the locker room.
“I’m feeling fine,” Alexander said. “I’ll be better by the time we practice for sure. Just taking precautionary measures.”
Wide receiver Geronimo Allison took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Buffalo corner Taron Johnson near the end of the third quarter. He was taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion.
The Packers found the perfect treatment for their ailing pass rush: playing a rookie quarterback at home.
Not just any rookie quarterback, either. A rookie that has been sacked repeatedly through the season’s first four games. The Packers sacked Allen seven times Sunday, which sounds like a lot.
Until you see the Los Angeles Chargers sacked Allen five times two weeks ago. And the Minnesota Vikings sacked Allen three times last week – without top pass rusher Everson Griffen. Even though he didn't start in the Bills' opener against the Baltimore Ravens, Allen was sacked three times on 15 pass attempts.
Still, seven sacks is significant. The Packers had six sacks in their first three games. Only four NFL teams had fewer.
“Our defense really was tremendous keeping up pressure on all four quarters,” coach Mike McCarthy said.
Most surprising, backup outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell had a career-high three sacks.
Fackrell, a third-round pick in 2016, had three sacks all last season. Before Sunday, he had five sacks in his career. Afterward, Fackrell tried to recall the last time he had three sacks in a game.
“Shoot,” he said, “maybe never. Yeah, it helps at the end there when you know they’re going to pass and you can kind of just tee off. Obviously, I’m really happy about the sacks.”
The pressure came from elsewhere, too. Jermaine Whitehead had one sack – and almost another – while unblocked blitzing from the slot. It wasn’t a sack, but inside linebacker Antonio Morrison hit Allen as he passed downfield to running back LeSean McCoy, who was single covered on the perimeter by Martinez.
Then there was Matthews. After having a sack wiped out because of a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty last week, Matthews combined with Nick Perry for a half sack. This time, there was no flag.
Matthews said he was happier about Fackrell’s sacks than his own.
“I love to see when Kyler makes plays,” Matthews said, “because he obviously gets a bad rap around here.”
Marquez Valdes-Scantling has positioned himself as the Packers' top rookie receiver, starting Sunday in the slot as injured veteran Randall Cobb’s replacement. But he still has proverbial rookie moments.
One came in the third quarter against the Bills. On a shallow stop route, Valdes-Scantling failed to come back to the football. Aaron Rodgers’ pass should have been intercepted for a touchdown, but Bills cornerback Ryan Lewis dropped it. Rodgers stared down the rookie walking off the field, then had a conversation on the sideline.
“(He was) just frustrated,” Valdes-Scantling said, “because he knows where I’m supposed to be. I know where I’m supposed to be. So I understand his frustration. I’ve got to do my job at all times.”
The rookie made up for it later in the fourth quarter.
Valdes-Scantling beat Lewis down the right sideline for a 38-yard catch. He said Lewis might have been surprised with some pre-snap motion.
“Just ran by a defender,” Valdes-Scantling said.
Regardless, his reception showed the blazing 4.38 40 speed that has the Packers excited. They believe the rookie has potential to develop into a deep threat, and he showed it Sunday. Now, it’s a matter of learning from those rookie moments.
“You always want to keep moving forward,” Valdles-Scantling said, “no matter how many big plays you make. You never want to live in the past. So you just keep progressing, and keep making a play at a time and taking it a play at a time.”
Williams throws it back to 2010
With Randall Cobb being rendered inactive due to a hamstring injury suffered in practice, the team called on Tramon Williams to return punts Sunday. He fielded five kicks and had 20 yards in returns. The last time the 35-year-old returned punts consistently was 2010, when he led the league with 41 punt returns. He had one return in 2015 and 2016 while in Cleveland.
“Aw man, it was great, man,” Williams said with a smile. “They didn’t want to give me too many balls to my (return) side so I had to find a way to get it another way. It was a throwback day, so they had to put me back there.”