Quick takes: Packers pitch first shutout since 2010 in 22-0 victory over Bills
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers put together their most complete effort of the season, in all three phases and through all four quarters Sunday in a 22-0 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Lambeau Field.
It was the first shutout by the Packers since Oct. 31, 2010 at the New York Jets. It was their first shutout at home since Oct. 18, 2009 against Detroit.
The Packers (2-1-1) kept pace with the first-place Chicago Bears (3-1) with the victory, one in which the offense put together its most efficient rushing performance of the season (141 yards, 4.4 yards per carry) and the defense avoided crippling penalties and deep secondary breakdowns.
The Bills (1-3) never really threatened offensively, and Aaron Rodgers and the passing game never quite clicked – and benefited from some potential interceptions that were dropped by the Bills – so points were left on the field. But, the defense was dominant for the first time, and it was a needed victory after a winless two weeks.
1. Defense gets well
Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine called his group’s first-half performance a week ago “wildy inconsistent,” but it’s been up and down all season and entered Sunday as the league’s 23rd-ranked defense overall and in scoring. But Buffalo came to Lambeau Field as the league’s 31st-ranked offense and averaging 16.7 points per game – so if there was a “get well” chance for Pettine’s group, this seemed tailor made for it. And Josh Allen and the Bills didn’t disappoint. The rookie quarterback was inaccurate and made poor decisions, allowing the Packers to put together their most dominant performance to date with three turnovers, seven sacks, 11 hits on the quarterback and forcing every Bills possession to end without a score.
2. The difference a day makes
Rodgers practiced during the week for the first time since injuring his left knee against Chicago back on Sept. 9. But it’s not just the extra day of work with his receivers and within the offense, but what it meant for the quarterback physically. It meant he felt good enough to do it, and on Sunday that carried over to the field. He got under center. He booted out and scrambled far more effortlessly. He consciously slid with the left knee leading to the turf. Presuming he feels no worse for wear Monday, all of that bodes well for the Packers going forward.
3. Buffalo had free runs at Rodgers
It’s usually not a good idea to blitz Rodgers. He’s incredibly adept at not only seeing it, but exploiting it with a quick release. But Sunday, the Bills drilled the quarterback three times with free runners – one of which resulted in a sack/fumble by Buffalo corner Taron Johnson and another in a sack for safety Siran Neal. Rodgers also took a huge shot from a free-running Tremaine Edmunds, which resulted in an incompletion on a third down at the Buffalo 18-yard line, resulting in a Packers field goal. Those are just three instances, but all were impactful.
4. Aaron Jones keeps making plays
Jones averaged 6.7 yards per touch in his regular-season debut last week in Washington, and he once again proved to be the most dynamic of the Packers’ three running backs Sunday against Buffalo. Getting his work on the Packers’ third series, he promptly busted off a 30-yard run and spun his way to a 17-yard reception before capping it off with a 3-yard touchdown run where he ran over a defender at the goal line. Mike McCarthy may like all three of his runners, but Jones once again proved to be the home-run hitter to help balance the offense. Before exiting the game in the fourth quarter following a pass block, Jones averaged 5.9 yards per carry.
5. Packers mitigate Cobb’s absence
Randall Cobb has been catching passes from Rodgers for eight years, and their on-field symmetry can be a sight to behold. Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught his first NFL pass on Sept. 19. The rookie out of South Florida drew the start Sunday when Cobb was scratched with a hamstring injury but Valdes-Scantling wasn’t a big part of the offense (three targets, one catch, 38 yards). Rodgers instead leaned on Davante Adams (14 targets) and Geronimo Allison, who a career-high 11 targets before he left the game with a head injury after three quarters.
Tramon Williams replaced Cobb on punt return. Williams, who last returned punts regularly back in 2010, was more than solid with five returns for 20 yards.