BILLS-PACKERS QUARTERLY REPORT
Theme: Buffalo Bills offense starts slow.
Setting the tone: The Bills showed confidence in their offensive line on the third play from scrimmage, a third-and-1 run up the middle by Chris Ivory. No going. Green Bay’s defensive tackles won the surge up the middle, and Ivory was stuffed for no gain.
Injury report: The Bills actually had more breaks on the injury front than the Packers. Green Bay was without starting slot receiver Randall Cobb (hamstring). He was replaced by rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Starting cornerback Kevin King (groin) was replaced by rookie Jaire Alexander. Starting guard Justin McCray (shoulder) was replaced by Byron Bell. The Bills lost Micah Hyde early to a groin injury, but Buffalo still was at a net advantage on injuries.
Second guess: Veteran linebacker Ramon Humber rotated in for starting weak-side linebacker Matt Milano in the first quarter. Maybe the Bills should do that less. Humber was blocked up by tight end Lance Kendricks on a 30-yard weak-side run on the Packers’ third drive. A few plays later, Humber could not get over in time to make a diving tackle on a 17-yard screen pass.
Theme: A rookie QB is going to make rookie mistakes.
Key mistake: Josh Allen’s ill-advised heave to the middle of the end zone gave away three points. A throw-away would have allowed Stephen Hauschka to try a 37-yard field goal. Instead Jaire Alexander’s interception led to a Packers field goal.
Six-point swing: Instead of being down 13-3 at the half, the Bills trailed, 16-0.
Matchup watch: Tre’Davious White followed Packers receiver Davante Adams most of the game. White had a fine breakup in the end zone on a play-action rollout pass from the Bills’ 30 to the end zone. White wasn’t fooled. Adams finished with four catches for 49 yards.
Good defense, better QB: Hard to knock the Bills’ defense too much for giving up a 40-yard drive at the end of the half for a 52-yard Packers field goal. On a third-and-10 play from the Buffalo 49, Milano did a good job getting depth in zone coverage and taking away a throw to tight end Jimmy Graham. But Aaron Rodgers deftly kept the play alive and scrambled 15 yards down the sideline. Not much you can do.
Theme: The Bills can’t play from behind.
Matchup watch: Mike Pettine vs. Josh Allen. It wasn’t a fair fight between the Packers’ defensive coordinator and the Bills’ rookie QB. By unofficial count, Pettine blitzed only eight times. Allen was 2 for 6 with an interception and two sacks on those plays. Six of the blitzes came on third-down plays. Most of the time, the Packers dropped seven into coverage, betting the Bills could not sustain long drives downfield.
Edmunds blitz: The Bills were careful about blitzing Rodgers, sending five or more on just six plays. One third-quarter blitz, by Tremaine Edmunds, forced a third-down incompletion. The Packers kicked a field-goal to go ahead, 19-0.
Second guess: Bills cornerback Ryan Lewis expertly defended the fourth-and-3 hitch pass from Rodgers for Valdes-Scantling. But Lewis dropped the potential interception. If he had held on, he would have had a 60-yard return for a touchdown. It would have cut the lead to 19-7. But it’s hard to imagine the Bills’ offense performing any better, even if Lewis made the play.
Theme: What do we think of the offense’s execution? We’re in favor of it.
Matchup watch: Kenny Clark vs. Bills’ middle three. Clark was regarded as the Packers’ best defensive player through the first three games, and he lived up to his reputation. He was responsible for or contributed to five run-stuffs for the Packers. In the third quarter, he pushed Vlad Ducasse back into lead-blocker Charles Clay to force a 2-yard loss. In the third quarter, he shoved Russell Bodine back to force a stuff of Ivory. In the fourth quarter, he forced an Allen fumble. The 313-pounder, a first-round pick in 2016, still is only 22 years old.
Zebra report: Replay review upheld a fumble by Allen that Green Bay recovered with 4:21 to play. It was ruled the ball was dislodged before Allen’s knee went down on a 2-yard scramble. The ball probably did come out early. We’re just not sure the replay showed the ball coming out before the knee came down.
Cheesehead heaven: Packers 9-0-1 at Lambeau in September. The last September loss was in 2012.