By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Rodgers’ mobility, Jones’ shiftiness positives as Green Bay offense evolves
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Now that was more like it.
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For the first time this season the Packers looked like a team, which is to say they relied on offense and defense to defeat Buffalo, 22-0, in Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field.
On offense, the Packers tried to find a semblance of balance between the run and the pass. On defense, they analyzed rookie quarterback Josh Allen’s play at Minnesota, implemented the game plan and then executed it to the tune of a shutout.
In short, the Packers’ defense and new coordinator Mike Pettine made the Bills’ rookie play like one.
Allen was sacked seven times, including three by Kyler Fackrell, often while trying in vain to locate an open receiver. It was the Packers’ first shutout since 2010, a 9-0 victory over the New York Jets.
The Bills eked out just 145 net yards.
Allen, who looked good in an upset of the Vikings last week, was equally awful on Sunday. Allen completed 16 of 33 passes for 151 yards with two interceptions and a 36.3 passer rating.
“Well, we improved from last week,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think we have been transparent and identified the things we need to work on. This was our best week of preparation, so you always feel good when you see your players benefit from a really good week of preparation.”
It always seemed like the kiss of death when McCarthy would mention on a Thursday about how “this has been our best week of practice … blah, blah, blah.” At least now he waits until after the victory is in the books to compliment his team’s practices.
At any rate, the Packers are headed in the right direction.
Aaron Rodgers’ scamper along the left sideline showed more speed and less limp than since his left knee injury. That was the biggest takeaway from this game.
Rodgers appears to be getting healthier.
It wasn’t reflected in his performance, which was uncharacteristically so-so, but it means everything long-term. Rodgers was 22 of 40 for 298 yards, a touchdown and an interception (which wasn’t his fault). His passer rating of 76.9 is terrible by Rodgers’ standards.
“It was as bad as we’ve played on offense with that many yards in a long time,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers missed several open receivers and also had to contend with five drops, which is a half-season’s worth.
Davante Adams caught eight passes for 81 yards and essentially had his way with Bills’ cornerback Tre’davious White, and Geronimo Allison had six catches for 80 yards before leaving with a concussion.
The Packers’ offense accomplished several firsts.
Jimmy Graham caught his first touchdown pass from Rodgers, and Aaron Jones scored the Packers’ first rushing touchdown of the season. Green Bay went 2-for-3 in the red zone, which isn’t good enough, but is better than what it had been doing.
Jones, in particular, looked strong. He had 11 carries for 65 yards with a long run of 30 yards. It seems he has at least one explosive run every game despite limited touches.
That’s mostly Jones’ fault, though, for getting suspended the first two games. McCarthy’s got a plan to implement him into the attack bit by bit until he’s going to get the lion’s share of touches.
The Packers’ defense also made strides.
The seven sacks were a season-high, and they didn’t allow an opening-drive touchdown. In fact, the Bills punted eight times and committed three turnovers on their first 11 drives.
“I’ll just definitely start off with the defense,” McCarthy said to open his post-game news conference. “I mean, the shutout is huge. It’s what you’re looking for.”
Clay Matthews notched a half-sack without drawing a flag, and Jaire Alexander and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix both had impressive interceptions.
Next up is the Lions (1-3) at Detroit, followed by San Francisco (1-3) at home on Monday Night Football, and then the bye.
“We’re 2-1-1 and there’s a lot more work to do,” McCarthy said. “I think today’s game was reflective of that. I would definitely say it was a good blue-collar win, so we got some building blocks in place, and we need to continue to stack successes off of that.”