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Packers’ reserves played key pass rushing roles in win over Buffalo

Green Bay’s backup edge rushers were two of a handful of instrumental parts in helping the Packers pitch a shutout of the Bills.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Make no mistake about it, the Green Bay Packers’ first defensive shutout since 2010 needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The Buffalo Bills’ offense continues to be a work in progress with rookie quarterback Josh Allen and was far from a smooth-operating system on Sunday.

Still, the Packers’ defense did its part in ensuring that an inferior offense would not beat them on a day that their own offense looked out of sync. And a lot of that credit goes to Green Bay’s role players off the bench.

Take Kyler Fackrell for instance. The third-year pro earned his first positive headlines in what feels like an eternity. The whipping boy of Packers fans everywhere, Fackrell tallied a three-sack game, tying his entire total from a season ago. While Fackrell still struggles to hold the edge in the running game, his hustle and surprisingly slippery moves, like the one in the clip below against Jordan Mills, put him in position to make multiple stops in the backfield Sunday.

Fackrell’s counterpart Reggie Gilbert also got into the sack column, registering one with relentless effort on a third-down play. It was part of a four-tackle, two-QB hit performance for Gilbert who has been rather quiet since bursting on to the preseason scene.

On a day the defense registered seven sacks, Fackrell and Gilbert combined for four off the bench and never let Josh Allen get comfortable in the pocket. While Green Bay’s secondary intercepted Allen twice, they were helped significantly from repeated pressures throughout the game. The Packers certainly hope for a bit of sustained production from their duo of depth edge rushers as the weeks go on.

But why stop with the edge rushers?

Green Bay traded for Antonio Morrison when Jake Ryan had been lost for the season and Oren Burks’ training camp injury looked far more serious than it was. Quietly, Morrison has been around the football over the past couple of weeks. In the first quarter Sunday, he laid a quarterback hit with a late blitz up the middle as Allen attempted an errant downfield pass. Morrison has been a solid find for the Packers as a special teams player, but made a tackle and impact pass rush play from some clever scheming on just 10 defensive snaps Sunday.

Finally, safety Jermaine Whitehead was a rather new factor in Mike Pettine’s blitz packages against Buffalo, recording one sack and nearly another in the second half.

On the final play of the third quarter, Whitehead blitzed from the slot in press coverage and flew in untouched. Bills right tackle Dion Dawkins had tried to cut block Nick Perry, opening a wide lane for Whitehead to race in and drag Allen down for his first career sack. It was a pivotal 16-yard loss that stunted another Bills drive on third down. In the fourth quarter, Whitehead again would come in hot from the slot and just miss Allen as the quarterback dodged away. Whitehead’s success was a good sign for Pettine and the unpredictability of the Packers’ pass rush.

For a Green Bay defense that came into the game against Buffalo with six sacks on the season, the usage of exotic blitzes and fresh legs kept an inexperienced quarterback from getting into a groove. With Nick Perry having an extremely quiet start to the season and Clay Matthews at a loss for what constitutes a sack in today’s NFL, the Packers got a lift from some unexpected personnel in what was a banner day for the team’s pass rush.