For perhaps the first time this season, the Green Bay Packers actually punched back after being punched in the mouth. The Buffalo Bills opened up a 24-7 lead over the Packers in the first half of their week 8 Sunday Night Football matchup, but the Packers fought back after the break to make the game at least somewhat interesting.
Ultimately, Aaron Rodgers and company didn’t have enough in the tank to get the job done. The Packers fought back with ten points in the second half as they continued to commit to the run, but they ran out of time and couldn’t hit on a long late field goal to pull back within a possession inside of the last minute as the Bills hung on for a 27-17 victory.
There were indeed some bright spots in this game for the Packers, however. Against a Bills defense that was averaging just 76 rushing yards allowed per game, the Packers put up over 200 on the ground, gaining another 200 through the air. Aaron Jones starred, going 20-for-143 rushing, while the Packers got impressive touchdown receptions from rookie receivers Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure.
Ultimately, though, the hole the Packers’ defense put them in was too much, as they gave up scores on five straight drives to Buffalo. Even a pair of second-half interceptions wasn’t enough, with both coming on the Packers’ side of midfield.
As a result, the Packers dropped to 3-5 on the season and they will face a massive decision-making period over the next few days, with the NFL’s trade deadline on deck. Does this front office believe that this team can still compete in a weak NFC? Or is it time to sell off some assets for the future?
Time will tell, but the Packers have now eclipsed the four-loss mark for the first time under head coach Matt LaFleur.
The Packers’ defense got out to a tremendous start after the team won the coin toss and deferred. Green Bay held the Bills to a three-and-out, with Jaire Alexander breaking up back-to-back passes intended for Gabe Davis on 2nd and 3rd downs. Amari Rodgers remained the team’s punt returner to start the game despite last week’s struggles, but he secured his first opportunity of the game with no issues.
The Packers moved the chains on their first series by picking up their first third-down conversion since the Jets game two weeks ago. Following runs of one and seven yards from Aaron Jones, Aaron Rodgers hit Sammy Watkins for three yards on 3rd-and-2. They crossed midfield and picked up 12 yards on a bubble screen to Christian Watson on 3rd-and-15, bringing up a 4th-and-3 from the 37-yard line, but Rodgers was pressured quickly as Ed Oliver ate up Zach Tom on a bullrush and forced an incomplete pass.
That sequence was costly, as Watson suffered a concussion on his reception and would be ruled out of the game shortly thereafter. With Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb hurt, that left the Packers with just four healthy receivers remaining; Sammy Watkins, Romeo Doubs, Samori Toure, and Amari Rodgers.
The Bills’ second drive featured a heavy dose of the run, as Buffalo decided to attack the Packers’ abysmal rushing defense. Devin Singletary hit on gains of 9 and 30 yards, getting the ball quickly into the red zone without a pass attempt from Josh Allen. On 3rd-and-14 following a five-yard loss on an end around, Josh Allen scrambled for 20 yards to the one-yard line, getting loose around the left end as Preston Smith slipped on the edge. Two plays later, Allen scrambled and found Dawson Knox for a one-yard score, giving the Bills an early 7-0 lead.
A quick three-and-out by the Packers’ offense and a nearly-blocked punt for Pat O’Donnell gave the Bills great field position on their third offensive series, taking over near midfield. Buffalo took advantage quickly, hitting Stefon Diggs for a 26-yard touchdown over Rasul Douglas on the fourth play of the drive to go up by 14. That play came with Douglas on the perimeter and Keisean Nixon in the slot, as the Packers’ coaching staff evidently pulled Eric Stokes from the game for that series.
To their credit, the Packers stuck with their running game down 14-0, steadily picking up first downs thanks to AJ Dillon and Jones. The first 8 plays were seven runs and an RPO pass., The 9th would have been a soft play-action pass that resulted in a sack, but the Packers were bailed out by a penalty on cornerback Dane Jackson. After that ugly play, the team stuck with the run before hitting 2nd-and-12 at the 19-yard line, when Rodgers connected with Romeo Doubs on one of the best plays you’ll see all season.
Doubs, whose hands have been questionable, particularly on contested catches, made a magnificent adjustment in the end zone to haul in the ball for a highlight-reel touchdown:
The Bills got the points right back, however, thanks in part to a massive brain fart by Quay Walker. After making a tackle near the sideline, Walker reacted to some chippiness and pushed a Bills coach, drawing a 15-yard penalty. To make matters worse, it also got Walker tossed from the game, forcing the Packers to play Isaiah McDuffie in two-linebacker sets for the remainder of the contest. The Bills would drive steadily down the field, culminating in a jet sweep by Isaiah McKenzie for a six-yard touchdown just after the two-minute warning.
Still, the Packers had a chance to drive down the field with just under two minutes left and two timeouts, while also being due to receive the second-half kickoff. Aaron Jones got the drive started with a nice 11-yard run, but an incomplete pass to Robert Tonyan and a sack by Gergory Rousseau set the Packers up in a 3rd-and-long. A draw to Aaron Jones picked up 8 yards, but still remained well short of the sticks. That led the Bills to use their final timeout, giving them the ball back after a punt with 53 seconds left.
In one play, Allen got the Bills into field goal range. He hit Stefon Diggs with a bomb for 53 yards, quickly reaching the Packers’ 30. The Packers narrowly managed to get a pass breakup in the end zone from Alexander, getting away with giving up just three points on a Tyler Bass field goal to go into the half down 24-7.
That drive also saw the Packers lose their other starting inside linebacker, as De’Vondre Campbell left the game with a knee injury. He would later be ruled out for the remainder of the game, leaving the Packers to play McDuffie and Eric Wilson on the inside.
Coming out of the half, the Packers got a great return from Keisean Nixon to midfield, but it was erased by a penalty on practice squad safety Innis Gaines. Aaron Jones busted off a huge 32-yard gain to get the Packers out of trouble, however, and Dillon picked up a big gain of 27 of his own. Facing a 3rd-and-3 at the 11-yard line, the Packers appeared to have a touchdown to Robert Tonyan off play-action, but the tight end was flagged for offensive pass interference to wipe away the score. and an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-13 set up a Mason Crosby field goal, making the score 24-10.
The Bills responded with a field goal of their own, building their lead back up to three possessions. It came after a 29-yard pass from Allen to Davis and a ten-yard scramble by Allen on 2nd-and-10. The Packers actually forced the Bills into their first third-down attempt since the first quarter on the drive thanks in part to a holding penalty on left tackle Dion Dawkins, which led to the field goal attempt.
The Packers ate up a huge amount of clock on the next drive by sticking with the run, gaining 48 yards on 11 plays behind Jones and Dillon. However, they got into a 4th-and-short situation in Bills territory and Aaron Jones was stuffed, turning the football early in the fourth quarter.
After a solid drive for the Bills, Rasul Douglas managed to intercept Josh Allen and get the Packers’ first stop without points since the first drive of the game. The team should have had a three-and-out, but a phantom hands to the face penalty on Douglas on a third-and-ten incompletion kept it alive. Still, he came through with his first pick of the season as Allen threw across his body into the middle of the field.
One play later, the Bills returned the favor, tipping Rodgers’ pass at the line of scrimmage for linebacker Matt Milano to intercept near midfield. Jaire Alexander made it three straight drives ending in a pick, though, intercepting Allen on a third-and-goal from the three-yard line.
The Packers closed back to within ten points at 27-17, thanks to Samori Toure. He delivered the team’s longest touchdown of the season, getting loose on a double-move as Rodgers drilled a deep ball to him in the end zone. The score came one play after Toure dropped a would-be touchdown, but he responded immediately with the 37-yard score.
Naturally, the Bills went into clock-grinding mode, running the clock down to 2:34 before the Packers took back possession after a punt. They forced the Packers to use all of their timeouts by that point, however.
After a handful of short passes, Green Bay got a nice 22-yard gain from Amari Rodgers inside of the two-minute warning, eventually working their way to the edge of field goal range. Mason Crosby attempted a 55-yard field goal, but his kick from the left hash went wide left after a slightly low snap from Jack Coco.
So ended the Packers’ threat to the Bills, as Buffalo kneeled out the clock and finished off a 27-17 victory.