Jclombardi reviews and grades the Packers win over the Bills.
Guest senior writer jclombardi @ http://lombardiave.com
Summary: QB Rodgers threw for 255 yards with touchdown passes to WR Driver and WR Jones and scrambled for another score as the Packers beat the Bills 34-7 at Lambeau Field. The running game struggled as RB Jackson rushed for only 29 yards and one touchdown. FB Kuhn outrushed Jackson gaining 36 yards. Meanwhile, LB Matthews had three sacks to lead a dominant defensive performance. LB Chillar and rookie S Burnett each got a key interception in the second half as the Packers (2-0) held the Bills to 186 yards of total offense.
Game Balls: LB Matthews; LB Hawk; S Burnett; TE Finley.
Report Card Grades–Good, Bad, & Ugly (LA vs. SE):
Pass Offense—B+ vs B. In the first half, the team settled for two field goals on its first two drives. They cannot afford to do that. Then, after a mediocre first half, QB Rodgers rebounded in the second half completing 19 of 29 passes for 255 yards and 2 touchdowns. TE Finley exploited Buffalo’s curious game plan to put only one defender on him and took over with four receptions for 103 yards, including big plays of 34, 32 and 22 yards. Rodgers looked away from an incredibly wide-open Finley for what could have been a 57-yard touchdown in the third quarter. With rookie Bulaga replacing an ineffective LT Clifton in the second quarter, the offensive line played strong allowing no sacks.
Rush Offense—D vs D. The running game epitomized ineptness on the ground. Mike McCarty’s back-by-committee trio of RB Jackson, FB Kuhn and rookie RB Nance combined for 71 yards in 22 carries averaging a poor 3.2 yards. Jackson rushed 11 times for only 29 yards and one touchdown lacking power or decisiveness. He struggled to make the right read and cut to get to the second level. Kuhn was more effective with nine carries for 36 yards. The run blocking was so-so.
Pass Defense—A+ vs A. LB Matthews continued to dominate the defense getting three sacks. DE Jenkins had the fourth sack of QB Edwards who only completed 11 of his 18 passes for a meager 102 yards. Matthews’ performance inspired linebackers Hawk and Chillar. Hawk was on the field for 43 of the Bills’ 54 plays. He made more good plays than bad plays. He stood out on occasion with pressure on Edwards, including a big hit on a tandem blitz with CB Woodson that resulted in the first career interception for Chillar. LB Jones played strong against the run, but he had no pressures. LB Barnett had one pressure and looked generally solid to strip blockers getting to make plays. Rookie S Burnett played better getting his second interception. The coverage teams did a good job holding the Bills receivers to very little big plays. Yet, C Woodson had a mixed day allowing several big plays.
Rush defense—C vs C-. Compared to last year, the Packers seem to lack consistency to stop the Bills misdirection run game. The Bills got 124 rushing yards averaging a decent 3.9 yards, although halftime adjustments helped to shut them down. With two pressures, T Raji looks like a much improved player having found his spot at the nose. While he missed several tackles, DE Pickett showed good lateral quickness in the run game. Rookie S Burnett is improving, but he needs to show more aggressive and to do sure tackling against the run. It will come with time. Meanwhile, DC Capers made a wise move adjusting the defense to play S Collins in the box.
Special teams—B vs B. The special teams had a decent game. KR Nelson averaged a good 30.5 yards on kickoff returns. Yet, PR Williams was irrelevant just averaging just 7.3 yards on punt returns. K Crosby connected on two field goals. On 7 kickoffs, he average 67.3 yards and 4.07 seconds of hang time. P Masthay averaged only 40.3 gross yards and 33.7 net yards on the first miss-hit two punts, but his third pooch punch was a good one that the team failed to down inside the five. The coverage units held their own against Buffalo’s elite special teams. The coverage on Bills KR Spiller was great until his last two returns of 36 yards and 41 yards toward the end of the game.
Coaching—B vs B+. Head coach McCarthy evidently lit a much-needed fire under his team’s collective rear end, particularly the sputtering offense, with his fiery monologue at halftime. While the passing game flourished in the second half, doubts are creeping in about how McCarthy will compensate for Grant’s absence in the run game. The replacements-by-committee didn’t work for this game. Meanwhile, coordinators Capers and Slocum continue to get big-time production from the defense and special teams, respectively
Overall Game—B+ vs CBS Sportsline B+–Take away a second quarter that they basically slept through, the Packers were nearly perfect. The offense was a bit sluggish and benefited from great field position, but the defense, with four sacks and two INTs, was flawless.
CHTV Good, Bad & Ugly: Good—Matthews, Finley & Bulaga; Bad—Jackson, Clifton & Collins; Ugly—Bills.
Commentary: With a good early season start, the Packers are 2-0.
Preview: A showdown road game against the unbearable Bears.