Bills slog through second half but beat neutered Packers, 27-17, on Sunday Night Football

Sal Maiorana
 

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

ORCHARD PARK – Vince Lombardi must have been looking down from the heavens with a mixture of pride and disappointment Sunday night watching his beloved Green Bay Packers.

The calendar says it’s 2022, but it might as well have been 1966 the way the Packers ran the ball Lombardi-style against the Buffalo Bills, piling up more than 200 yards and turning future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers into a game manager.

Here’s the difference then and now. Lombardi’s Packers of the 1960s wouldn’t have lost the way this iteration of Packers did. Green Bay fell behind early and never really seemed capable of pulling the upset as Buffalo earned a 27-17 victory at raucous Highmark Stadium.

“They did a good job,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said of the Green Bay ground attack. “They did a good job and we got to do a better job. I got to put the players in a better position.”

One of those players, linebacker Matt Milano, admitted this wasn’t Buffalo’s best night.

“We gotta go check the tape, see what was happening, see who was out of their gap,” he said. “I know I made a couple of mistakes on a few of those runs that I gotta be better on, but we’ll get it corrected.”

Yet even on an off night, really on both sides of the ball, the Bills handled their business and didn’t break too much of a sweat.

“At the end of the day, you just want to win the game,” Bills edge rusher Von Miller said. “I felt like we had the momentum for the most part, about 85% of the game. They were prepared today, they came ready to play, run game was open for them. I was shocked. Me personally, I was shocked that they ran the ball so much. They have Aaron Rodgers and with previous bouts, I was just expecting him to have a little bit more control.”

Yes, they have Rodgers, but the problem for the Packers is Rodgers had virtually nobody rowing the boat with him. Green Bay’s wide receiver corps was already undermanned playing without Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, and then Christian Watson went out in the first quarter, leaving Rodgers ill-equipped to throw against the always strong Buffalo pass defense.

So the Packers did the only thing they could: They pounded running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon at the Bills all night to the tune of 203 total rushing yards. The downside, of course, is they chewed up a lot of time doing that (they had the ball for more than 33 minutes) and once they were down 24-7 at halftime, there was no coming back.

In the first NBC Sunday Night Football game in Orchard Park in front of fans since 2007 – you remember that one, the 56-10 loss to the Patriots – the Bills showed the nation once again why everyone considers them the Super Bowl favorite, even if it was the least impressive of Buffalo’s six victories this season.

Josh Allen’s MVP campaign shouldn’t take too much of a bit, but this certainly wasn’t a vintage Allen performance as the Packers’ No. 1-ranked pass defense gave him a few problems. He threw two absolutely horrible fourth-quarter interceptions to Green Bay’s top cornerback, Jaire Alexander, that looked like throws he used to make in 2018.

Josh Allen loves improv! #BillsMafia

📺: #GBvsBUF on NBC
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/c9RP6Gj8id pic.twitter.com/RmJ21SamYq

— NFL (@NFL)

“Two stupid ones that I really had no business throwing,” he said. “The second one was just really trying to dirt it and just didn’t hurt it. So those happen, we’ll learn from it.”

Allen went just 13 of 25 for 218 yards, but as is often the case, he made the biggest plays of the night and the Bills did just enough to beat a wounded opponent.

After a three-and-out on offense to open the game, the Bills defense bent a little on Green Bay’s initial possession, but then held up on a fourth down at the Buffalo 39 as Ed Oliver pressured Rodgers into an incompletion.

And from there, it was pretty much all Buffalo the rest of the night.

On the ensuing possession, Allen threw for just one yard, but it was the one that counted as he found Dawson Knox alone for a one-yard TD flip after Devin Singletary broke three runs for 36 yards and Allen had a 20-yard scramble on third-and-14 to set it up.

Not long thereafter it was 14-0 as Stefon Diggs capped a quick four-play possession by burning Rasul Douglas with a double move and reeling in Allen’s perfectly placed 26-yard touchdown pass.

The Packers had quite a response here, a 12-play, 80-yard drive which surely harkened back to the Paul Hornung-Jim Taylor days. The Packers ran the ball 10 times and the Bills were powerless to stop them. And when Rodgers needed to make a play, he threw a gorgeous pass to Romeo Doubs who made a remarkable catch in the back right corner of the end zone with Taron Johnson all over him for a 19-yard TD.

ROMEO DOUBS WHAT A CATCH. #GoPackGo

📺: #GBvsBUF on NBC
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/c9RP6Gj8id pic.twitter.com/P1dNwIvz9d

— NFL (@NFL)

Allen likely nodded his head out of respect, and then promptly answered with his own 80-yard march, one that proved disastrous for the Packers as they lost two of their best defensive players, linebackers Quay Walker and Devondre Campbell.

Walker was ejected after he threw a punch on the Buffalo sideline after a James Cook run, the target being Zach Davidson, a Bills practice squad tight end. Later, after Isaiah McKenzie scored on a six-yard jet sweep, Campbell, Green Bay’s leading tackler this season, left with a knee injury.

Before the half ended, the Buffalo defense forced a punt and Allen unleashed a 53-yard howitzer to Diggs which set up Tyler Bass’ 42-yard field goal to close the half at 24-7. Diggs was hurt on the play and had to be checked for concussion symptoms, but he was able to return in the second half.

These two 🙌 @JoshAllenQB @StefonDiggs

📺: #GBvsBUF on NBC
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/c9RP6Gj8id pic.twitter.com/G4KmDu4z65

— NFL (@NFL)

The teams traded third-quarter field goals and with Buffalo up 27-10, it seemed like things were well in hand. But then Allen played giveaway on back-to-back possessions, and after the second, Rodgers drove the Packers 95 yards, hitting Samori Toure for a 37-yard touchdown to cut the Green Bay deficit to 27-17 with 6:32 left.

Here, the Buffalo offense regained some of its mojo after four straight possessions without a touchdown and chewed some clock by producing three first downs, but they couldn’t put the game away as a poor Allen incompletion gave Rodgers one last possession, but it ended with Mason Crosby missing a 55-yard field goal with 38 seconds remaining.

By the numbers

▶ 7- Victories by the Bills all-time at home against the Packers, against no losses. That’s right, Green Bay has never won in Orchard Park. The only NFC team the Bills have beaten more often at home is Washington (10 wins).

▶ 6 – That is Buffalo’s current home winning streak dating back to last year, their longest since 1998.

▶ 1993 – That was the last season when the Bills started 6-1.

▶ 4 – That’s how many 2021 division winners the Bills have beaten (Packers, Rams, Titans and Chiefs).

▶ 12 – Consecutive games where the Bills have gained at least 300 yards on offense, and stretching it back to 2020, they have done it in 33 of their last 34 games.

Game balls

▶ WR Stefon Diggs: He had six catches for 108 yards, his fifth 100-yard game of the season. His 109.1 yards per game is second in the NFL behind only Miami’s Tyreek Hill. When Allen targeted Diggs, he had a 156.3 passer rating. With everyone else, it was 38.9 with two picks.

▶ LB Matt Milano: He has gotten his hands on a few balls this season he has dropped them except for his pick-six against the Titans. Sunday, he made one interception and nearly made another (in fact, it looked like he did but the officials ruled the ball hit the ground and the play wasn’t reviewed).

▶ FS Damar Hamlin: He was a force all night as he made a career-high 10 tackles, a few of them the angry man variety, and he helped limit the Packers anemic passing game. He has played well in place of injured Micah Hyde.

▶ LB Tremaine Edmunds: Yes, too many of his 16 tackles were downfield after chunk runs by the Packers, but 16 tackles is 16 tackles. Without him making those stops, the numbers would have been worse.

What’s next for the Bills

The Bills head to the Meadowlands to take on the Jets in just their second AFC East game of the season. The Bills lost their first one to the Dolphins, who are tied with the Jets at 5-3 behind Buffalo.

The Jets, who also had their way with Green Bay, beating the Packers 27-10 at Lambeau Field, had their four-game winning streak snapped Sunday in a 22-17 loss at home to the Patriots. Zack Wilson threw for 355 yards and two TDs for New York, but he also threw three damaging interceptions.

Sal Maiorana can be reached at maiorana@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.To subscribe to Sal’s new twice-a-week newsletter, Bills Blast, please follow this link: https://profile.democratandchronicle.com/newsletters/bills-blast

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