Just one week after surprising the NFL world with an impressive win versus the Vikings at their home field, the Bills laid an egg and lost to the Packers at the Lambeau Field by a score of 22-0. Not that the Bills were the favorites in this one, but I expected a more competitive performance coming from such a well executed gameplan last week. What went wrong? Here are my four takeaways from yesterday’s loss:
Allen’s growing pains
It was a rough afternoon for the rookie, completing just 16 of 33 passes for 151 yards. Allen committed three turnovers, including two interceptions and one fumble lost. He was off with his throws all day long, bothered by Green Bay’s different types of blitzes, and not recognizing coverages quickly enough. In fact, that was what I expected a week ago versus the Vikings. With one more week of the rookie’s game tape, Packers DC Mike Pettine was able to prepare a good gameplan, well executed by his players.
📺: CBS https://t.co/iswyUOCNjc
— NFL (@NFL) September 30, 2018
It isn’t the end of the world for the Bills’ young signal caller, though. This type of experience is a valuable one for a rookie QB, and it’ll not be the last time he struggles. He needs to learn from his mistakes and take positive strides next week. It’s going to be really interesting to see how Allen reacts to the first real adversity of his young career.
Green Bay has the personnel in their secondary to give problems to the lackluster Bills’ WR group, and it showed in the game. Alongside the QB’s off day and other factors, which we’ll give a look to below, it became impossible for Buffalo to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense.
Brian Daboll disappoints
One of the biggest disappointments of this game was the Bills’ OC’s play calling. Buffalo’s offense found some success running the ball early with LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. Both had some decent gains on first down plays, but Daboll insisted on forcing Allen passing plays, especially out of play-action, even with the young signal-caller clearly struggling.
Daboll didn’t help his rookie QB, failing to establish him as a running threat early and not sticking with a run-heavy gameplan, which should’ve worked. Instead, the OC put Allen in a bad situation, facing a good secondary with little help from his receivers and exotic blitzes in a hostile environment.
LeSean McCoy said "the plan was to get [him] the ball" in Sunday's game against Green Bay but he "can't answer" why he only ran five times in the 22-0 loss. https://t.co/qjrwPx8HWc pic.twitter.com/nPffFnPVSn
— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) September 30, 2018
Going forward, Daboll will need to re-evaluate his tactics. It’s unacceptable to put so much pressure on the shoulders of a raw QB when you don’t have many good weapons to catch the ball for him or a top-notch pass blocking offensive line. The running backs are the strength of the offense, and you can’t expect to win at the Lambeau Field with this Bills offense calling a measly 11 run plays. McCoy’s still the team’s best weapon, and he needs to be featured heavily.
Defense did its job
Some people were questioning the Bills’ defensive performance, which is very unfair, in my opinion. If you told me before the game that the Bills’ defense would hold a Rodgers-led offense to 22 points, I wouldn’t have believed you. The fact that Buffalo’s unit did it while losing Micah Hyde to injury in the first quarter is even more impressive.
Edmunds’ arm length is a difference maker pic.twitter.com/XtEtPeNFQF
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) September 30, 2018
The pass rush didn’t impact the game as they did one week ago, but that says more about Rodgers’s magnificence than the DL’s ineptitude. Other than Green Bay’s LT, David Bakhtiari, being allowed to hold Jerry Hughes on every single snap, Rodgers’s footwork maneuvering the pocket made all the difference in this game. It was a thing of beauty watching how he buys time and knows exactly from where the pressure is coming. This, combined with some quick passing plays and running back Aaron Jones’s impressive performance, made the Bills’ D’s assignment even tougher.
Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t stay on the field, and the defense wasn’t able to capitalize on the few Packers mistakes. Anyway, it was another positive showing by this unit, and with some help from the offense, there’s no reason not to believe Buffalo can be competitive in every single game. The D is on the right path.
Young CBs showing promise
One of the positive developments in the last couple of weeks is the emergence of the young cornerbacks. We’ve all known Tre’Davious White can play, and he’s drawing the matchup against the opponents’ top receivers and holding his own. What no one saw coming was the former practice squad player, Ryan Lewis, becoming a serious candidate for the number two CB job. He wasn’t perfect, as he was burned by the Packers’ rookie WR, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, on a 38-yard gain. Other than that, I thought Lewis was solid all game long and showed a knack for big plays, forcing a fumble and jumping on a route and almost led to a rare Aaron Rodgers pick six. He’s playing well enough to keep the starting job opposite White, even if Philip Gaines is healthy enough to play next week.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) September 30, 2018
Another guy who’s growing with more playing time is the fourth-round rookie, Taron Johnson. He really shines as a tackler and shows great physicality for a cornerback. Johnson also impressed as a blitzer, hitting the Packers’ legendary QB hard and forcing a fumble. It’s good to see the Bills putting together a nice young group of CBs, a position in which it’s so difficult to have quality depth.