The Green Bay Packers bounced back with a 22-0 win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 4 to increase their record to 2-1-1.
The Packers defense was outstanding and earned the team’s first shutout since 2010. The Bills managed just 145 total yards and 11 first downs. Green Bay also sacked quarterback Josh Allen seven times in a dominating defensive performance.
Here are seven key takeaways from the Packers Week 4 performance at Lambeau Field:
1) Mike Pettine’s Defense Confused Josh Allen
The Packers took full advantage of a rookie quarterback and confused Bills first-round pick Josh Allen throughout the game. Pettine mixed up his coverages and blitz packages and was able to force Allen to throw into coverage or just throw the ball away.
Allen completed less than 50 percent of his passes for the game and threw a pair of interceptions. The Buffalo offense was never able to get any kind of rhythm and never consistently moved the football. The Buffalo running game was a non-factor.
After a poor performance in the fourth quarter and overtime against Minnesota and against Washington, it was important that the defense bounce back. It certainly did. The Bills are far from an elite offense, in fact, they may be one of the weaker units in the league at this point, but the Packers took care of business and that’s what you must do against less talented teams.
2) Sacks Are Still Coming from Coverage
The good news is that Green Bay managed seven sacks in this game, by far a season high. Kyler Fackrell had three to lead the team. But a closer examination of the game film shows that most of the sacks resulted from good coverage downfield rather than the pass rushers immediately beating blockers at the point of attack.
Green Bay still lacks an elite edge rusher. As the players get more comfortable with the intricacies of Pettine’s defense, he will continue to add more blitz packages and coverages to the defensive game plan.
This was the best performance by the pass rush this season by far, but whether this would be good enough against a more experienced quarterback remains to be seen. This is something the defense can build on, but there is more work to be done.
3) Rodgers Health Is Improving but Accuracy Is Still an Issue
The good news is that Aaron Rodgers almost looked like his old self when scrambling and running the football on Sunday. He did a good job extending plays and finished the game with 31 rushing yards on five carries.
But Rodgers’ injured knee is still affecting the quarterback’s accuracy. A-Rod completed just 55 percent of his passes on the game and was not always able to put the ball exactly where he wanted it. There were a handful of drops, but Rodgers is still not Rodgers when it comes to accuracy. The Packers didn’t need Rodgers at his best to beat the Bills, but when the schedule gets tougher, the Pack will need their best player to be playing at an elite level again.
4) Rodgers Seems Unhappy with the Offense
The Packers didn’t need much offense to beat Buffalo on Sunday, but the offense was far from a well-oiled machine and the quarterback knew it.
After two early touchdown drives, the Packers settled for three field goals the rest of the game. The offense was inconsistent rather than explosive.
“We were terrible on offense,” Rodgers told reporters after the game. “I don’t think it made a difference for the offense. I’m also a realist. That’s just not acceptable offense for us. Four hundred and twenty-three yards looks pretty good in comparison to some of the games we’ve put forward the first three weeks, but it should have been about 45 points and 600 yards.”
Rodgers wanted more targets for Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham and more of a rhythm to the offense. Some of his comments could easily be taken as veiled criticisms of Mike McCarthy, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and their offensive game plans.
Rodgers is a competitor and there has been some tension between the quarterback and his coach over the years. This is a situation that must be watched as the season progresses and something that Rodgers and McCarthy cannot allow to become a long-term problem.
5) The Team Is Getting Thin at WR
Randall Cobb missed the game with a hamstring injury. Geronimo Allison left the game and entered the concussion protocol. That means the Pack finished the game against Buffalo without two of their top three wide receivers.
The Packers backup receivers lack experience. Behind Adams, Cobb and Allison, the team has three rookies. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has played the most but has only two catches on the season after four games. J’Mon Moore and Equanimeous St. Brown have yet to make any impact on offense.
Green Bay really needs Cobb or Allison back in the lineup next Sunday against Detroit or else McCarthy and the coaching staff will have to get very creative with their formations.
6) Aaron Jones Should Get More Work at RB
McCarthy remains dedicated to a running back by committee approach, but Aaron Jones continues to be the most productive of the three backs by far. Jones adds a spark to the team and is the team’s most explosive and dangerous runner.
Still, both Jones and Jamaal Williams finished the game with 11 carries. Jones finished with 65 yards while Williams gained only 27.
While all three backs will see playing time, the coaching staff needs to feed the hot hand to maximize production. Right now, yards are being left on the field because the coaches aren’t making adjustments during the game and going with what’s working. Based on his play over his first two games of the season, Jones deserves more carries than either Williams or Ty Montgomery.
7) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Bounced Back
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix did not play up to his 2016 Pro Bowl standards during the first three games of this season. He seemed a step slow in coverage and took poor tackling angles when trying to bring down opposing players.
Against Buffalo, Clinton-Dix had a strong game. The former Alabama star finished with four tackles and was not burned for any big play.
In addition, Clinton-Dix made an interception that highlighted his willingness to sacrifice his body and beat a receiver to the ball.
Green Bay needs improved safety play if the defense is to improve this season. Sunday against Buffalo was a good start for the defense in general and Clinton-Dix in particular.
Overall, this was a good win for the Packers. The defense stepped up and shined against a vulnerable opponent. Now Green Bay needs to build off this win as the schedule gets tougher.