Sal's Sticks: Bills at Packers

The Bills were shut out for first time since 2008

Sal Capaccio
September 30, 2018 - 8:44 pm

Photo: Jeff Hanisch - USA TODAY Sports

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On a Wisconsin airport tarmac awaiting takeoff (WGR 550) - All those good feelings the Buffalo Bills and their fans had after their win in Minnesota last week were wiped out pretty quickly Sunday at Lambeau Field.

A 22-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers and the first time the team had been shutout in a decade can bring people down pretty fast. Let’s start with who and what were behind the sticks after the loss to drop the Bills to 1-3.
 

BEHIND THE STICKS

  • QB Josh Allen

At the end of the game, the numbers were at least more respectable, mostly because the Packers were giving up yards for time. However, Allen wasn’t very good for most of the contest, particularly early-on. He finished the first half only 5-of-19 passing for 58 yards. He didn’t pull the trigger early enough on several passes, and was off target too often when he did. He also made a crucial rookie mistake when he threw haphazardly across his body and deep down the middle of the field at the end of the first half. The ball was picked off by rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander. Allen finished the game 16-of-33 for 151 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions.
 

  • 7 sacks given up

A couple of these were also on Allen, but for the most part, the Bills’ offensive line was beaten badly and cleanly several times, resulting in Allen going down. The Bills came into the game tied for the league lead in sacks allowed with 14 through three games, then they gave up half that amount in just four quarters.
 

  • LeSean McCoy’s touches

Shady was back in the lineup, yet the Bills’ best offensive threat had a total of eight touches, five rushes and three receptions. Given the lack of weapons they have on that side of the ball, he has to have more than that for this team to be successful. It’s obviously tough when the game starts to get out of hand and they have to throw more to try and get back into it quicker, but this one was only 6-0 at the end of the first quarter and 13-0 as the first half was winding down. If this team has any hope to get the offense moving, it needs to start with keeping McCoy as a part of the game plan - both as a runner and receiver -  even when things aren’t going right.
 

  • The run game

16 carries for 58 yards, a 3.6 yards per-run average. Those numbers are pedestrian enough as it is, but when you have a rookie quarterback, the running game has to give him help. It didn’t in any way Sunday.  
 

  • Third down offense

Take all of the above and add it up to why this was such a problem, but it was a major issue. The Bills finished the game 3-for-16, only 19-percent on third down. They went three-and-out in four of their first five drives and seven of their twelve total drives. 
 

  • Run defense

After coming into the game ranked fifth in the NFL against the run, the defense let the Packers get off to the tune of 141 yards. They allowed 4.4 yards per-carry, which is a little too high but not horrible. However, the issue was mainly when Green Bay was able to be successful in the run game. Too many times the Bills had them in a good situation, but allowed a big run to either get them a first down or make it third-and-short.  
 

  • Lack of QB pressure

Last week, the defense harassed Kirk Cousins all afternoon, got him down four times, and were credited with six QB hurries. Granted, Cousins isn’t Rodgers and Rodgers has a quicker release, but against the Packers, the Bills’ defense wasn’t able to get nearly the pressure on him. They finished with two sacks and a total of four hurries. Rodgers had too much time too often.

 

AHEAD OF THE STICKS

  • CB Tre’Davious White

The Bills’ second year cornerback continued his stellar play. White followed Packers’ wideout Davante Adams all around the field whenever he was lined up outside. Adams was targeted 14 times, but only caught eight of those passes (not all against White). White especially had good coverage on a couple deep balls Rodgers threw at him. White was credited with a game-high three passes defended and five total tackles.
 

  • P Corey Bojorquez

Bojorquez continues to show his booming leg with distance and hang time. He punted eight times Sunday for an average of 43.5 yards, including one 50-yard boot and put four of those eight punts inside the Packers’ 20-yard line.
 

  • CB Ryan Lewis’ two forced fumbles

Lewis isn’t on this list because he was great in coverage, he was ok, but he did have two forced fumbles and two passes defended, including one in which he should have held on for what would have been a pick-six. Not bad for a kid who was on waivers hoping for work a few weeks ago.
 

  • Penalties

The Bills only committed three penalties the entire game, which is a great number, especially considering the game was on the road and they had a rookie quarterback under center.

 

THE BIG PICTURE

Going into the season, most felt the Bills would either be 0-4 or 1-3 through the first quarter of the schedule, then have a chance to win some games after that to try and climb back up the standings. After this loss in Green Bay, that’s exactly where they sit (1-3).

From that standpoint, it’s, of course, not a doomsday scenario for the 2018 season. It’s how they’ve lost the those three games that’s concerning, and especially this one after they looked so much improved a week ago in Minnesota. They’ve just simply been uncompetitive for most of the game in all three losses. The other two got away way too early on the scoreboard. This one they were never really in it, even though that wasn’t reflected in the score until later, and they never even threatened to close the gap. The Bills did not cross the Packers’ 20-yard line once in this entire contest.

This was, unfortunately, the same Bills team we saw the first six quarters of the season. They couldn’t do much at all on offense and gave up too many critical big plays and plays at crucial times on defense. The entire offense, and Josh Allen specifically, was bad for most of this one, and that was against a defense that has been pretty average, at best, so far this season. That’s not encouraging, to say the least.

For many, this season has never been about wins and losses but rather the development of Allen, cleaning up the salary cap, and getting to 2019 when it looks like their window to make some real ground will really open up. If that’s where you stand on 2018, then things are right on schedule and you can just sit back and see how Allen and others handle themselves and progress between now and then.

However, that’s not the case for everyone. If you’re one who is all about making the most of 2018 and trying to get back to the playoffs, it’s been a frustrating start, but not panic time, yet. It is getting close, especially considering how they played and wondering how they can improve so much, so quickly because they'll need to.

Now, the Bills have three games against teams they can really measure themselves up against. The first is at home against the Tennessee Titans, who just beat the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in overtime. They’ll be a challenge, but one the Bills need to overcome if they want to salvage this season and have something to play for. After that, it’s the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Cots, both on the road. The Bills won’t be favored in any of these games, and they’ll be expected to lose all of them. If they don’t win at least two, the thought process of even the most optimistic fans may start shifting to 2019.



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