GREEN BAY—Kyle Orton came into the NFL the same year Aaron Rodgers did. Though their careers haven't followed the same path, Orton will always be remembered for the day in 2011 when he led the Chiefs to a dramatic upset of the then-undefeated Packers.
It was Week 15 of the season. The Packers were 13-0. They left Arrowhead Stadium with their only loss of the regular season.
This Sunday, in a Week-15 game in Buffalo, Orton and Rodgers will meet again, in a game that pits the immovable object (Bills defense) vs. the irresistible force (Packers offense).
Can Orton do it again?
"It was a long time ago. It was obviously a big one when I was with Kansas City. They had a really good team and we play a really good team this week," Orton said during a conference call with Packers media on Wednesday.
How good is this Packers team, compared to the 2011 team?
"I'd probably say a better defense. You know, they're playing a lot of the same guys, a lot of continuity on that side of the ball, on defense, in the secondary, linebackers and all that. They're a pretty good defense. They've got playmakers. I think the secondary probably has the best ball skills of just going up and playing the ball in the air of any secondary we've played this year. Obviously, with the edge rushers, we're going to have to be at our best to be able to score some points," Orton said.
The journeyman Orton sits in the middle of the pack of NFL passers. His 89.2 passer rating is just behind Jay Cutler and just ahead of Eli Manning. As he proved in 2011, Orton can win against the best quarterback in the game, Rodgers.
"I think we're growing every week. I think we've played a stretch of really good defenses. We're young on offense and I think the thing with us is we play really well in spurts," Orton said.
Buffalo is a team of rock-ribbed defense. The Bills are No. 5 in overall defense. It's offense that's holding the Bills back. Their one legitimate weapon is rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who's caught 58 passes for 822 yards and five touchdowns.
"He's ready. He's improving. He's got a great skill set. He's got a great feel for the game, great speed and very good hands. He's good at everything you could ask for in a receiver and he'll keep on improving and become one of those top-tier guys," Orton predicted.
"We came in the same year together and I have nothing but the utmost respect for Aaron. Class guy, good guy, great teammate I'm sure, and he does things with the football nobody else in our league can do," Orton said. "He's always had the legs. He's always had the big arm. He's always had that competitiveness. I have fun whenever I play against him and look forward to it on Sunday."
The 7-6 Bills are hinging their playoff hopes on a late-season charge, and a little luck.
"When you're around the league long enough, you know there are some crazy things that happen. I think your best bet is just focusing on week in and week out and try to win that one game. That's what we're going to try to do this week," Orton said.
The Packers defense is coming off a nightmarish second-half performance against Atlanta on Monday night. The Bills have no doubt taken note of the Packers' troubles against Julio Jones and the Falcons.
"I think they got into a situation where it was pass-heavy from the Falcons. When you have a premier guy like Julio, he kind of got off stronger in that second-half start. We'll have to attack the secondary and make big plays ourselves and play good football," Orton said.
Orton knows his best weapon is the Bills' defense.
"I've probably never seen a defense play to each other's strengths as well as our guys do. Our secondary has really played well all year. They play aggressive. They know the quarterback doesn't have a ton of time to throw the ball so they play very aggressive. They're smart. They're well-coached. It can turn into a feeding frenzy pretty quick. It's fun to take a peek at our defense whenever they're on the field," he added.
It was how the Chiefs upset the Packers in 2011, with a fierce pass rush and an aggressive secondary, and with Orton at quarterback.
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - DEC. 10