GREEN BAY – A late stretch of 14 defensive plays was all Kyler Fackrell needed to cap a career day and put any hope of a Buffalo Bills’ comeback to rest on Sunday afternoon.
The Packers’ third-year linebacker sacked Bills quarterback Josh Allen three times in the final 11 minutes, 2 seconds of Green Bay’s 22-0 shutout victory at Lambeau Field, matching his season total in 16 games last year.
Fackrell played only 40 defensive snaps in the Packers’ first three games, rotating with Reggie Gilbert behind Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. Looking to put away the Bills on Sunday, the Packers moved Fackrell to the weak side in the fourth quarter and he immediately began to make his presence felt.
“I hadn’t been rushing on that other side but I think it was a little bit of being able to let loose,” Fackrell said. “They had to pass to try and make plays, so we were able to tee off where, in other situations, you have to be cognizant of the run. I got cut quite a few times by 73 (Dion Dawkins) on the other side, so just being a little free freed my mind on those last plays.”
Fackrell earned his first sack of Allen on second-and-18 with 11:02 remaining before dropping him twice in the span of three plays on the Bills’ last possession. His final sack, which led to a loss of eight yards, caused Buffalo to simply run out the clock.
All four of the Packers’ outside linebackers – Matthews (1/2 sack), Perry (1/2 sack), Gilbert and Fackrell – got in on the sacks in Sunday’s game. All told, the defense’s seven sacks were one more than its total through the first three games.
Count Matthews among those happy to see Fackrell finish Sunday on a high note, especially after the room frequently was asked about depth at the position throughout the summer.
“I love to see when Kyler makes plays because he obviously gets a bad rap around here,” Matthews said. “Specifically with what they’re asking outside linebackers to do, Fack is a great complement to what they’re asking me to do.
“I think it just gives confidence to the room because I know a lot of questions arose at the beginning of the year with only four outside linebackers. So you’ve got guys who can cover, guys who can rush and that’s what you look for in this game.”
Heading into the weekend, it looked like the Packers might have needed to lean on Gilbert and Fackrell heavily across from Matthews, but Perry was given the green light to play after passing the concussion protocol Saturday.
Whatever the case may be from here on, Fackrell hopes what he put on film Sunday will lead to more opportunities in the weeks to come.
“Hopefully moving forward, they can continue to trust in me and we can continue to have a good rotation and make sure that we’re keeping Clay and Nick as fresh as possible,” Fackrell said. “When Reggie and I get in there, they can trust that we’ll make plays and be able to produce.”
Explosive gains: For the second consecutive week, Aaron Jones provided the Packers’ offense with an immediate return on investment on his first offensive play from scrimmage.
After rushing for 10 yards on his first carry last week against Washington, Jones used a block from tight end Lance Kendricks to break a 30-yard carry down Buffalo’s sideline on the final play of the first quarter.
Jones finished the series with a 3-yard touchdown run, which staked Green Bay to a 13-0 lead at the time. The second-year running back finished the day with 11 carries for 65 yards.
“Fast starts are a big thing,” said Jones, who’s gained 107 rushing yards on his first 17 carries this season (6.3 yards per attempt). “I want to be a sparkplug, so I want to come out and get a fast start when I do get my opportunities.”
It was another big day for the Packers’ three-headed backfield rotation of Jones, Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery, who combined for 183 total yards (110 rushing, 73 receiving).
Montgomery was responsible for the biggest play of the afternoon, catching a 43-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers after lining up in the slot in an empty formation on third-and-4 with 6:48 left in the first quarter.
“If you think about it, one back is not getting 30 carries every game. He’s not getting 70 reps every game,” Jones said. “So it does keep us fresh throughout the season. I feel like it’s just going to help us.”
First Leap: After a flag for a holding penalty negated his first official Lambeau Field touchdown two weeks ago against Minnesota, Jimmy Graham played it a little cautious after catching his 3-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers in the first quarter.
“I didn’t celebrate probably as long as I did on the last one just in case because I was exhausted on the last one,” Graham said. “This one feels good. To have that first one taken away was pretty tough.”
No flags: With his first sack of the season behind him, Clay Matthews was pleased to see Sunday’s game played without a roughing-the-passer flag thrown on either side of the field.
“Hopefully that’s how it’s called moving forward,” said Matthews, who had been flagged in each of the first three games. “Obviously Allen is a big kid so I don’t think any of the sacks had those weight or pressure on them that you’ve seen in weeks prior. But hopefully they call it like that moving forward, because I didn’t see any today, which is great.”
For Whom the Bell Tolls: Playing without Justin McCray (shoulder), the Packers turned to veteran Byron Bell to start at right guard next to Bryan Bulaga.
The eighth-year veteran proved to be up to the task, assisting an offensive line that paved the way to 423 total yards of offense, including 141 on the ground.
“Big B is Big B. He doesn’t talk much, but he can lay the hammer,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “That’s a big, strong man. I’ve got nothing but good things to say. He came into the O-line room, meshed very quickly and it’s been a pleasure to have him.”
The Packers also were without starting receiver Randall Cobb, who was scratched after tweaking his hamstring in practice Thursday. Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams filled in for Cobb on punt returns, returning five for 20 yards, while rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling added a 38-yard reception on offense.
Beyond 50: Kicker Mason Crosby avenged an early missed extra point with three successful field goals, including a pair of 52-yarders that marked his No. 30 and No. 31 career makes from at least 50 yards.
“Disappointed in that first one because I feel like I'm striking the ball really well,” Crosby said. “Just kind of figured out my lines and started hitting some really good balls there throughout the rest of the game. It was nice to contribute. But like I said, this team, we finally put four quarters together and got a good win.”
The Packers improved to 2-1-1 on the season with a 22-0 win over the Buffalo Bills at Lambeau Field