ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – The tale of two halves continued for the Packers' defense during Sunday night's 27-17 loss to Buffalo at Highmark Stadium.
After giving up 24 points in the first half, the defense overcame the absence of both All-Pro inside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell and first-round pick Quay Walker to force two takeaways and hold the Bills to just three second-half points.
After a three-and-out to start the game, Buffalo scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions to pull ahead and tacked on a 42-yard Tyler Bass field goal to dart out to a 24-7 halftime lead.
Of Buffalo's 369 total yards, 234 came in the first two quarters.
"You can't come out here and spot a team 21 points and expect to come back," cornerback Rasul Douglas said. "I think we played good in the second half. They just made more plays."
The second half was a different story. Despite losing Campbell to a knee injury and Walker for being ejected after officials ruled he made contact with personnel on the opposing sideline, the Packers allowed just one field goal at the start of the second half.
In the fourth quarter, Douglas and Jaire Alexander intercepted Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen on back-to-back series.
While the Bills got the ball back after the first one following a tipped Aaron Rodgers pass at the line of scrimmage, Alexander's takeaway was the precursor to an eight-play, 95-yard scoring drive for the Packers' offense.
"There's times we play good football and times we let it get away from us," defensive lineman Kenny Clark said. "Whatever it is, we gotta correct it. We gotta figure that out. I don't really have an answer for it."
It's been a tough first half for Green Bay's defense, which played well early on in losses to the New York Giants, Washington and New York Jets only to struggle late.
On Sunday, it was the opposite scenario. Whatever the case, the Packers are still searching for the right winning formula.
"That's not how we play ball," Douglas said. "That's been the standard for the last few years. That can't start to be the standard now. Collectively, we gotta come in here together and find ways to finish.
"Because I feel like we always play a good half, whether it's the first half or the second half. Today, we played well in the second half but we didn't play well the first half. We gotta put two of those together to play a complete game."
Rookie response: The Packers' game plan for the returning Christian Watson had to be discarded after the rookie second-round pick exited with a concussion following his 12-yard catch in the first quarter.
In his place, however, fellow rookies Romeo Doubs (four catches for 62 yards and a TD) and Samori Toure (one catch for a 37-yard TD) made big plays for Rodgers and the offense.
"Both of them got in the end zone and Doubs had a really good catch on third down to extend the chains," running back Aaron Jones said. "He went up there and got it, strong hands. They tried to rip it out as he was coming down. I'm very proud of those guys and just gonna continue to see them grow."
Watson was making his first appearance since injuring his hamstring earlier this month in London. The 6-foot-4 receiver was down for a few minutes before walking off under his own power.
"It was a real curveball," Jones said. "Going into a game, it's football but I still don't expect to lose anybody in that way. Hope he's doing well. Glad to see him get up and walk off on his own power. But yeah, he definitely would've helped us today."
See scenes from the Sunday night matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on Oct. 30, 2022.
McDuffie makes the calls: With both Campbell and Walker unavailable, second-year linebacker Isaiah McDuffie was responsible for relaying the defensive calls in the second half.
The Buffalo native finished with four tackles.
"Isaiah did a great job," Clark said. "The moment wasn't too big for him. He came in, made the calls with confidence. You look at him and he did everything he was supposed to do. Love the way he communicated. You could tell he was prepared to go out there."
An apologetic Walker addressed the media after the game and explained the second-quarter interaction on the Bills' sideline that led to his ejection. It came after he tackled Georgia teammate James Cook following a 7-yard run.
"I was making a tackle on the sideline, my former teammate, and I just felt as I was getting up – I wasn't on him or anything like that … I felt somebody push me from behind," said Walker, who had five tackles and a forced fumble in the first 1½ quarters.
"I probably misinterpreted what it was and I just felt the push and I'm on their sideline, feelings just flowing, I'm very hyped and everything like that and I just let it out of emotion. … I'm sorry for what I did and I just gotta face it."