Game Review: Second-Half Scoring Spurt Keys Victory

The Packers came away with just 13 points on three first-quarter drives that went deep into Buffalo territory, and then failed to convert a single first down in the second quarter as they held on to just a six-point lead at the break. That all changed after halftime.


Quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the offense on touchdown drives on each of its first three possessions in the second half, two of those aided by interceptions from a Green Bay defense that allowed just 186 yards of offense and only 62 net yards passing, on the way to a 34-7 win over Buffalo at Lambeau Field in front of 70,741.

The win improved the Packers to 2-0, the third time in four years under Head Coach Mike McCarthy that Green Bay has started off a season with two wins, with a matchup against the 2-0 Chicago Bears next Monday night at Soldier Field on the horizon.

"I thought we were definitely ready to play," McCarthy said. "I thought we came out of the tunnel, the crowd's fantastic like it always is, opening day, a lot of excitement. I thought we played well in the first quarter. I thought frankly we were flat and sloppy in the second quarter. 

"And we just kind of re-started our engine at halftime and played the way we were supposed to play. I thought the defense really set the tempo in the tunnel with the takeaways."

Rodgers quickly took the offense down the field on the opening series of the game, but wide receiver James Jones was unable to keep his feet in bounds inside the 5 on a third-and-3 pass from the 26, as Green Bay settled for a 44-yard field goal from Mason Crosby.

After the defense forced a three-and-out by Buffalo on its opening series, Rodgers rolled out to his right two plays later to find a wide-open Jermichael Finley for a 34-yard pass over the middle to put the ball at Buffalo's 8. But the drive stalled, with Green Bay once again just emerging with three points from a 24-yard Crosby field goal.

"I like converting those drives off with touchdowns, and didn't do that," Rodgers said. "Unfortunately the second drive there we made a good check and thought we were going to get a touchdown, but just couldn't get the ball in the end zone."

The Green Bay defense came up with another three-and-out, and Rodgers guided the offense down the field on a 11-play, 72-yard drive that was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run from running back Brandon Jackson, who was starting in place of an injured Ryan Grant, his first start since his rookie campaign of 2007.

With a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Packers appeared poised to put Buffalo away early, but the Bills answered on their next drive. Running back Marshawn Lynch picked up the first first down of the day for Buffalo on a 14-yard run on the final play of the first quarter, and fellow back Fred Jackson finished an eight-play, 80-yard drive off with a 3-yard TD run. Of Buffalo's 80 yards on the series, 49 came on the ground, with another 24 courtesy of a Charles Woodson pass-interference penalty.

The Packers' offense couldn't maintain any rhythm the rest of the half, with Rodgers' only completion going for a 2-yard loss to wide receiver Greg Jennings as the offense went three-and-out on its two second-quarter possessions. After the defense stopped the Bills with just over a minute remaining and one timeout for Green Bay left, McCarthy elected to let Buffalo run the clock down as the Packers snapped the ball just once before heading to the locker room with a 13-7 lead.

"I think that's a fence situation," McCarthy said. "What I am referring to, with the down and distance there, fourth-and-1, you call a timeout, that's an area of the field where there is a tendency for a fake punt or some type of plays is part of their planning, or part of their history, I should say.

"So I didn't want to call a timeout and possibly extend their two-minute drill. I didn't like the way we were playing at that particular time. I was fully aware that Buffalo was going to open up with the football so I felt it was important for us to get to the locker room."

On Buffalo's opening series of the second half, Woodson and linebacker A.J. Hawk got pressure on quarterback Trent Edwards (11-of-18 for 102 yards and two INTs) on a third-and-8 from the Buffalo 39, and Edwards' pass over the middle went off the hands of wide receiver Steve Johnson and into the arms of linebacker Brandon Chillar, the first interception of the seven-year veteran's career. Chillar returned the pick 9 yards to the Buffalo 39, and the offense took advantage.

On a third down at the 35, wide receiver Greg Jennings made a great adjustment near the left sideline for a 17-yard grab, and then Rodgers found wideout Jordy Nelson on an 11-yard pass over the middle. Facing another third down, this time at the 7, Rodgers absorbed a big hit from a Buffalo defender as he found Donald Driver on the left side of the end zone for a touchdown and a 20-7 lead.

The defense forced another three-and-out, aided by a 12-yard sack of Edwards by linebacker Clay Matthews, who became the first Packer since 1982 to register back-to-back three-sack games. Rodgers completed four straight passes for 49 yards, before scrambling around right end for a 9-yard score.

Green Bay's defense had one more takeaway in it, this time an interception from rookie safety Morgan Burnett as he took the ball away from wide receiver Roscoe Parrish on a pass in the flat at Green Bay's 48. Rodgers found Finley (four catches for 103 yards) over the middle to convert a third-and-15, before hooking up with wide receiver James Jones on a back-shoulder throw for a 30-yard score and a 34-7 lead, which turned out to be the final margin.

Rodgers completed 11-of-13 passes in the second half for 145 yards and two TDs for a 152.7 passer rating, and the Packers converted on three of four third downs after going 4-for-8 in the first half.

"In the second quarter we didn't convert third downs, and didn't make any plays," said Rodgers, who finished 19-of-29 for 255 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 116.3 rating. "The third quarter the defense gave us some good field position and we executed.

"That's the key with us, it's converting on third down. We did a better job today."

It would be easy for the Packers to take the approach that they have won both games while playing less than their best, but McCarthy isn't going to allow his players to take that approach as they turn their attention to an early-season battle for first place in the division.

"I think that's convenient to think that way," McCarthy said. "I'm not going to use it. I'm going to stay true to the film and the emotion that was very present in the second quarter. That's not the way we play. And we addressed it at halftime and our players responded. It's a hard-working bunch. The toughness and discipline is at the forefront of what we're trying to accomplish, improving on week to week.

"It's a long year and you got to make sure you're ready to play them one at a time. I thought the preparation leading up to this was OK, and we need to get ready for Chicago."

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