Game Review: Starters Dominate Again

The Green Bay Packers’ first units continued their dominant preseason so far, this time at the expense of the Buffalo Bills. The No. 1 defense forced three turnovers in four Buffalo drives, and the No. 1 offense scored three touchdowns in four possessions as the Packers bolted to a big lead and cruised to a 31-21 victory, improving to 2-0. - More Packers-Bills Game Center


WR Donald Driver makes a sliding catch, keeping his feet in bounds in the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter on Saturday night.

The Green Bay Packers' first units continued their dominant preseason so far, this time at the expense of the Buffalo Bills.

The No. 1 defense forced three turnovers in four Buffalo drives, and the No. 1 offense scored three touchdowns in four possessions as the Packers bolted to a big lead and cruised to a 31-21 victory in front of 68,908 on Saturday night at Lambeau Field, improving to 2-0 in the preseason.

After recording four interceptions in the preseason opener last week against Cleveland, the Packers with their new 3-4 defensive scheme continued to take the ball away, racking up five more turnovers in the game. Three were credited to the first-string defense, which allowed just four first downs and did not allow the Bills across midfield.

Nick Collins deflected a Trent Edwards pass that Brady Poppinga intercepted, Johnny Jolly and Brandon Chillar shared a sack of Edwards and forced a fumble that A.J. Hawk recovered, and Cullen Jenkins forced a fumble by running back Fred Jackson that Poppinga recovered, all in the first 16 minutes, 9 seconds of the contest.

"The takeaways, I think we have something special," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think the guys are playing with a lot of confidence. They seem very comfortable in the scheme. The disguise part of it has gone very well. We're playing with more vision to the football than we did in the past, and we're off to a good start."

Green Bay's top offensive unit was able to take advantage, after an initial stall when Ryan Grant was stopped for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-1 at the Buffalo 15. Three plays later, Hawk's fumble recovery came on the Bills' 5, and Aaron Rodgers hit Greg Jennings on the ensuing snap for the first score of the game.

The offense followed that up with its longest drive of the night, going 79 yards in just six plays after a Buffalo punt. Rodgers hit tight end Jermichael Finley for completions of 18 and 21 yards, and after two defensive penalties, he found Donald Driver for 21 yards down to the 3. Grant took it in from there to make it 14-0.

The third turnover - Poppinga's second of the game - put the ball on the Buffalo 41, and Grant netted 31 yards on three carries and a screen pass. Rodgers then hit Driver for a 5-yard touchdown, scrambling to the right and throwing low to the outside, where Driver made a nifty sliding catch and stayed in bounds.

That play was particularly impressive to McCarthy, who praised Rodgers for taking all the scramble and footwork drills that are part of the head coach's quarterback school and executing them well when the situation warranted it.

"I thought that was a big-time play," McCarthy said. "For him to put that ball where he put it and for Donald to keep his feet in bounds, that's exciting. Those are the type of plays that win football games."

Rodgers once again put up efficient numbers, finishing 8-of-9 for 98 yards and two scores for a 151.6 rating. He completed passes to six different receivers, while Grant added 10 carries for 43 yards, plus two receptions for 21 more.

Through two games, the No. 1 offense has scored five touchdowns in six possessions, and Rodgers is a combined 13-of-19 for 200 yards with three TDs. Perhaps the most encouraging sign is the two performances have come against two different defensive schemes - Cleveland's 3-4, similar to what the offense is battling in practice every day, and Buffalo's traditional 4-3.

"I think the key is it starts up front," Rodgers said. "In two games, I haven't been sacked, really haven't been touched. It gives you a lot of confidence as a passer. In the running game they're opening up holes and guys are running through arm tackles, and we're controlling the line of scrimmage."

Meanwhile, the defense through two games has recorded nine turnovers and seven sacks. As the defense began substituting on Saturday, the big plays kept coming, with Brad Jones sacking backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and knocking the ball loose late in the second quarter. Desmond Bishop recovered at the Buffalo 26, setting up a 36-yard field goal by Mason Crosby to make it 24-0 at halftime.

The defense kept its preseason-long shutout intact early in the third quarter with - you guessed it - another turnover. Buffalo had driven into Green Bay territory for the first time and faced fourth-and-2 at the Packers' 21, but Fitzpatrick's pass was picked off by a diving Bishop, the third-year linebacker's second interception of the preseason.

"He's an explosive player," McCarthy said of Bishop, who in two games has two interceptions, one fumble recovery, and a hit on the quarterback that led to another turnover. "I can't say enough good things about the way he's playing so far."

Bishop, who's also had several big hits thus far, including one Saturday when he leveled fullback Corey McIntyre for a loss of 1 yard on a screen pass, certainly seems to thrive in this defensive scheme.

{sportsad300}"It's hard to anticipate what we're going to do, and it kind of shows out there," he said. "When we have players in the right place at the right time, making plays, turnovers happen."

Buffalo finally got on the scoreboard late in the third on a 9-yard TD pass from Fitzpatrick to tight end Jonathan Stupar. The Packers came 1 minute, 9 seconds shy of going seven full quarters without allowing a point in the preseason.

The Bills tacked on two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, as No. 3 quarterback Gibran Hamdan directed drives of 60 and 74 yards.

In between those the Packers got some third-string offensive production. Quarterback Brian Brohm, who played most of the second and third quarters after Rodgers came out, re-entered late after Matt Flynn injured his shoulder. Having had little success, with one interception, in the middle part of the game, Brohm led a 13-play, 75-yard drive for Green Bay's final score, a 3-yard TD run by rookie Tyrell Sutton.

On that drive, Brohm completed two passes of 9 yards each to Kole Heckendorf, plus a 15-yarder to JaRon Harris, to finish his night 12-of-19 for 83 yards with the one interception. Sutton had a pair of 10-yard runs before his score, and for the second straight game he finished as the Packers' leading ballcarrier with 11 rushes for 49 yards.

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