Game Review: Turnovers Turn Dominant Stats Into Defeat

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BUFFALO - There may be nothing more frustrating in football than to dominate an opponent in so many statistical categories yet come up short on the scoreboard.

But that's the ultimate in frustration the Green Bay Packers were feeling Sunday after dropping a 24-10 decision to the Buffalo Bills in front of 72,205 at Ralph Wilson Stadium, leaving the Packers at 3-5 at the season's midway point.

The Packers outgained the Bills 427 yards to 184, converted more than three times as many third downs (7 of 16 compared to 2 of 11), recorded more than twice as many sacks (5 to 2) and possessed the ball almost nine minutes longer (34:21 to 25:39).

But in the end it was Green Bay's four turnovers to Buffalo's zero that doomed the Packers, as their miscues either took potential points off the board for themselves, gave the Bills easy scores, or in some cases both.

"It hurts," center Scott Wells said. "That one hurts bad.

"To only get 10 points out of the amount of offense we produced is definitely disappointing. It came down to mental errors and turnovers, and we turned it over too many times."

All four turnovers were critical, but none moreso than the final one in the fourth quarter.

Trailing 17-10, the Packers marched 60 yards to the Buffalo 1 and were looking to tie the game with just under 5 minutes left.

But Brett Favre's quick first-down pass to Donald Driver was tipped as Driver and defender Nate Clements fought for position, and Ko Simpson intercepted the ball in the end zone and returned it 76 yards to the Green Bay 27.

"The ball didn't bounce our way on that particular play," Favre said. "Donald Driver in traffic in those situations is as good as any. I will take him any day of the week and I don't second-guess the decision from a play-calling standpoint or where I threw the ball."

Three plays later, Bills running back Anthony Thomas ran it in from 14 yards out, and the 14-point swing had dramatically changed and essentially ended the game.

"You feel like you're about to tie it up, and worst-case scenario go to overtime because of how much time is left," Wells said. "Best-case scenario, the defense stops them we get the ball back and we score.

"So at that point, we're looking at at least a tie, setting us up for a victory. And for it to go the opposite way like that, for them to get a touchdown out of it, it hurts. It's gut-wrenching."

The Packers found themselves down 10-0 early. Terrence McGee returned the opening kickoff 61 yards to set up a field goal, and early in the second quarter Favre was intercepted by London Fletcher, who returned the pick 17 yards for a touchdown.

The miscues continued while Green Bay tried to fight back. As one drive reached midfield, Favre fumbled a snap. On another, as the first half was winding down with the Packers in position to get on the board from Buffalo's 5-yard line, Wells triggered a shotgun snap too early and hit an unsuspecting Favre in the facemask. The loose ball was recovered by the Bills' Aaron Schobel with just 10 seconds on the clock, keeping the Packers scoreless at halftime.

"You look at that and how many points you didn't get, how many times were we in the red zone today and we didn't come away with any points," offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said. "That's really the difference."

{sportsad300}The Packers continued to establish their statistical dominance in the second half, as runs by Ahman Green (23 carries, 122 yards) and catches by Donald Driver (nine receptions. 96 yards) chewed up yardage and finally led to some points. Driver's 1-yard TD catch in the third quarter and a 49-yard field goal by Dave Rayner early in the fourth tied the game at 10.

But then the Bills took advantage of Green Bay's only notable defensive mistake.

Buffalo faced second-and-20 from the Green Bay 43, one play after safety Marquand Manuel got the wind knocked out of him and left the field. With fellow safety Nick Collins (back) already out of the game, the Packers shifted cornerback Charles Woodson to safety alongside backup Tyrone Culver and a costly miscommunication ensued.

Buffalo receiver Lee Evans got behind cornerback Al Harris, who appeared to be in zone coverage, and there was no safety help, leaving Evans wide open for a 43-yard touchdown pass and a 17-10 Buffalo lead with 8 minutes left.

"We got caught out there basically with our pants down," Woodson said. "We were in a certain defense and then at the last minute we're trying to get in another defense, and it was all just out of whack. It probably would have been smarter just to get a timeout in that situation, but it happened."

To that point, Evans had only one catch for 15 yards and quarterback J.P. Losman had thrown for just 59 yards. The Packers had knocked starting running back Willis McGahee (ribs) out on the game's first possession, and Thomas as his fill-in was the only offensive threat as Green Bay held Buffalo to just 78 yards through three quarters.

With the help of his late touchdown, Thomas finished with 20 carries for 95 yards, but no receiver had more than two catches for the Bills while Favre (28 of 47, 287 yards) had four players with at least four receptions each.

"You can directly see, no matter the yardage or how much we're beating them up and down the field, if you turn the ball over, you give their offense another chance to score points," said tailback Noah Herron, who as Green's backup nearly matched Thomas' production with 82 yards from scrimmage (25 rushing, 57 receiving). "And that's what they did."

The tough loss forces the Packers to regroup rather than head to the Metrodome next week with a .500 record for an NFC North showdown with the Vikings.

But as they showed after a late turnover cost them a potential tie or victory against St. Louis last month, this team can be resilient and plans to show that once again.

"We've definitely had our share of adversity, and we were getting used to reaping some of the rewards, some of the fruit of our hard work, and here we are again," said defensive end Aaron Kampman, who had a sack to increase his season total to 9 1/2.. "But there's a lot of character on this team, a lot of guys who believe in doing things the right way, and we'll be back."

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