GREEN BAY – All week long, Mike Pettine stressed the importance to his defense of playing 60 full minutes of football.
The Packers' new defensive coordinator saw glimpses of his guys playing to their potential in the first three games of the season, but there also were stretches of up-and-down play.
Against Chicago and Washington, the defense started slow before clamping down in the second half. Against Minnesota two weeks ago at Lambeau Field, Green Bay played well the first three quarters before yielding production down the stretch.
Looking for more consistency, Pettine took it upon himself to put up a slide for all of his defensive players to see during a team meeting this week. His overall message was simple – when the Packers turn it on, they can be a dominant defense.
"It was interesting to see the stats," linebacker Clay Matthews said. "I think we were 32nd in the league in first-quarter yardage, and third-quarter yardage, we were … No. 1 in the league. So it goes to show like, 'Hey, you can do it.'"
The Packers' defense hit the target Sunday afternoon against Buffalo, holding the Bills to only 145 total yards and fashioning Green Bay's first home shutout since beating Detroit 26-0 on Oct. 18, 2009.
Green Bay wreaked havoc in the Bills' backfield all afternoon, sacking rookie quarterback Josh Allen seven times, forcing three takeaways and allowing only 11 first downs throughout.
Of the Bills' 10 series that didn't end in a turnover, they went three-and-out on six occasions. Allen finished with a 36.3 passer rating and only 19 yards on five scrambles one week after torching Minnesota for a 111.2 passer rating and two rushing touchdowns in a surprising 27-6 road win over the Vikings.
To get it done, Green Bay focused on keeping the rookie first-round pick confined to the pocket. From there, six different players also were credited with at least ½ sack, beginning with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry combining to take down Allen for a 9-yard loss at 10:20 in the second quarter.
"We had cut-ups of his runs, just showing that he's a big dude, he's very athletic and he'll look to run," said linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who led Green Bay with three second-half sacks. "It was a pretty big emphasis to really keep him in the pocket as much as possible."
The only time Buffalo entered Green Bay's red zone, rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander quickly ended the threat with his first career interception on third-and-5 with 56 seconds left in the first half.
The Packers converted the takeaway into points with a 52-yard Mason Crosby field goal as time expired in the first half, putting Green Bay ahead 16-0.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (interception) and defensive tackle Kenny Clark (forced fumble and recovery) forced the other two takeaways to put an exclamation mark on Green Bay's big day.
Pettine's message this week resonated with Clark and a defensive front that held Buffalo to only 58 rushing yards on 16 carries in Green Bay's first game without veteran defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, who was placed on injured reserve Saturday with an ankle injury.
"That was the biggest focus of this week because there would be times when we'd dominate the second half," Clark said. "We'd hold teams to minimal yardage. We have to put that all together as one and start faster. Coming out more energized, start fast, brought a lot of pressure, it was a great win."
It was the type of complete performance Green Bay was looking for after giving up 326 total yards to the Vikings in the final 40 minutes two weeks ago and another 323 total yards in the first half last week against Washington.
The Packers built a little momentum after halftime in the 31-17 loss, conceding only 63 total yards and two passes for six yards to Alex Smith, and carried it into Sunday's performance against the Bills.
It was a reminder to everyone of what the defense is capable of when it starts fast and finishes strong heading into next Sunday's NFC North showdown with the Detroit Lions.
"I think that's what, as a man, we all kind of had to take a look at what we need to accomplish," Matthews said. "We came out there with a confidence and a focus of just getting our job done and not doing anything extra. I think that's what you saw today. Like I said, hopefully that's the norm moving forward because we've got to kind of string them together now."