Packers Trounce Bills Starters, 31-21

Brady Poppinga Picks Off A Pass (AP)

If the Bills thought last week's 27-20 victory over the Chicago Bears was any indication of the success it might enjoy against Chicago's NFC North rival, the Green Bay packers put that theory to rest—and fast—with a 31-21 victory.

The Pack dominated the Bills’ starters from the first series, when Bills quarterback Trent Edwards threw an errant second down interception that was returned by Brady Poppinga to the Bills’ 27.

After Keith Ellison made crunched running back Ryan Grant on that series’ 4th-and-1, the Bills continued their turnover woes in their own end. One of the major questions going into Saturday’s matchup was how the Bills’ recently implemented no-huddle attack would fare against the Packers’ new 3-4 defense in perhaps a foreshadowing of future division matchups for the Bills.

If Saturday was any indication, the Bills won’t have much success turning around their winless division record of 2008. Edwards took two ugly sacks in the Bills’ second series, the first coming courtesy of Brad Butler and Eric Wood crumbling under Green Bay’s miniscule pressure. The second was all Edwards’ fault, as he scrambled out of the pocket and, as Bills fans were having flashbacks of Rob Johnson, failed to make a decision on where to throw. Edwards was then hit from behind and A.J. Hawk recovered the fumble on the Bills’ five-yard-line.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers needed just one play to hit Greg Jennings on a quick play-action slant, with Leodis McKelvin one costly step behind and the pack up 14-0 before eight minutes had passed.

Edwards, who finished 7 for 11 for 45 yards and one interception, showed some promise with a first down completion to tight end Derek Schouman until he threw behind Josh Reed on what would have been a wide-open first down.

That set the stage for Aaron Rodgers to go to work. The fifth-year signal caller hit Jermichael Finley on 18- and 21-yard completions to set up Ryan Grant’s three-yard scamper on the famed Packer sweep.

The Bills can only hope Aaron Maybin brings more stability to the ends of the Bills’ defense, because they were noticeably absent both on the sweep and all night. While the Bills’ line was busy getting knocked over, Rodgers enjoyed ample time to pick apart the Bills’ secondary for 98 yards and two touchdowns on eight completions. The Bills managed just one sack on the night, courtesy of Copeland Bryan.

If fans thought the Bills were falling into their old habits of 2008, their fears were confirmed when the sure sign of a sloppy team emerged—turnovers. The Bills handed the Pack the ball to the Pack four times in the first half and five times on the night, one each on Edwards’ and Fitzpatrick’s INTs, Edwards’ fumble, a Fred Jackson tackled-from-behind botch.

By the time the first half ended with Green Bay up 24-0, the game had all but been decided, but the Bills’ second and third platoons made a valiant effort, with points by Jonathan Stupar, Xavier Omon, Bruce Hall and Rian Lindell.

While the 31-21 outcome was a disappointing one for the Bills, some positives remained. Among them:

The Bills didn’t abandon the no-huddle. Critics no doubt wondered how long the Bills would stick with the new offense, especially when things turned for the worse. Buffalo at times managed a quasi-huddle in the first half and tended to pause for a few seconds before snapping the ball early on, something that might have given the Green Bay defense a split second to set up. But as the game wore on, and as Ryan Fitzpatrick and Gibran Hamdan (and the Pack’s reserves) entered the game, the Bills’ offense managed just as many first downs for the game (22) as the Packers. The Bills also outgained the cheeseheads 363-292 total net yards. All that without a single huddle.

Dom Terrific. Free agent Pickup Dominic Rhodes, who last week got in a scuffle with defensive end Chris Kelsay, brought some of his scrappiness to the field Saturday, leading all Bills running backs with 39 yards on six carries, including a 19-yard scamper.

It’s the preseason. You know things weren’t great when this fact is used as a positive reminder. But it’s true. While the Bills’ starters didn’t look so hot in a quarter plus, NFL games aren’t played in 20 minutes. So it will be interesting to see this team take the field for its first full regular season game Sept. 14. But until then, Buffalo better get rolling, because getting down early to the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football is ill-advised.

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