Sean McDermott’s club came up with a shocker last week at Minnesota. Can the Buffalo Bills go to Lambeau Field and bully Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers?
So where was all this against the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers? That had to be the question many were asking after the Buffalo Bills went into Minnesota and crushed the defending NFC North champions, 27-6.
In case some out there missed what happened in the Twin Cities, Sean McDermott’s defense spent the afternoon in the Vikings’ backfield and before you could say U.S. Bank Stadium, the Bills owned a 17-0 first-quarter lead and rookie quarterback Josh Allen looked comfortable.
The seventh overall pick in April’s draft ran around and over Minnesota defenders and just 9:51 into the game had already ran for one score and thrown for another. Meanwhile, the Buffalo pass rush was all over Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Bills would sack the seven-year signal-caller four times and forced him to fumble three times. McDermott’s club scooped two of those miscues, both within the first 10 minutes of the game.
Cousins was also picked off by second-year outside linebacker Matt Milano, who had quite the afternoon on the way to earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. He totaled eight stops, the aforementioned interception, one sacks, two passes defensed and a fumble recovery.
And perhaps even more impressive was the fact that the Buffalo defense limited Minnesota’s running game to only 14 yards on six carries. Granted, Mike Zimmer’s squad was without talented running back Dalvin Cook. But once Minnesota fell behind, they opted to abandon the ground attack. But credit is still due when it comes to the men up front for McDermott’s club.
So can we expect a similar performance against a Green Bay Packers’ offense that appears to be very limited these days? Go back to the second half of the team’s Week 1 comeback victory over the Chicago Bears. In that contest, Mike McCarthy’s offense reached the end zone three times in the game’s final 25 minutes to erase a 20-0 deficit. In nine quarters of football since then, including overtime in Week 2 vs. the Vikings, Rodgers and the Pack attack has scored only three offensive touchdowns.
For numerous reasons, the Green Bay offense has lacked balance. The team played from behind against the Bears and Washington Redskins, totaling less than 20 rushing attempts in each contest. Rodgers has thrown for six scores and zero interceptions in three games this season, hitting on 66.4 percent of his attempts for 832 yards. But the Packers have yet to score a rushing touchdown in ’18. Can this team afford to be one-dimensional against a Buffalo defense that features pass-rushers such as ends Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy? The Bills have totaled eight sacks in three contests while the Packers have allowed a dozen quarterback traps during their 1-1-1 start.
Understandably, the focus in this contest could be on Josh Allen and whether he can take another step forward as he makes his third NFL start. In three total outings this season, including that relief job at Baltimore, he’s connected on 55.7 percent of his passes for 515 yards and just as many touchdown passes (2) as interceptions. The rookie quarterback has been sacked 11 times and fumbled three times (0 lost) but also leads the team with 97 yards rushing and has run for two scores.
So can the Bills jump on the Packers early, as was the case with the Vikings last week? This is a Green Bay team that has been outscored a combined 28-7 in the first quarter this season. And will McCarthy abandon the running game if they find themselves in an early hole? This is an interconference clash with a lot of intrigue.