The Buffalo Bills are 6-1 after a 27-17 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. And yet, if you’re a connoisseur of Bills football, the way in which this game concluded has likely left a strange taste in your mouth.
Here are five things we learned during the Bills’ fourth straight win.
Green Bay’s game plan was weird
The second half of this game was an annoying watch. I am, of course, predominantly talking about the way the Bills closed things out—particularly in the fourth quarter—but I’d have to imagine that Packers fans would say the same thing about their own team’s second-half approach.
We’ll start there, because the Bills took a three-score lead into halftime, with Tyler Bass kicking a field goal as time expired to put the Bills up 24-7. Green Bay had the ball to start the third quarter, and they came out running. A lot. And it worked, sort of. After running back Aaron Jones absolutely gashed Buffalo on run after run, the teams had... traded field goals, and the game was 27-10 going into the fourth quarter.
Mid-way through the fourth quarter, Aaron Rodgers had 74 passing yards on just 15 pass attempts. (He ended the game with 203 passing yards, but most came well after the game’s final outcome was no longer in doubt—and after Bills safety Jordan Poyer exited with an elbow injury.) Yes, the Packers were moving the ball, but continuing to run the ball with the same three-score margin on the scoreboard was a peculiar game-management decision, particularly when your quarterback is the two-time reigning MVP.
There are better ways to close a game, Buffalo
Meanwhile, the Bills were pressing despite their comfortable lead. Quarterback Josh Allen threw two fourth-quarter interceptions—both uncharacteristically bad decisions that ultimately did not cost the team, but did leave some insurance points on the table. Wide receiver Gabe Davis took an unnecessary personal foul on a late run, hitting cornerback Jaire Alexander late, that took the Bills out of field goal range. The run defense wasn’t good overall (though they did come up with a key fourth-down stop to thwart a Packers scoring attempt)—with finishing tackles of particular concern.
It didn’t really matter. The Bills looked like they were playing to step on the Packers’ proverbial throats—their in-game chirping with Alexander may have played a part of that—but in the end, they just kept the Packers limping along until much too deep into the fourth quarter.
A win is a win, but that’s not how we’re used to seeing these Bills close out games. And it wasn’t a ton of fun to watch, quite frankly.
The offense was on a heater in the first half
Buffalo opened the game with a three-and-out, their first such opening-drive series of the season. From that point forward, the Bills’ offense scored on five consecutive drives, and looked like they were going bloat their league-leading point differential much more than they ultimately did.
Allen opened the scoring with a one-yard touchdown toss to tight end Dawson Knox, then found wideout Stefon Diggs for a 26-yard score on the first play of the second quarter. Slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie took a jet sweep into the end zone from seven yards out to make it a 21-7 Bills lead, and then Bass kicked field goals to end the second quarter and begin the third.
It all went downhill from there, but for those five drives, the Bills’ offense was as good as it has been at any point this season—and fortunately, those were all the points they’d need.
Buffalo’s defensive line continues its dominance
The Bills sacked Rodgers twice in this contest; it’s their seventh straight game with two sacks, the second-longest such stretch in franchise history. Defensive end Greg Rousseau and defensive tackle Tim Settle did the honors, but it was a different player spearheading the effort despite it not showing up on the stat sheet.
Defensive tackle Ed Oliver killed the Packers in the first half. He routinely penetrated and collapsed pockets around Rodgers, and also had a sack nullified due to penalty. Edge rusher Von Miller justifiably gets the headlines for the Bills’ pass rush, but as we matriculate through the middle stages of the season and start thinking more about the team’s long-term prospects, Oliver is as important as anyone when it comes to Buffalo making a deep playoff push. He looks healthy again, and he may have affected Green Bay’s game plan more than any other single Bills player tonight.
The Bills have a strong home-field advantage
This win is Buffalo’s sixth straight at home—or seventh, if you include playoffs (and why shouldn’t you?). We’re rolling with seven, and in those seven home wins, the Bills have a robust +157 point differential.
Once Buffalo’s offense opened up a three-score lead, there was very little question as to the game’s outcome, despite the team’s fourth-quarter blunders. The Bills are good in any stadium they play in, but they are particularly lethal at home. Their quest to earn the AFC’s top playoff seed, and therefore ensure that they play all of their playoff games in Orchard Park, will be the predominant storyline for this team as the second half of the season approaches.