GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Nothing like a bad quarterback -- or at least a rookie who isn’t ready to play -- to make the Green Bay Packers feel better about themselves.
Sure, there were enough notable performances from the home team in Sunday’s 22-0 victory at Lambeau Field:
Jimmy Graham’s first touchdown with the Packers.
Aaron Jones’ dominance, even in a still-limited role.
A Clay Matthews (half) sack without a penalty.
First-round pick Jaire Alexander’s first career interception (that wasn’t wiped out by a roughing flag).
The Packers’ first shutout in nearly eight years.
And perhaps most importantly, a more mobile Aaron Rodgers.
But Josh Allen isn’t Tom Brady, Jared Goff, Matt Ryan Kirk Cousins or even the suddenly dangerous Mitchell Trubisky (with his six touchdown passes on Sunday). They’re all quarterbacks still on the Packers’ schedule, and they’re all more dangerous than the Bills’ first-round pick.
“I think those guys are typically, they just get rid of the ball quicker,” said linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who had a career-best three sacks. “They’ve seen a little bit more and they’re able to make decisions quicker. Obviously, he’s a very talented guy and he’s going to be a great one, I think, but you have to adjust to each quarterback as you go. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get after those quarterbacks the same way we got after him.”
No wonder Rodgers for weeks has called the Packers “a work in progress" – even for an offense that totaled 423 yards.
“It was as bad as we’ve played on offense with that many yards in a long time,” Rodgers said in a postgame press conference during which he spent most of it criticizing the offense.
Five dropped passes on four different drives cost them points. They punted twice and settled for a field goal on two others.
Without Randall Cobb (hamstring), the Packers played rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling as the third receiver and his miscue on a route would have been a pick-six if Bills cornerback Ryan Lewis hadn’t dropped the ball.
But the biggest difference was in the quarterbacks.
Much like Dom Capers’ defenses did, new coordinator Mike Pettine feasted on a rookie quarterback. The Packers sacked Allen seven times (three of them by Fackrell), picked him off twice and forced a fourth-quarter fumble to clinch their first shutout since a 9-0 win over the Jets on Oct. 31, 2010. The Bills totaled just 145 net yards, while Allen completed just 16 of 33 passes for 151 yards with two interceptions and passer rating of 36.3.
Alexander benefited from an amateurish decision by Allen to heave a ball late over the middle into the end zone, where Alexander picked it off in the second quarter. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix then picked off Allen in the second half for his third interception of the season.
Matthews and Nick Perry shared a sack in the second quarter and no, Matthews wasn’t flagged for roughing the passer for the first time in four games this season.
There were signs of progress on offense, too.
Rodgers moved better than at any time since he injured his left knee in the opener. He scrambled for a 10-yard gain to set up the Packers’ set touchdown and then again for 15 yards to set up a field goal to close the first half.
Rodgers went 22-for-40 with 298 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown pass to Graham for the tight end's first in Green Bay. Rodgers threw his first interception of the season on a twice-tipped pass.
Jones showed why eventually he will be the Packers’ go-to running back. And by eventually, perhaps that will be next Sunday at Detroit. Jones still played after Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery took their turns, but much like when he made his season debut a week earlier at Washington, he was instant offense.
Jones’ first possession featured a run for 30 yards, a screen pass for 17 and a 3-yard touchdown. Jones rushed 11 times for 65 yards as a part of a 141-yard rushing day that put the Packers at 2-1-1 after the first quarter of the season.
“Well, we improved from last week,” said McCarthy, whose team was coming off a 31-17 loss at Washington. “I think we have been transparent and identified the things we need to work on. This was our best week of prepration so you always feel good when you see you players benefit from a really good week of preparation.
“We’re 2-1-1, and there’s a lot of more work to do. I think today's game was reflective of that. I would definitely say it was a good blue-collar win, so we got some building blocks in place, and we need to continue to stack success off of that.”