In the third and final week of preseason, the Green Bay Packers came up short against the Buffalo Bills with a 19-0 loss on Saturday.
Even before kickoff, it was clear winning this one would be a challenge for the Packers. Sticking with their conservative preseason plan, Green Bay, once again, sat 30 plus players—mostly consisting of starters—while Buffalo chose to roll out their top players on both sides of the ball.
Perhaps the most notable of those Bills players was star quarterback Josh Allen, who wasted no time getting into rhythm and giving the Packers’ second and third string guys their biggest challenge yet this preseason. Allen started the game with pass play after pass play, consistently connecting with wide receivers Gabriel Davis and Emmanuel Sanders for first downs throughout Buffalo’s opening drive.
In what felt like almost no time, the Bills were in the redzone, and it wasn’t until then that the Packers’ defense started to gain some life. On 1st and 10 at the 21, defensive lineman Willington Previlon applied great pressure on Allen, forcing him to throw it away. On the next play, linebacker Chauncey Rivers got to Allen and sacked him for a 10-yard loss. However, the defensive momentum was short lived after Allen connected with Davis on a 31-yard pass over the middle for a touchdown on 3rd and 20 to give the Bills a 7-0 lead. On the Buffalo’s opening dive, Allen went 10/11 for 90 yards and 1 TD (ESPN stats).
After missing week two of preseason due to a shoulder injury, quarterback Jordan Love was back in the lineup for the Packers and got the start on Saturday. In addition to Love, tight end Josiah Deguara also saw some playing time for the first time since tearing his ACL in week four last season.
Love’s return was not an easy one either. Just like on offense, the Bills rolled out their starting defense and did not hold back. Regardless, Love held his own, leading the Packers on a 74-yard drive that consisted of 12 plays and lasted over 8 minutes. After getting the Bills to jump on 3rd and 3, Love earned a first down for the Packers and connected with wide receiver Reggie Begelton on a deep, 29-yard pass.
Then, Love connected with wide receiver Malik Taylor for a crafty 13-yard catch and a first down to put Green Bay in the red zone. The catch was particularly impressive from Taylor since he beat Buffalo’s star cornerback Tre’Davious White on the play and demonstrated remarkable recovery after false starting just one play before.
After a solid 9-yard rush from rookie running back Kylin Hill on 3rd and 3, the Packers inched their way closer to the goal line as time ticked away in the first quarter. However, they’d come up short after running back AJ Dillon was tripped up on third down and the Packers failed to convert on fourth. Although it was extremely anticlimactic, Green Bay’s opening drive did demonstrate a lot of promise against the Bills’ top defense.
On their next drive in the second quarter, the Packers’ defense appeared a bit more comfortable, containing the Bills and forcing them to punt.
Once they got the ball back, Love and the Packers’ offense continued to build on some of the momentum they built in the first quarter. Love, once again, connected with Begelton, this time for 9 yards on 2nd and 8 for a first down. Then, Hill continued his strong preseason showing, rushing for 11 yards on 2nd and 10. Later on in the drive, Love connected with Begelton again on third down, but they came just inches short of moving the chains. However, just like they have all preseason, the Packers decided to go for it. This time, the result fell in their favor after Love made a really smart decision to roll out of the pocket, be patient, and hit tight end Dominique Dafney for a 23-yard gain. Love’s impressive decision making didn’t last for long though. On the very next play, he chucked a panic pass in the endzone (when he should’ve just thrown it away) and was intercepted by former Green Bay safety Micah Hyde.
The Bills took advantage of Love’s mistake too. They responded with the most impressive drive of the afternoon that consisted of 15 plays, 80 yards and lasted over 7 minutes. On the first play of the drive, running back Matt Breida exploded out of the backfield for a 16-yard gain. From there, it was all Allen all the time.
On 3rd and 8, he connected with wide receiver Cole Beasley for 14 yards. Then, he took it himself and rushed for a 4-yard gain on 4th and 2 after the Bills also went for it on fourth down. After that, he connected with tight end Nate Becker for 13 yards and Beasley for 21 yards for two more first downs. And, on 3rd and goal on the 3-yard line, Allen connected with running back Zaccheus Moss for a touchdown. The Bills’ extra point attempt was no good, so they took a 13-0 lead.
The Packers got the ball back with just over 2 minutes left in the half, giving Love a great opportunity to get some key reps during the 2-minute drill. Center Jake Hanson snapped the ball super low to open the drive, but Love responded well.
Following the poor snap, Love got Buffalo’s defense to jump, earned a free play, and connected with Taylor for a 27-yard gain. After a 5-yard gain from wide receiver Amari Rodgers, Love got the Bills to jump again and then connected with Hill for a 7-yard gain. Unfortunately, Hanson’s struggles continued on the drive and, on third down, he didn’t snap the ball and earned the Packers a delay of game penalty.
Love was screaming at Hanson to snap it and even stomping his feet, but something clearly didn’t register between the two of them. After failing to convert on third down, kicker Mason Crosby came out to close the half for Green Bay with a 28-yard field goal attempt. Unfortunately for him and the Packers, the kick was no good and they still trailed 13-0 at the half.
Love remained in the game for the Packers to start the second half, but nothing really came from it. Green Bay continued to come up short on offense and was forced to punt after just six plays to open the half.
Allen’s day was over at halftime, so backup quarterback Jake Fromm led the way for the Bills defense the rest of the afternoon. Former Bears quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, came in briefly for one play but we never saw him again after that.
Just as the football gods intended, once Fromm entered the game, he quickly connected with wide receiver Jake Kumerow for 10 yards and a first down. Then, he connected with wide receiver Brandon Powell for 15 yards and a first down. And, to put the cherry on top of his opening drive, on 3rd and 10, Fromm scrambled up the middle for 13 yards and a touchdown. The Bills attempted to go for two but failed to convert, extending their lead to what would be our final score of 19-0.
After Fromm’s touchdown later in the third quarter, Jordan Love’s day finally came to an end and quarterback Kurt Benkert got another opportunity to prove himself. Right out the gate Benkert led the Packers on a 59-yard drive that lasted nearly 6 minutes and consisted of 11 plays. However, just like they did pretty much all day long, the Packers came up short. Green Bay attempted to go for it on 4th and 1 at the Buffalo 16 but running back Dexter Williams failed to convert after the Packers called a timeout just to run a pitch play (yes, a pitch play) and get stopped short.
In the fourth quarter, both the Bills and Packers punted twice and turned the ball over on downs twice. And the highlight of the final 15 minutes of this preseason matchup was kicker Mason Crosby punting for 41-yards after the Packers failed to convert on third down.
Despite the shutout, there were still a few interesting things to take away from Green Bay’s third and final preseason matchup. However, I think all of us are just ready for September 12 now.
What we learned: Love has the skillset but still needs to work on his decision making
After finally getting to see Jordan Love again this preseason, it’s clear he has the skillset to be a great player, but his decision making is what is holding him back.
The fourth down play followed by the interception on first down in the first quarter is a perfect example. Love showed great poise by rolling out of the pocket and being patient enough to find his guy on one play, but then immediately made a frazzled decision on the next to chuck the ball in the endzone on first down with no clear target on the play.
None of this is surprising from a young quarterback, but it’s why moments like the preseason and camp are especially important for him to get valuable reps and become more confident in his decision making.
What went right: Kylin Hill
After three preseason games, I still cannot believe the Packers got Kylin Hill in the seventh round of the draft. It is so much fun to watch him play and it’s likely he will be a secret weapon for Green Bay’s offense this season. I’m sure LaFleur is absolutely loving what they’re getting out of him so far.
Hill finished the day with 7 carries for 37 yards and 1 reception for 7 yards (ESPN stats).
What went wrong: Red zone offense
If the score wasn’t already an indicator of the Packers failure to put points on the board Saturday, look no further. According to The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman, the Packers were in the red zone four times and had two turnovers on downs on 4th and 1, one interception on first down and a missed field goal.
I don’t think it will be an issue once the starters are back in week one, but boy, was that difficult to watch.
Offensive MVPs: Malik Taylor and Reggie Begelton
Wide receivers Malik Taylor and Reggie Begelton both had really great showings on Saturday. Taylor led the team in receiving and finished the day with 5 receptions for 69 yards (ESPN stats) while Begelton came up just behind him on the stat sheet with 4 receptions and 51 yards (ESPN stats). Although only one of them will probably make the final roster, it was great to see both of them compete for that spot until the very end.
Defensive MVP: Isaiah McDuffie
Speaking of players that fought for a roster spot until the very end, linebacker Isaiah McDuffie was a standout on defense for the Packers Saturday. McDuffie was all over the field and finished the day with a team high 9 total tackles, 4 of which were solo, 0.5 sacks and 1 QB hit (ESPN stats).
Up next, the real fun begins. In two weeks, the Green Bay Packers travel to Caesars Superdome to face off with the New Orleans Saints in week one of the regular season. Kickoff is set for Sunday, September 12 at 4:25 p.m. EST.
Sarah Kelliher is a contributor for CheeseheadTV and a podcaster with Pack-A-Day Podcast. She can be found via Twitter @sarahkelliher4.