The Green Bay Packers beat the Buffalo Bills 31-21 in a preseason tilt Saturday night, as the team improved to 2-0 in meaningless games.
While I will again stress that no one wins anything in the preseason, Packers’ fans have some reason for excitement entering the 2009 season (which we wish would get here already).
The Packers starters dominated the Bills starters, although the Bills were without starting receiver Terrell Owens. Still, the Packers first team offense was efficient as ever, putting up three touchdowns by halftime behind an 8-for-9 for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns performance by the best quarterback in the NFC North, Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers continued to demonstrate his playmaking ability, hitting Donald Driver on a second-and-goal from the 5 after he scrambled right and hit the receiver on the run, a play the Press Gazette’s Pete Dougherty called the quarterback’s best of the night.
“When (Rodgers) jumps out of the pocket and makes that play for the touchdown to Donald Driver, that tells you something about his individual playmaking ability,” McCarthy said. “I thought that was a big-time play. You train those type of drills, throwing on the run, step up in the pocket, slide to your right or left. For him to put that ball where he put and Donald to keep his feet in bounds, that’s exciting. Those are the type of plays that win football games.”
The Packers defense was also near dominant against the Bills first team, causing three turnovers and constantly occupying the Buffalo backfield. Defensive end Johnny Jolly was impressive with two sacks, linebacker Brandon Chillar continued to demonstrate his playmaking ability, and backup linebacker Brady Poppinga looked like he was taking to the 3-4 system, filling in for the injured Jeremy Thompson and Clay Matthews.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers sees the defense developing nicely.
“We all know that in two or three or four more weeks these (games) will go by the wayside,” Capers said. “But to me, they’re a part of the development of your team. You want to see improvement and see people doing well in the things you’re asking them to execute. I like the way the guys went out in their attitude and focus was excellent.”
The Packers look to have both the offense and defense coming together, something that Bills scout Tom Modrak makes the Packers the team to beat in the NFC North.
“It’s too soon, and I’ll regret saying this because it happens every year . . . but this has got to be the team to beat in that division,” Modrak said. “Now three weeks from now I guess I could change my mind, but at this moment I’m thinking, ‘Who’s better?’ I know Minnesota has done a lot of things on offense but . . .”
But, it’s only the preseason. There’s reason to believe the Packers could be a very good team this season, but consider their opposition thus far – the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills. In the regular season, these are teams the Packers should beat. Although Buffalo has a decent offense with players like Lee Evans and Marshawn Lynch (and Owens when he plays), the Bills are at best the third best team in the AFC East. The Browns, meanwhile, are going to be in the competition with the Detroit Lions for the NFL’s worst this year. My guess is that Cleveland will be much worse than Detroit.
On the other hand, the Packers demonstrated a knack for not being able to beat teams that they should have, last season. So, if you’re going to read anything into this preseason start, it’s a fantastic sign that the team’s No. 1 units are taking care of business.
The Packers obviously have a little growing to do, but this year’s version looks like a more mature, focused group – something that should translate to several more wins than last year’s squad, alone. And if the offense and defense can continue hitting on all cylinders and stay injury free, this could be a special season for the Packers.