Yeah, But ...: Questions Aplenty For 2-0 Pack

Green Bay demolished Buffalo 34-7, which is the kind of smackdown you'd expect from a Super Bowl contender, but there are warning signs ahead of Monday night's Week 3 showdown at Chicago. We throw a little cold water on an impressive-sounding victory.

If ever there were a Super Bowl contender's blowout victory that deserved the postscript of "Yeah, but …" this would be it.

At the end of 2 hours and 52 minutes on a cool September afternoon at Lambeau Field, the scoreboard read, "Packers 34, Bills 7."

Yeah, but it came against the horrendous Bills, who are well on their way to a sixth consecutive losing season.

Playing its first game without Ryan Grant, the offense tallied 346 yards and converted 7-of-12 third-down plays.

Yeah, but new starting running back Brandon Jackson managed only 29 yards on 11 carries and the team averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. Subtract Aaron Rodgers' scrambles of 12 and 9 yards, and that average dips to a woeful 3.2.

The defense suffocated the Bills' offense, holding it to 186 total yards.

Yeah, but Buffalo rushed for 124 yards against a Packers run defense that topped the NFL charts last year. That includes 13 carries for 62 yards during the second quarter, when Buffalo made a game of it after getting decked 13-0 in the first quarter.

After two games, the Packers are 2-0 and have the NFL's best point differential at plus-34.

Yeah, but the season really begins on Monday night at Chicago, which is a surprising 2-0 after a stunning win at Dallas on Sunday.

Let's be honest. Super Bowl teams need several ingredients, and these Packers are missing three of them at the moment.

First, a Super Bowl champion needs to be healthy. Losing Grant is obviously a major blow.

Obvious, because they can't run the ball. Period. Maybe Brandon Jackson will run with more authority and decisiveness once he gets two or three games under his belt as the featured guy. He ran with neither against the Bills. In fairness, 11 carries aren't a lot – especially for a guy who hasn't started since early in 2007 – and the run blocking left something to be desired.

But as offensive coordinator Joe Philbin put it after the game, it's up to the running back to get what's blocked for him and then get a little bit more. Jackson, who says he loves to run physically and certainly has the lower body to be that kind of runner, generally went down on first contact.

John Kuhn was the team's most effective runner, with nine carries for 36 yards, including a 12-yard blast. Maybe it's just how things played out, but in the second half, Jackson carried twice for 3 yards while Kuhn got it six times for 27 yards. Then again, Kuhn coughed it up at the end of that 12-yard fourth-quarter run. Fumbles aren't exactly handled with a pat on the back around here.

"Yeah, maybe a little (disappointed) as I sit here right now," Philbin said. "I may feel differently tomorrow when I watch the film. I don't have the sense that it was real smooth and consistent and as efficient as we'd like it to be. I think there were some holes there at times. We'll watch the film and there'll probably be some opportunities where the running back maybe wasn't as good as he should have been or the fullback wasn't as good as the O-line wasn't as good. I don't want to sit here and say, ‘We didn't block well.' I think we just need to study it and take a look at it."

And third, a Super Bowl contender must be able to stop the run. The Packers haven't done that in either of the first two games. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson combined for 26 carries for 105 yards against a Packers defense that knew the Bills – with rag-armed and apparently clueless Trent Edwards not even bothering to throw a pass in the direction of his only good receiver, Lee Evans – would be running early and often.

"I thought a lot of it had to do with timing for us," linebacker Nick Barnett said of the shoddy run defense. "Sometimes, when you're a run defense and you're stopping a run where you've got pullers, if there's one guy that reads the play way too fast and gets there and doesn't trust that someone's going to come in, spill it and flow over the top – which happened to me one time where I came in and Clay came in and I kind of tripped over him because I got there so fast.

"It's all about reading and timing when you're playing a power offense or when they're reading and cutting back. I thought we got better once we figured out what they were doing and got our timing better in the second half. But we can still be better. For us, we pride ourselves on the run so we're going to kill ourselves watching this film. We're going to be hot every day and I know I'm going to be disappointed in myself. We'll correct and get it right."

Given how the Packers started slowly against the run last year but dominated over the final 12 games, take Barnett at his word that they'll get it corrected. That had better come quickly, with an early showdown at Chicago looming on Monday night. For his wondrous legs, Michael Vick couldn't throw the ball into the ocean from 5 yards. Edwards is terrible, a problem compounded with a terrible cast of receivers. Cutler isn't terrible, and the Bears' passing attack will be brimming with confidence after demolishing Dallas' version of the 3-4 on Sunday.

None of this is to say the Packers will be lucky to be a one-and-done playoff team. Aaron Rodgers hasn't really gotten into a groove and yet the Packers have put 61 points on the scoreboard. The special teams, so abhorrent last year, are so good now that the Bills actually pooch-kicked a kickoff for fear of Jordy Nelson heading off to the races. Clay Matthews is a one-man wrecking crew. Charles Woodson and Nick Collins are due to get their hands on some balls for some game-changing turnovers.

So, bring on the Bears.

"It's on Monday night, it's going to be juiced up," star tight end Jermichael Finley said. "The best will be on top."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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