Lombardi: Back to earth

Packers outplay Bills, but five plays make all the difference

Imagine the following scenario. Your name is Bob. You were unable to see the Packer-Bill game and called me late Sunday night and asked me about it. Here is how the conversation might have gone:

Bob: "What happened, how did Favre play? Did he throw any interceptions?"

Me: "Good, he was 28 of 47 for 287 yards for one touchdown. He did have two interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown, but the second one was more the result of the defensive back making a great play."

Bob: "How about Ahman Green, how did he look?"

Me: "He looked real good, he ran for 122 yards on 23 carries for a 5.3 yard average. He even caught a pass for eight yards."

Bob: "How about Donald Driver? I have him on my fantasy team."

Me: "Well, he probably helped you out this week. He had nine catches for 96 yards and a TD."

Bob: "How about the defense, how did it play?"

Me: "They knocked Willis McGehee out of the game on the first drive and held J.P. Losman to 102 yards passing on eight completions on 15 attempts. Losman was sacked five times (three times by Corey Williams) for 38 yards, so total passing yards for Buffalo only added up to 64 yards. The Bills only had 11 first downs. The Packers had 26. Buffalo only gained 184 yards total offense. The Packers gained 427 yards total offense. The longest drive the Bills had was 43 yards. Unfortunately they did not force any turnovers."

Bob: "So how bad did the Packers beat the Bills?"

Me: "They lost."

Bob: "What, how?"

Me: "I have no idea."

Actually, I do. Green Bay committed four turnovers, three of which resulted in points for Buffalo or potential points coming off the board. London Fletcher-Baker intercepted Favre and scored a TD. Scott Wells and Favre were off on a shotgun snap which was recovered by the Bills with the Packers on the Buffalo five yard line. Favre and Wells also muffed another snap on the Buffalo 49. Favre's last pick was in the Bills' endzone. At that time, the Pack had first and goal on the one yard line. Worst case scenario, that is a swing of 13 points and best case it is 21 points. They also allowed the opening kickoff to be returned 61 yards which resulted in a Bills field goal. Lastly, they had a communications breakdown that allowed Lee Evans to get wide open down the sideline for a 43 yard touchdown pass with about eight minutes left in the game.

Turnovers, special teams' breakdowns, and mental mistakes at key moments made the difference. The Packers are not good enough to overcome these mistakes. Green Bay ran approximately 80 offensive plays and defended the Bills approximately 50 times. Break it down to the ridiculous and out of those 130 or so plays, there were four that made the difference – Fletcher-Baker's interception/touchdown, the fumbled snap at the 5-yard line, the coverage/communication breakdown that lead to Evan's TD catch and the last pick in the endzone.

From the Bills' perspective, they would look at Fletcher-Baker's pick and Evans' TD as positive big plays. They would probably also look at the pass breakup by Nate Clements that was picked off by Ko Simpson in the endzone as a positive big play. From the Packers' perspective, all four were negative big plays. Throw in the big opening kickoff return and it makes five big plays that turned the tide.

I probably would have told Bob that the Packers completely outplayed the Bills on offense and defense. They ran the ball well enough to win. They passed the ball well enough to win. The defense, especially upfront, played well enough to win. 126 times the ball was snapped and the Packers were the better team. On the remaining five, they were not. Unfortunately for Packer fans, those five plays made the difference.

John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.

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