ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.—The frustration was evident during locker room interviews on Sunday. The Packers knew they shouldn’t have lost this game.
The mistakes by the Packers piled up quarter after quarter, and the result was a 21-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium that ended Green Bay’s five-game winning streak.
“Just missed opportunities,” wide receiver Jordy Nelson said. “We had all sorts of chances and just didn’t make them, for whatever reason. Obviously my drop could have won the game for us. Have to make those no matter how easy or hard they are.”
The drop Nelson referred to wasn’t the Packers’ only one of the game but it certainly was the most significant. Backed up to their own 2-yard line late in the third quarter, the Packers faced second-and-4 from the 6 when Nelson got behind the Buffalo defense.
QB Aaron Rodgers’ pass was right on the money with no one in sight to stop Nelson from a 94-yard touchdown, but Nelson had the ball glance off his hands.
“Just short-armed it,” he said, matter of factly and repeatedly.
“We ran a slant-and-go. We talked about it on the sidelines, had exactly (the coverage) we wanted, and I just didn’t make the play.”
The blown play, which came with the Packers trailing 16-10, was emblematic of the mistake-filled day on offense and special teams.
Uncharacteristic and untimely holding penalties caused the offense to sputter, and Rodgers was not in sync with his receivers on several back-shoulder sideline throws.
As a team, the Packers rushed for a healthy 158 yards on 25 carries (6.3 per rush), but the passing game barely topped it with 185 yards, a rarity for Green Bay’s offense.
“That’s not a recipe for winning,” guard T.J. Lang said.
Rodgers wasn’t sacked until the final offensive play that resulted in a fumble and safety, so it was Nelson and the perimeter group putting it on their shoulders for not getting open enough and making enough plays.
“You have to show up every week, and we didn’t show up today, or some of us didn’t,” Nelson said. “I think the offensive line and running backs played extremely well, but I didn’t do my part at all.
“It’s a difficult game, and we made it look real difficult tonight.”
The special teams didn’t help, continuing some late-season struggles. Mason Crosby had a field goal blocked for the second time this season, this one from 53 yards out. That came less than a week after an extra point was blocked on Monday night for the second time on the year.
More damaging, the punt team surrendered a 75-yard return for a score by Buffalo’s Marcus Thigpen late in the first quarter. That turned out to be the Bills’ lone TD of the game.
“We definitely hurt ourselves today, that’s for sure,” punter Tim Masthay said. “We had a field goal blocked, gave up a punt return for a touchdown, and we lost by eight points. Not a good day for our units.”
On Thigpen’s return, the Packers appeared to have several coverage players near Thigpen when he caught the ball, but they were off to one side or the other and overran him. He had a big hole up the middle, made one move and was off to the races.
“They got us on that one,” special teams veteran Jarrett Bush said. “Good play by them, and we have to execute better. But we can’t put our heads down.”
Not with two games left and still in control of their own destiny for the NFC North title. Control of a possible bye and home-field advantage may have been lost, however, and even though the players didn’t talk about it, they knew it.
They also know they haven’t even gotten into the postseason officially yet, so that’s the focus heading on the road again to Tampa next week.
“It’s a tough loss,” Lang said. “We just missed a lot of chances to hit some big plays and didn’t really deserve to win that football game.” COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE