ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.—The Packers defense nearly saved the day, not just with a solid overall effort but by almost getting a game-changing turnover.
It wasn’t to be, though, and the Bills emerged victorious, 21-13 on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
With Buffalo trying to run out the clock with just over three minutes left and protecting a 19-13 lead, running back Boobie Dixon fumbled at his own 40-yard line. Packers cornerback Tramon Williams was in position to possibly recover it, but Dixon got to it just in time to keep the ball in Buffalo’s possession.
“I went down there to get it,” Williams said. “The guy dove right into my thumb, kind of jammed my thumb up a little bit. He came out with it. Good play by him.”
The Packers did eventually get the ball back, but 50 yards farther away at their own 10 and with no timeouts left. A turnover would have been a game-changer and given Green Bay’s struggling offense a short field for a potential game-winning TD.
“No doubt about it,” Williams said. “There were a lot of things that happened today that are probably never going to happen again, once in a lifetime. When things like that happen, it makes you wonder, is it for you, or is it not?”
It was a tough day for the Packers defense to leave the field on the losing end. Bouncing back from a horrible second half Monday night against Atlanta, the Packers defense did not allow a touchdown all game.
Buffalo’s only TD came on a punt return, and its offense gained just 253 yards and was 4-of-16 on third downs.
The Bills offense produced only four field goals, a couple of them when Buffalo had favorable field position, and the Packers defense even pushed the Bills out of field-goal range with one of three sacks of QB Kyle Orton. Clay Matthews was credited with two of the sacks.
“But we gave up field goals, and we can’t give up anything,” defensive lineman Mike Daniels said. “That’s just the mentality. There’s a lot of tape to correct.”
Two plays in particular the Packers would like to have back, both in the second half.
On the first, Buffalo had third-and-4 from its own 41. Cornerback Sam Shields blitzed from the right side, but there was obviously a miscommunication as no one rotated over to cover Shields’ man, running back Bryce Brown.
Brown was all alone and gained 40 yards on an easy catch-and-run, setting up a field goal to give the Bills a 16-10 lead.
The second regretful play came one snap before Dixon’s fumble, with the Bills again in third-and-4. The ball was at the Buffalo 26, so a stop by the defense would have given the Packers offense good field position and ample time for a final drive.
But tight end Scott Chandler was allowed a free release off the line of scrimmage and had an easy 12-yard catch to move the chains.
“It’s tough. We always have to play better,” outside linebacker Mike Neal said. “It’s a loss, but we’ll be back.”
Even though it wasn’t enough, the defense proved last week was more an aberration than a trend. The unit was just hoping to be able to celebrate it more.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Williams said. “Buffalo is a good team. You can’t take anything away from them. But we should have figured out a way to win this game.”
Another block: Kicker Mason Crosby has had more kicks blocked this season than any in his career. Sunday’s 53-yard field goal try was swatted by Bills DE Mario Williams, the second field goal Crosby has had blocked this season along with two PATs.
Crosby said he’d have to look at the film to see exactly what went wrong, but off his foot the kick felt pretty good. It came in the second quarter and would have given the Packers a 13-10 lead.
“It looked like it was on line,” Crosby said. “But I have to do my part and make sure I’m lifting the ball and making the right kick. I’m disappointed. Whether I miss it or it’s blocked, I feel responsible.
“Every game is important. This one we definitely wanted.”
Subbing in: Packers RT Bryan Bulaga left the game early in the fourth quarter and was taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion.
Second-year pro JC Tretter replaced Bulaga for the rest of the game, and while Tretter didn’t appear to have any issues on the drive for a field goal in the middle of the fourth quarter, he was beaten by Williams, one of the league’s top sack men, on the Packers’ final offensive play.
Williams got around Tretter far enough to get a hand on the ball as QB Aaron Rodgers cocked his arm to throw it. The ball came out and the play was eventually ruled a safety.
“You have to be ready at all times, ready to step in there,” said Tretter, who has been practicing a multiple spots on the offensive line since coming back from a knee injury. “I was protecting for the twist and he just rushed high and got an arm inside.”
Running back Eddie Lacy recovered the fumble and tried to get the ball out of the end zone before getting tackled, but it didn’t matter. In the last two minutes of a game, the only offensive player who can recover a fumble and advance it is the player who fumbled it, so as soon as Lacy picked the ball up in the end zone, it was a safety. Rodgers was not in position to recover it anyway. COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE