Green Bay at Buffalo: 3 Things We Learned
After the Packers' 21-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon, the series dating back to 1974 stands in the Bills' favor, 8-4. Green Bay has yet to win at Buffalo, and won't have a chance to do it again until 2022 based on the current division and schedule regulations.
The Packers had multiple opportunities during the game to pull ahead, as Jordy Nelson noted in his postgame interview and as any casual observer would have noticed. However, at the end of the day, a young and ascending Buffalo team took advantage of their opportunities and kept their own playoff hopes alive.
As nearly every game at this point in the year is loaded with future implications, let's take a look at a few things we learned from this game between the Buffalo Bills and the Green Bay Packers.
1. Teams never "arrive"
One of the great coaches of all time, Chuck Noll, led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl championships in six years back in the 1970s. The Steelers were the team of the decade and a dominant force in professional football. One of the great insights given by Coach Noll was when he stated that you never arrive as a football team. By that Noll meant that, not only is there always something to improve upon, but that you will never get full consistency.
The Packers played like a championship team against the New England Patriots two weeks ago. However, the offense was putrid against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon. Personel and scheme of the opponent were different, but ultimately the Packers did not play as well, setting the league's mark thus far this season for dropped passes.
You cannot expect the exact same performance from any given team week to week.
In today's NFL media climate, it is common to try and draw conclusions about every team after every single game. The problem with that is a team never arrives. You can identify trends, but that does not provide you with what a team will do any given week.
The Packers had been anointed by many as the best team in the league in just about every list of power rankings over this past week, and surely will drop in the upcoming week. Heading into the playoffs the list will look a particular way, but you can't look at those and know what will happen.
A team may be capable of a particular level of play, but because you never arrive, that team may or may not play up to its abilities.
2. The last two weeks of the season will be exciting to watch
In the AFC, nine teams are still alive to receive a Wild Card berth. 7 of 8 divisions across the league are still undecided.
For the Buffalo Bills, the playoffs are a long shot. They will have to win their final two games and receive help. For the Packers, it is still possible to receive a first-round bye, though they may have put themselves out of contention for homefield advantage with the Seattle Seahawks surging.
It looks as though, for the Packers, the Week 17 tilt with the Detroit Lions will effectively be the NFC North championship game.
The NFL knew what it was doing when it put so many division matchups in the last three weeks of the season. Some may be upset at the prospect of teams with losing records getting into the playoffs, but the fact that winning the division counts for so much is good for the game and placing those key division matchups late in the year makes it feel like the playoffs have already begun.
3. We all learned the details of the NFL fumble rules
You assumed the rules on fumbling were simple. Any given player has a right to the ball and to advance it as far as possible. However, I would point fans to the following definitions of the NFL fumble rules. On fourth down and after the two-minute warning, only the fumbling player or the defense may pick up and advance the ball. If any offensive player other than the fumbling player recovers the ball, it is dead where he touches it.
On Sunday, Bills defensive end Mario Williams stripped Aaron Rodgers before he was able to throw on a play inside the final two minutes. The ball rolled back into Green Bay's own end zone and running back Eddie Lacy picked it up and just barely escaped the end zone.
All but the most astute fans were shocked to see the referees signal a safety. I refer you to the above link to read up on what Bills and Packers fans discovered, to one's joy and the other's dismay. The dark horse fumble rule smothered the Packers' hopes of a last minute comeback.
I do not assume that no fans knew this rule, but I bet it is a small crowd.
All in all, Sunday's matchup was close as many thought it would be. It left the league with an even more messy playoff situation heading into the last two weeks of the season and the excitement begins now as we all get to see it sorted out.