For all the injuries the Packers have had on defense this season, they marched into Arrowhead Stadium with confidence their top 10 unit could neutralize one of the NFL's most prolific offenses.
And that defense nearly won them the game Sunday.
While Green Bay ultimately fell short in a 13-7 loss in Kansas City, its defense put on a performance for the ages against former league MVP Patrick Mahomes, who completed just 20-of-37 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown (74.8 passer rating).
The Chiefs' 237 total yards of offense were their lowest in Mahomes' 3½ years as starting quarterback, while Kansas City's 3.76 yards per play marked the first time with Mahomes under center that the Chiefs' averaged under four.
His 166 passing yards were the fewest Green Bay has conceded to an opposing quarterback with 35-plus attempts since Brandon Weeden threw for just 149 yards on 42 throws on Oct. 20, 2013.
The defense's stinginess nearly kept Green Bay within striking distance until the very end, despite playing without All-Pros Za'Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander, losing rookie first-round pick Eric Stokes in warmups and watching Pro Bowl defensive lineman Kenny Clark exit in the third quarter with a back injury.
So, yeah, it's safe to say Sunday was a statement performance for defensive coordinator Joe Barry's unit in spite of the final outcome.
"I think it was," said inside linebacker Krys Barnes, who led the defense with nine tackles. "They're a high-quality offense that's able to get you on any play. So, for us to be able to come out here today and hold a great offense to 13 points … we put it out there today what our standard is."
What's more, Kansas City's only touchdown drive came on its opening series when Mahomes drove the Chiefs 64 yards down the field in 15 plays before finding tight end Travis Kelce in the back of the end zone to go ahead 7-0 with 5 minutes, 56 seconds left in the first quarter.
Even on that opening series, Kansas City had to convert on fourth-and-1 from its own 45 to avoid going three-and-out. The Chiefs tried to go for it again on their second possession only for Barnes and Darnell Savage to drop Darrel Williams for no gain to give the Packers the ball at the Kansas City 37.
The Chiefs went three-and-out once in the first half and three more in the second. One field goal came after a muffed punt gave Kansas City the ball at the Green Bay 10, the other on a 55-yard Harrison Butker try before halftime.
Prior to the field Butker field goal of 24 yards, Barnes tackled Williams near the sideline on third-and-goal and keep him out of the end zone. Kansas City considered going for it but opted for the field goal after Williams was flagged for a false start.
"Our mentality was hold them to three, hold them to three," Savage said. "When they got the ball down there, stuff happens in the course of the game and you gotta be ready to adapt and adjust and I felt like we did really good with that."
While the Packers trailed 13-0 at halftime, the defense continued to give its team chances. Rashan Gary sacked Mahomes for a 6-yard loss on third-and-four to force the first three-and-out of the second half.
The Green Bay Packers faced the Kansas City Chiefs in a Week 9 matchup on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021.
Unfortunately for the Packers, Mahomes found a little rhythm and protected the six-point lead with a 22-yard pass to Kelce, on second-and-11 after a Barnes tackle for loss, and a 13-yard pass to Tyreek Hill on third-and-10 when Green Bay's blitz couldn't get home after the two-minute warning.
"That was a long play," Savage said. "They made a play. They gave themselves a chance to win by extending that play and converting on that first down. Just chalk it up to them. They made a good play."
Still, Sunday marked the fifth time this season the Packers held their opponent to 17 or fewer points. That is the most by Green Bay in the first nine games of a season since 2009 (also five).
The 180 points the Packers have allowed are their fewest through nine games since 2010 (143), while their 2,891 yards allowed are their fewest at this point in the season since 2009 (2,541).
With the Packers hopeful to get Smith and Alexander back at some point this season, their defense's confidence has never been higher.
"When we have all our guys, it's a scary sight. Even if we're missing someone, it's a scary sight," said cornerback Kevin King, who returned Sunday after a three-game absence. "That's the standard. We don't want this to be, OK, let's just do our part so we can get it back to '12.'
"Hey, we want to win this on defense. We want to be one of them dominating defenses to where both sides of the ball are really good. Not just surviving but really thriving out there."