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Pass protection on third downs wasn’t easy


GREEN BAY – The Packers had their best performance of the season on third down against the Seahawks in the NFC Divisional playoff, converting 9-of-14 in the game.

While the routes and throws garnered all the attention – understandably so given their precision – it's worth showing how the Packers got the job done up front, too.

There's always a lot going on in pass protection on third downs, and the Packers handled the stunts, blitzes and other efforts by the Seahawks very, very effectively.

Here are six of those nine third-down conversions, and how Green Bay made them work.

Play No. 1: Third-and-8 from the Seattle 36, first quarter, 12:51 left

Result: 13-yard completion to TE Jimmy Graham

It's a combination route on the left side involving Graham and WR Geronimo Allison (not shown) that gets Graham open, but Rodgers also has a nice throwing lane thanks to almost picture-perfect pass protection. On the edges, LT David Bakhtiari (69) and RT Jared Veldheer (68) stymie DEs Jadeveon Clowney (90) and Rasheem Green (98), respectively. On the inside, DTs Quinton Jefferson (99) and Jarran Reed (91) run a stunt despite lining up initially outside both of the guards, so it's somewhat slow-developing. C Corey Linsley (63) and RG Elgton Jenkins (74) trade assignments without a hitch, and RG Billy Turner (77) finishes things off with an extra block outside on Green.

Play No. 2: Third-and-7 from the Seattle 20, first quarter, 10:42 left

Result: 20-yard TD pass to WR Davante Adams

Again it's a combination route on the left side, this time involving Allison and Adams, that actually gets both players open. QB Aaron Rodgers had his pick of targets. On the protection side of things, Graham provides a chip block on LB Bobby Wagner (54) blitzing from the outside that forces Wagner too wide to get to Rodgers, RB Aaron Jones (33) assists Bakhtiari on Green, and Clowney stunts from a stand-up rover position to the inside, right where Linsley is ready and waiting.

Play No. 3: Third-and-6 from the Green Bay 29, third quarter, 8:50 left

Result: 27-yard completion to Graham

Here the Seahawks mug LBs Wagner and K.J. Wright (50) up in the A gaps, but neither blitzes. That allows Linsley to pick up Reed to his right when he slips off Turner, while Veldheer is keeping Green at bay. On the left side, this is one of the few times all game Bakhtiari is beaten by Clowney, but it helps that Jenkins holds his ground well enough against Jefferson, so Clowney doesn't have a direct path to Rodgers but ends up cutting in front of him.

Play No. 4: Third-and-10 from the Green Bay 27, fourth quarter, 9:19 left

Result: 11-yard completion to Allison

The Seahawks rush six on this one, but the Packers hold them off just long enough. With Bakhtiari and Veldheer doing their thing on the edges, the two key blocks are inside. Wagner does blitz the A gap this time, but Linsley effectively steers him out of the way. Clowney makes a good inside move on Jenkins, but Jones is right there with some timely assistance, as Clowney's path of attack actually renders the blitz by S Bradley McDougald (30) useless.

Play No. 5: Third-and-8 from the Green Bay 22, fourth quarter, 2:19 left

Result: 32-yard completion to Adams

The Packers slide their protection to the right here, which means it's Jenkins picking up the blitzing Wagner this time. Linsley handles Reed and actually gets him on the ground when things get crowded on that side. Think Clowney had a long night against Bakhtiari? Not much effort on a huge third down against the four-time All-Pro left tackle.

Play No. 6: Third-and-9 from the Seattle 45, fourth quarter, 2:00 left

Result: 9-yard completion to Graham

On the conversion that seals the victory, Bakhtiari and Jenkins double-team Green while Jones makes the big block in the middle, picking up the blitzing McDougald. Wagner manages to get around Linsley, and Reed does the same vs. Turner, but they're both just a hair late. Clowney? Your guess is as good as mine.