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What You Might've Missed: Behind the key moments on defense

Packers made a handful of important defensive plays vs. Chiefs, and here’s what led to their success


GREEN BAY – Holding the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and two-time MVP QB Patrick Mahomes to 19 points basically came down to five key plays for the Packers' defense.

Three red-zone sacks to force two early field goals, stopping a potential game-tying two-point conversion, and CB Keisean Nixon's fourth-quarter interception.

Here's a closer look at what produced those successful defensive moments.

Play No. 1: First-and-goal from the Green Bay 5, first quarter, 2:08 left

Result: 8-yard sack by LB Lukas Van Ness

Two elements to the Packers' coverage, on either side of the field, allow for Van Ness to chase down Mahomes from the blind side. First, to Mahomes' left, CB Corey Ballentine (35) and S Jonathan Owens (34) do a slick job of sticking with their men, TE Travis Kelce (87) and RB Isiah Pacheco (10), respectively, as Kelce tries to rub Owens off his coverage on Pacheco. Second, to Mahomes' right, keep an eye on LB De'Vondre Campbell (59). After letting WR Justin Watson (84) go to where S Anthony Johnson Jr. (36) is waiting for him in the back of the end zone, Campbell doesn't just stand in no-man's land at the goal line. He spins around to find WR Rashee Rice (4) to create a bracket on him with CB Carrington Valentine (37), taking away any possible throwing lane for Mahomes.

Play No. 2: Third-and-goal from the Green Bay 9, first quarter, :43 left

Result: 7-yard sack split by LB Rashan Gary and DL Kenny Clark

Two plays later, the bulk of the credit coverage-wise goes to Ballentine, who creeps up to challenge Kelce at the line of scrimmage. Mahomes' eyes are locked in on Kelce from the snap, and Ballentine stays with Kelce every step from the line of scrimmage to the goal line. By the time Mahomes looks away from Kelce, it's too late, as Gary and Clark have bottled him up.

Play No. 3: Third-and-9 from the Green Bay 11, second quarter, 3:06 left

Result: 5-yard sack split by LB Preston Smith and DL Devonte Wyatt

This is the textbook definition of a coverage sack. The play takes five full seconds, from snap to sack, but Mahomes has nowhere to go with the ball. To his right, Valentine is all over WR Skyy Moore (24), while LB Quay Walker (7) has picked up RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25) out of the backfield. In the middle, Owens is right with TE Noah Gray (83), and to Mahomes' left, Campbell's got WR Richie James (17) underneath, and once again there's Ballentine on Kelce, with a little help from S Darnell Savage (26) in the end zone. Smith stays with his edge rush, Mahomes steps up into Wyatt, and it's another field goal for the Chiefs.

Play No. 4: Two-point conversion attempt, third quarter, 9:39 left

Result: Run by Pacheco fails

By and large, this is simply an outstanding play in run defense by Smith. With Pacheco coming at him, Smith hops to the outside to set a hard edge, peeks back inside when Pacheco makes a move that way, and then still gets to him as Pacheco tries to bounce it further outside. At that point, Savage has come all the way across due to Kelce going in motion and has set another outside edge, as Kelce tries to block Owens at the goal line.

Play No. 5: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 49, fourth quarter, 5:20 left

Result: INT by Nixon

Nixon told reporters after the game he knew the route combination coming because of a signal Mahomes gave to his receivers, tapping his knee before the snap. Here, as Mahomes turns to his right pre-snap, he's tapping the knee. With the Packers in a single-high safety look, Mahomes believes Moore wrapping underneath Rice's route for a go up the sideline should be open. But because Nixon knows what's coming, he stays back and Moore has no chance to beat him. Nixon plays it so well, actually, that Moore slows down on his route, figuring he can't win the matchup, and by losing speed he's in no position to try to prevent Nixon from snagging the pick.