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What You Might've Missed: Coverage execution, reaction speed, run-stopper emergence

Packers took big play away from Chiefs, love their young safety’s instincts, and have a rookie coming on strong


GREEN BAY – In its stellar performance in Kansas City, the Packers' defense limited the explosive Chiefs' offense to just two gains longer than 14 yards.

Not having Jaire Alexander and then losing Eric Stokes in pregame only added to the secondary's task of taking away the big play, but the Packers did so by relying on solid coverage execution and the impressive reactions and speed of safety Darnell Savage.

Up front, the departure of Kenny Clark due to injury led to increased playing time for rookie lineman T.J. Slaton, and the fifth-round pick from Florida really showed something against the run.

Here are the samples:

Play No. 1: First-and-10 from the Kansas City 44, second quarter, 8:48 left

Result: Incomplete pass

Off play-action, both WR Tyreek Hill (10) and WR Mecole Hardman (17) are running deep routes from the left side of the formation, but the Packers eliminate the long throw by bracketing both receivers with a corner and safety, as CB Kevin King (20) and Savage (26) go with Hill (all circled) while CB Chandon Sullivan (39) and S Adrian Amos (31) double Hardman (all boxed). Fortunately, QB Patrick Mahomes isn't content to take the short 10-yard throw over the middle to an open TE Travis Kelce (87), and the Chiefs get nothing.

Play No. 2: First-and-10 from the Kansas City 20, second quarter, 4:31 left

Result: Incomplete pass

Here the Chiefs want to take a shot again on first down and have three deep routes, but the Packers have them all manned up and covered. CB Rasul Douglas (29) is all over Hardman, Savage takes WR Bryan Pringle (13) from the slot, and Sullivan stays right with Hill. Green Bay even has Kelce doubled over the middle for good measure.

Play No. 3: Fourth-and-1 from the Kansas City 39, second quarter, 15:00 left

Result: Completion to RB Darrel Williams for minus-2 yards

When the coverage is that solid, another guaranteed element that jumps off the film when the Packers' defense plays well is Savage's superb reaction and speed. Rewinding slightly in the game's timeline, on this big fourth-down stop at the start of the second quarter, the play Savage makes – from where he's lined up, to his initial fill against the run, to reading pass and sprinting to the flat to make the tackle – is as good as it gets.

Play No. 4: Second-and-goal from the Green Bay 3, second quarter, 2:00 left

Result: Incomplete pass

Again, just watch Savage, from his anticipation to his read, reaction and finish to break up the play. He's simply too fast for Kelce to get a block on him. One snap later, LB Krys Barnes stops the Chiefs just short of the goal line and forces a field goal.

Play No. 5: First-and-10 from the Kansas City 25, third quarter, 15:00 left

Result: Incomplete pass

One more from Savage, as he makes a great read of Mahomes' eyes and a strong break on the ball to knock away the pass intended for WR Josh Gordon (19).

Play No. 6: First-and-goal from the Green Bay 1, first quarter, 7:15 left

Result: No gain on run by Williams

This is early in the game, so Clark hasn't exited yet, but it foreshadows the good work Slaton (93) would put in against the run much of the day. Here at the goal line, he holds the point against a double team and gives no ground, allowing Barnes (51) to fill the gap next to him and make the stop.

Plays No. 7, 8, 9

There's no need to belabor all the details on these second-half run stops, so they'll just be presented for viewing. Williams is held to gains of 2, 3 and 2 yards by Slaton on these plays, the last two coming on the final defensive series and giving the Packers one last chance to get off the field on third down, which unfortunately didn't come to fruition. But a noteworthy job by the rookie nonetheless.