GREEN BAY – One of the Packers' most dominant postseason defensive performances ever unfortunately went for naught in the loss to the 49ers, but that didn't make the film any less impressive.
Reviewing numerous stops of San Francisco's offense, Green Bay used a little luck, some creativity, extra effort, and plenty of brute force. Here's the rundown.
Play No. 1: Third-and-12 from the San Francisco 38, first quarter, 7:35 left
Result: 9-yard sack by LB Za'Darius Smith
Smith's first snap since Week 1 turned out to be a big one, but there was a little luck involved. With Smith rushing from an inside position, LG Laken Tomlinson (75) trips over the foot of LT Trent Williams (71) as Smith plows right through. It's still a heck of an athletic play by Smith, diving over his fallen opponent to grasp the legs of QB Jimmy Garoppolo (10) in one fell swoop.
Play No. 2: Third-and-5 from the San Francisco 47, first quarter, 3:03 left
Result: 5-yard sack by LB Rashan Gary
On the next third down, the creativity begins. The Packers show a six-man defensive front with man-to-man coverage on the four outside passing targets and a single safety behind. The whole idea here is to keep the offense guessing as to who's actually coming after the quarterback. Turns out, only three of the six, as LB De'Vondre Campbell (59) and CB Chandon Sullivan (39) both drop to guard the middle zones, and S Adrian Amos (31) hangs tight to pick up RB JaMycal Hasty (23) coming out of the backfield. But the three-man rush does the job, as the coverage is excellent across the board and (second clip) Gary knocks RT Tom Compton (66) back with his right arm and overpowers him.
Play No. 3: Third-and-11 from the San Francisco 37, first quarter, :29 left
Result: Incomplete pass
From "show six, rush three" to "show seven, rush five." On the next third down, the Packers have an extra player on the defensive front with the 49ers keeping TE George Kittle (85) more in-line. This time, the droppers are LB Preston Smith (91) and CB Kevin King (20), who surround Kittle, and the pocket collapses so quickly that DL Kenny Clark (97) actually pauses his rush. The disguise leaves RG Daniel Brunskill (60) effectively blocking nobody, and FB Kyle Jusczyk (44) has to choose between picking up either Campbell or Amos. He chooses Campbell, so Amos is free and hurries Garoppolo's throw such that WR Jauan Jennings (15) isn't ready for it.
Play No. 4: Third-and-8 from the San Francisco 46, second quarter, 12:17 left
Result: 5-yard sack by Gary
Here the front is pretty standard, with five turning into a four-man rush as Campbell sticks with Jusczyk leaking out of the backfield. The wrinkle is with the safeties, who start in a two-deep look but morph into a high-low tandem after the snap, with S Darnell Savage (26) charging forward to get in front of any underneath routes and Amos dropping to play deep centerfield. Once again, the man coverage by all the corners is outstanding, and (second clip) Gary uses the same power punch/stiff arm to the shoulder pad of Compton from the first sack to get another one.
Play No. 5: First-and-goal from the Green Bay 19, second quarter, 1:05 left
Result: Interception by Amos
Watching this play on the all-22, it's easy to see why Garoppolo thought he could hit Kittle near the right end-zone pylon. When the play first breaks down, as Clark misses the sack, Kittle breaks away from Amos and is running open along the goal line. But Garoppolo can't throw it right away even though he wants to – you can see him cock his arm in the pocket – thanks to Clark, whose second effort at the QB while getting blocked forces him to scramble. By the time he gets enough space to actually make the throw, Kittle is out of real estate and Amos has closed the gap to make the pick.
Play No. 6: Third-and-5 from the San Francisco 33, third quarter, 6:11 left
Result: 6-yard sack by Clark
After all that work from Clark late in the half, he does get his sack in the third quarter with pure power. He lines up between the center and right guard but actually ends up rushing against the left guard, Tomlinson, and simply walks him back into Garoppolo's lap. Note the sound coverage as well. With seven defenders, the Packers have all the routes accounted for.
Play No. 7: Fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 19, fourth quarter, 6:14 left
Result: Run for minus-1 by RB Elijah Mitchell
This is the stop that could have, and probably should have, won the game for the Packers. Gary gets the impressive tackle for loss by swiftly splitting the two tight ends, Kittle and Charlie Woerner (89) to get into the backfield. But the defensive front had two others win at the point of attack on this play, too. Clark gets a strong initial punch on Compton, pushing him backward, before getting knocked laterally by Kittle. DL Tyler Lancaster (95) also wins against C Alex Mack (50) to create more congestion.