GREEN BAY – The 10 sacks Packers LB Za'Darius Smith has posted so far in 2019 don't come close to telling the whole story of his career-best season.
In an otherwise abysmal loss for Green Bay, No. 55 was all over the film in the earlygoing against San Francisco, almost singlehandedly keeping the Packers in the game (and getting a 49ers lineman benched).
The number of different things he does – note the headers in italics below – and how he does them are a treat to watch, even when the rest of the film is not. Here's a rundown.
React to screen
Play No. 1: Third-and-18 from the Green Bay 47, first quarter, 9:26 left
Result: 2-yard completion to TE George Kittle
Rushing from an interior position, Smith is not fooled by the relatively clear path he's given to the quarterback and reacts immediately to the third-and-long screen to Kittle (85), who's coming out of the backfield. Tip of the cap also to CB Chandon Sullivan (39), whose fast reaction beats the 49ers' blockers as well.
Drop into coverage
Play No. 2: Third-and-5 from the Green Bay 46, first quarter, 5:53 left
Result: 8-yard sack by S Adrian Amos (nullified by penalty)
This play gets wiped out by the questionable hands-to-the-face penalty on CB Kevin King, but it's included here to showcase Smith's diverse skills and his ability to help teammates. His responsibility is not to rush the QB on this play, but to pick up RB Jeff Wilson Jr. in coverage if he leaks out of the backfield. Only Smith doesn't just wait to see what Wilson will do. He trusts himself enough to start to rush and change direction on a dime if Wilson runs a route, which he does. The initial jab step gets RT Mike McGlinchey (69) to pass set to the outside for an edge rush, opening the lane for blitzing LB Blake Martinez (50) to get to the QB first and for Amos to clean up right behind him.
Dominate a series
This is as good a three-play sequence as you'll see from an edge rusher without recording a sack, as Smith almost by himself forces a field goal in the red zone.
Play No. 3: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 16, first quarter, 4:48 left
Result: 4-yard completion to Kittle
The bull rush is too much for McGlinchey, who almost ends up in QB Jimmy Garoppolo's lap, and Smith nearly gets a hand on the pass to boot.
Play No. 4: Second-and-6 from the Green Bay 12, first quarter, 4:04 left
Result: 1-yard scramble by Garoppolo
Backup LT Justin Skule (67) slows down Smith initially, but Smith's motor doesn't stop. He spins himself away from the blocker and then chases down the scrambling QB for minimal gain.
Play No. 5: Third-and-5 from the Green Bay 11, first quarter, 3:21 left
Result: Incomplete pass
This time Smith fights around Skule on the edge, rendering useless the help from LG Laken Tomlinson (75), who has no one to block because LB Kyler Fackrell (51) drops into coverage. Another pressure forces a poor throw.
Draw a penalty
Play No. 6: First-and-10 from the San Francisco 28, second quarter, 11:06 left
Result: Holding on Skule
A quick inside shoulder dip wins, and the call is so obvious two flags come flying in from different directions.
Beat three guys for a sack
Play No. 7: Second-and-20 from the San Francisco 18, second quarter, 10:32 left
Result: 10-yard sack of Garoppolo
It might be a bit of an exaggeration to say he beats three guys here, but still. The chip block from WR Kendrick Bourne (84) does nothing, Skule can't handle the bull rush, and Tomlinson's help is too late. Heck of a combination of speed and power.
Two other things to note: Skule would play one more snap in the game before being replaced by Daniel Brunskill, and this display of defensive prowess all occurred in the first 20 minutes of game clock.