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What You Might've Missed: From game-wrecker to non-factor

How the Packers handled rematch with Aidan Hutchinson


GREEN BAY – Detroit star defender Aidan Hutchinson's stat line from the Week 4 matchup at Lambeau Field: 1½ sacks, an additional tackle for loss, and three QB hits.

Hutchinson's stat line from the rematch on Thanksgiving at Ford Field: one TFL, one QB hit.

The Packers effectively took Detroit's most impactful defender out of the game, and while right tackle Zach Tom deserves a lion's share of the credit (pun intended), it was clearly a group effort – as well as a conscious effort to make nothing easy for Hutchinson.

Here's the rundown.

Play No. 1: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 25, first quarter, 15:00 left

Result: 53-yard completion to WR Christian Watson

The first play of the game gives a taste of what Hutchinson will be in for all day. Tom takes on Hutchinson's initial surge, but as soon as DL Alim McNeill (54) loops away from RG Jon Runyan (76) on a stunt, Runyan's attention immediately goes to Hutchinson for what becomes a pure double-team. Hutchinson is stalled in his tracks as QB Jordan Love launches the deep ball for the big opening gain.

Play No. 2: Second-and-goal from the Detroit 10, first quarter, 12:21 left

Result: 10-yard TD pass to WR Jayden Reed

Love gets rid of the ball very quickly here, so the pass rush never really had a chance. But it's still worth showing how Tom stymies Hutchinson's bull rush one-on-one on the edge as Love threads the needle through traffic to Reed. Love said after the game Watson ran the wrong route, which made this throw trickier than expected, and after the play Watson puts his hands on his head presumably in realization of the mistake he made that fortunately worked out.

Play No. 3: Second-and-6 from the Green Bay 29, first quarter, 7:53 left

Result: 16-yard completion to WR Malik Heath

On the second snap of the Packers' second drive, it's no less than a triple-team deployed against Hutchinson. First it's TE Tucker Kraft (85), followed by C Josh Myers (71), and then RB AJ Dillon (28) chips in for good measure. The other interesting aspect to how this play unfolds is as Dillon lends his help on Hutchinson, that triggers LB Alex Anzalone (34) to blitz, figuring with Dillon occupied he's got a free run at Love. But he doesn't get there in time, and the delayed blitz actually opens up the throwing lane to Heath over the middle to move the chains.

Play No. 4: First-and-10 from the Detroit 44, first quarter, 5:55 left

Result: 11-yard completion to Dillon

Four plays later, Hutchinson decides to try his luck on the other side, but the Packers have a double-team all ready for him in the form of Kraft and TE Ben Sims (89). They keep Hutchinson a good 7-8 yards from Love as he takes a check-down throw to the other side of the field that moves the chains again. After this play, Hutchinson exits for a couple of snaps, and while he's out, an end-around to Reed gains 15 yards and a pass to Watson gains 8 more, putting the Packers in position to score.

Play No. 5: Third-and-1 from the Detroit 9, first quarter, 3:13 left

Result: 9-yard TD pass to Kraft

Now Hutchinson is back in the game, and the Packers are going to go right at him. Kraft locks him up with an initial block and then ditches him to leak out for the short pass. The disengagement is rather forceful, leaving Hutchinson off-balance and basically out of the play. Reed turns his crossing route into a back-shielding effort to make sure Kraft can get to the pylon for his first NFL score.

Play No. 6: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 14, second quarter, 10:38 left

Result: 22-yard completion to Dillon

Here yet another players gets involved with Hutchinson, as subbing RG Sean Rhyan (75) handles him one-on-one, and Dillon gets some major yards after the catch to get another scoring drive started.

Play No. 7: Second-and-5 from the Detroit 45, second quarter, 7:40 left

Result: 16-yard completion to WR Romeo Doubs

Another straight-up double-team by Kraft and Sims on Hutchinson, who ends up at least 10 yards away from Love at the time the pass is released. What else makes this play work? The check-down route out of the backfield by RB Patrick Taylor (27) occupies LB Jack Campbell (46) enough to open up the throwing lane to Doubs.

Play No. 8: Second-and-17 from the Detroit 30, third quarter, 4:18 left

Result: 14-yard completion to Doubs

Here's an example of a chip block making all the difference, particularly in a long-yardage spot. Sims delays his route to get a piece of Hutchinson and force him to take a really wide rush lane, so even when he beats Tom around the edge, he's coming from too far away to make the play. Doubs makes a nice contested grab here, atoning for his drop of a third-down slant on Green Bay's previous drive, to create another third-and-manageable out of a tough situation. On the next play, Love hits Watson for a touchdown.

Play No. 9: Second-and-10 from the Green Bay 39, fourth quarter, 13:27 left

Result: 13-yard completion to Heath

One last play on Hutchinson, with the triple-team effect. Chip by Kraft, pick up by Tom, and extra help from Rhyan. The look at Rhyan is the epitome of how the Packers approached Hutchinson all day. The moment Rhyan senses the interior rusher engaging more with Myers, he turns his head to look for Hutchinson and is practically staring him down to slide over just at the right moment with the assistance.

Bonus play: Fourth-and-4 from the Detroit 23, third quarter, 5:32 left

Result: Fake punt stopped for no gain

Since it doesn't happen every week, and it was such a crucial moment in the game, it's worth taking a look at exactly how the Packers stopped the Lions' fake punt. Two elements were key. First, LB Kingsley Enagbare (55) immediately goes into run-defense mode rather than punt-rush mode, and sets the edge so ball carrier Jalen Reeves-Maybin (42) can't get to the outside, forcing him to cut back inside amidst the traffic. Second, LB Lukas Van Ness (90) reacts instantly and quickly to the fake after breaking through the line, changing direction immediately to chase down Reeves-Maybin and wrap him up just as he gets back to the line of scrimmage.