GREEN BAY – The Packers are getting tremendous individual efforts from their defensive standouts in the early stages of 2019, and those continued in the victory Sunday over the Broncos.
Preston Smith, Za'Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander jump off the film more often than not, and their high-caliber play is not to be discounted.
But some of the Packers' impact defensive plays against Denver featured helping hands as well. Whether disruptive moments or assignment-sure football, they assisted on a handful of key snaps in the 27-16 triumph.
Here's a rundown:
Play No. 1: Third-and-10 from the Green Bay 43, first quarter, 10:59 left
Result: 4-yard sack by Preston Smith
This is the first of Preston's three sacks, and while the subsequent two were more singular accomplishments, this one shows two other rushers causing problems, too. First, Za'Darius (55) blows past rookie LG Dalton Risner (66) but can't get a hold of QB Joe Flacco. Then, rookie first-round pick Rashan Gary (52) reaches around LT Garrett Bolles (72) and gets a hold of Flacco's collar to slow him up. Fortunately, Gary doesn't drag Flacco down by the collar because that would have been a personal foul. Preston (91) gets there from the other side to clean up.
Play No. 2: Third-and-goal from the Green Bay 2, second quarter, 4:08 left
Result: 10-yard sack by Za'Darius Smith
This wouldn't be classified as a coverage sack, necessarily, because Za'Darius gets home pretty quickly. But there's an element to the coverage worth pointing out because Flacco looks to his right immediately and wants to throw that way. Coming out of the bunch formation, RB Phillip Lindsay (30) runs a corner route. Meanwhile, WR Emmanuel Sanders (10) slips out of the backfield into the flat. While the bulk of the Packers' defenders in the middle of the field are playing zone, CBs Jaire Alexander (23) and Tramon Williams (38) essentially take man-to-man responsibility for Lindsay and Sanders, respectively. They execute their assignments seamlessly, taking away both players, and by the time Flacco brings his eyes back to the middle to find a hole in the zone, he's in trouble.
Play No. 3: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 44, fourth quarter, 3:04 left
Result: 7-yard sack by Rashan Gary
This one does qualify as a coverage sack, because Gary (52) has to fight through two blockers to get to Flacco, but he has enough time because no one is open. Gary gets chipped by TE Jeff Heuerman (84) and then takes on the waiting RT Elijah Wilkinson (68). At the moment Flacco wants to throw the ball, rookie S Darnell Savage (26) is right with Sanders up the seam, and Alexander is on top of the out cut by WR DaeSean Hamilton (17). In addition, LB Blake Martinez (50) stays deep enough in his drop to take away a throwing lane to in-cutting WR Cortland Sutton (14). With the Broncos down by 11 points in the last three minutes, Flacco isn't particularly interested in his two check-down options, and Gary gets home for his first NFL sack.
Play No. 4: Second-and-10 from the Denver 47, fourth quarter, :21 left
Result: 12-yard sack by Za'Darius Smith
Give credit here to LB Kyler Fackrell (51) for beating Bolles, even while getting hog-tied around the neck, and getting an arm on Flacco first. That initial pressure spins the QB around and doesn't give him a chance to get a throw away before Za'Darius finishes off the defense's six-sack day.