GREEN BAY – Effective defense is often about being a step ahead, when possible, and not getting caught up in the wash.
After a slow start on Sunday vs. Detroit, the Packers' defense made several key plays that showed no hesitation, reacting instantly and beating the Lions to the punch. There were other important plays that showed smooth coordination of traffic as the Lions tried to cross them up with their route combinations.
Here are some examples:
Play No. 1: Second-and-10 from midfield, second quarter, 7:28 left
Result: Completion to RB/WR Jamal Agnew for no gain
With the Lions looking to add to their 14-10 lead and reaching midfield, this is a key sequence. CB Jaire Alexander (23) can be cat-quick, and he shows it on this play. He sees the bubble screen to Agnew (39) coming practically before the ball is even out of QB Matthew Stafford's hand. That allows him to completely avoid the block of rookie WR Quintez Cephus (87), who has a notable size advantage. Agnew is upended at the line of scrimmage and the Lions end up going backwards another 15 yards for a personal foul, as Packers DL Tyler Lancaster (95) is taken down by a late cut block.
Play No. 2: Third-and-25 from the Detroit 35, second quarter, 7:05 left
Result: 10-yard completion to TE T.J. Hockenson
On the next snap, the Packers are playing very soft in a long-yardage situation and the Lions, somewhat predictably, run a screen. There's no hesitation by CB Kevin King (20) as he attacks from his deep post, and he charges so quickly that RG Oday Aboushi (76) can't get out in front fast enough to block him. Are the Lions going to get 25 yards for the first down on this play? Probably not. But they have just about everybody else blocked, so you never know. Plus, it's impressive that King holds this play to a 10-yard gain when he's 23 yards downfield at the time the pass is thrown. The limited yardage keeps the ball on Detroit's side of the field and takes away any thought they might have had about going for it on fourth down.
Play No. 3: Third-and-16 from the Detroit 1, second quarter, 1:15 left
Result: Holding penalty on Detroit
Aside from Chandon Sullivan's pick-six in the second half, this might have been the defensive play of the game, and it's made by undrafted rookie LB Krys Barnes (51). One snap after a Za'Darius Smith sack for a loss of 10, the Lions are backed up in a long-yardage situation and just want to run the clock down and punt, with the Packers out of timeouts. But Barnes changes the situation by shooting through the hole at the snap without a second thought. The fast-charging Barnes ends up getting clotheslined by Aboushi at the 2-yard line and the flag flies. RB Adrian Peterson gains just four yards, so the Packers don't need the holding penalty and decline it. But it's a huge play because the flag stops the clock. Rather than being able to run the time down to about 30 seconds before they punt, the Lions have to give it back to the Packers, who are trailing 14-10, with a full minute left. Green Bay takes advantage to score a touchdown before intermission, add another on the first play of the second half, and it's a 24-14 game before the Lions run another offensive play.
Play No. 4: Second-and-10 from the Detroit 25, third quarter, 14:05 left
Result: 4-yard completion to Hockenson
On the Lions' second snap of the second half, they're out to cross the Packers up in the middle of the field, but Green Bay's defenders navigate this traffic nicely. TE Jesse James (83) and WR Marvin Jones Jr. (11) are crossing from the defense's right to its left, while Hockenson (88) is sliding through the other direction. With credit also going to S Darnell Savage (26) and King (20) for keeping everything smooth and minimizing the congestion, LB Christian Kirksey (boxed, 58) is able to stay on Hockenson without a hitch and drag him down for a minimal gain that could have been a lot more. One play later, the Packers get a third-down stop and the Lions have to punt.
Play No. 5: Third-and-1 from the Detroit 34, third quarter, 7:47 left
Result: Incomplete pass to WR Danny Amendola
On the Lions' next drive, they go three-and-out again, mostly thanks to another deft navigation of traffic. This time, the Lions are crossing their routes on the outside, with Amendola (80) sliding out from the slot and cutting underneath Cephus (87) before turning upfield. It can be easy to get tied up in the mess, but CBs Chandon Sullivan (boxed, 39) and Jaire Alexander (23) work this like old pros, sticking with their assignments while barely taking a false step. Stafford takes the shot down the sideline for Amendola, and Sullivan is right there to deflect it away.