GREEN BAY – Coming into Sunday’s game at Soldier Field, Chicago’s defense had posted 23 sacks in eight games.
Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, with a team-leading seven, and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd had combined for 12 of them, just over half.
Against the Packers, they had only one-half sack and three quarterback hits combined on the stat sheet.
Hicks and Floyd line up next to one another on the left side of the Bears’ defense, which means the bulk of the work against the two standouts fell to veteran right guard Jahri Evans and fill-in right tackle Justin McCray.
Evans and McCray deserve a ton of credit for keeping these impact defenders quiet most of the day, and there were other teammates who chipped in at key times as well.
Here are some worthwhile pieces of film to illustrate.
Play No. 1: Second-and-11 from the Green Bay 49, second quarter, 12:32 left
Result: 14-yard completion to WR Jordy Nelson
At 6-5, 332, Hicks (96) is enormous and powerful, and here Evans stymies him initially, with McCray coming over to provide an assist. The double-team actually has Hicks bending backward until LB Pernell McPhee (92) slams into the group and knocks everyone over. In any event, Hicks wasn’t getting through, and that bought Hundley the extra time he needed as the play broke down. Floyd (94) eventually got in Hundley’s face, but the QB was able to find Nelson for a first down. On the next snap, RB Ty Montgomery took off for a 37-yard TD.
Play No. 2: Third-and-1 from the Chicago 27, third quarter, 12:34 left
Result: 12-yard completion to FB Aaron Ripkowski
This is play-action at its best, but RB Jamaal Williams is actually more focused on his blocking assignment than carrying out the fake. His job is to cut down Floyd coming off the edge, because Ripkowski makes it look like he’s coming for Floyd before leaking out for the pass. Williams’ cut-block is textbook, and the pitch and catch is well-executed for a first down in the red zone.
Play No. 3: First-and-10 from the Chicago 43, third quarter, 6:05 left
Result: 4-yard run by Williams
Nothing particularly special here, but just a good example of how strong the veteran Evans is once he gets leverage. Evans is no small guy, but Hicks outweighs him by about 15 pounds, and Evans ends up dumping a frustrated Hicks to the ground as Williams slips by.
Play No. 4: Fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 49, third quarter, :55 left
Result: 4-yard run by Williams
This time it’s C Corey Linsley (63) who has to block Hicks in short-yardage, and he stands up Hicks at the point of attack to give Williams just enough of a crease to slip past LB Christian Jones (52) for a big first down.
Play No. 5: Second-and-9 from the Chicago 19, fourth quarter, 5:37 left
Result: 19-yard TD pass to WR Davante Adams
Hundley’s back-shoulder throw to Adams is fabulous, but don’t forget about the work McCray does on Floyd. Holding his ground as the speedy Floyd tries a spin move, McCray washes him right out as Hundley scoots to his right to fire for Adams. Maybe the best part of the play other than the throw itself? Seeing LG Lane Taylor (65), in the middle of the field, put his arms up to signal touchdown before the ball is even caught.
Bonus play: Third-and-5 from the Green Bay 48, third quarter, 6:48 left
Result: 9-yard completion to TE Lance Kendricks
This one has nothing to do with Hicks or Floyd, but it’s thrown in as a bonus for the singular effectiveness of Kendricks on a third-down conversion. Watch closely as the veteran tight end throws a hard shoulder into blitzing DB DeAndre Houston-Carson (36), and then with his hip gets a piece of another blitzing DB Cre’Von LeBlanc (22), as he leaks out into the flat to catch Hundley’s pass to move the chains. Nice work, Lance.