GREEN BAY – The Packers' defense rose to the occasion in several big moments during Sunday's win over Washington – on fourth downs, in the red zone, you name it – and those highlights were the key to allowing just 10 points.
But it's worth taking a look at some of the plays that preceded those crucial situations, setting up the opportunity to make the pivotal stops.
Here's a sampling.
Play No. 1: Second-and-9 from the Green Bay 28, second quarter, 12:17 left
Result: 4-yard scramble by QB Taylor Heinicke
On this play-action bootleg, Washington floods the left side of the field with three passing options for Heinicke, but the Packers cover them all. Rookie CB Eric Stokes (21) is all over WR Terry McLaurin (17) one-on-one along the boundary, LB De'Vondre Campbell (59) and S Adrian Amos (31) have WR DeAndre Carter (1) bracketed, and perhaps most important, LB Oren Burks (42) alertly picks up TE John Bates (87) as he slips across underneath. If Bates is open, it's an easy flip pass and he turns upfield for the marker. Instead, all Heinicke can do is run and slide, leaving him 5 yards shy of the first down. Two plays later, the Packers blocked a field goal.
Play No. 2: Third-and-3 from the Green Bay 27, second quarter, 3:07 left
Result: Incomplete pass
On its next drive, Washington is in scoring territory again and empties the backfield on third down. A mix of crossing routes allows RB J.D. McKissic to slip free underneath. Campbell sees it coming, and he's visibly pointing for Burks to come off of TE Ricky Seals-Jones (83) to take McKissic. The message isn't heard soon enough, but fortunately S Darnell Savage(26) reads this beautifully from the back side and he breaks up what looked to be an easy first down. On the next play, Washington eschews the field goal, deciding to go for it, and Stokes bats away the fourth-down pass along the sideline to McLaurin.
Play No. 3: First-and-goal from the Green Bay 6, third quarter, 7:10 left
Result: 3-yard scramble by Heinicke
Here is the goal-to-go sequence leading up to the fourth-down QB sneak (minus the replay reversal on third down that nullified the originally called TD). On first down, the Packers cover all of Heinicke's options. On his right side, Carter has three defenders surrounding him at the goal line, while Campbell floats outside to hang with WR Adam Humphries (13). By the time Heinicke looks back to his left, Stokes and S Adrian Amos (31) have McLaurin bracketed in the back of the end zone, while LB Jonathan Garvin (53) stays with RB Antonio Gibson (24) as he leaks out of the backfield. There's nothing for Heinicke to do but get what he can.
Play No. 4: Second-and-goal from the Green Bay 3, third quarter, 6:41 left
Result: No gain by Gibson
On second down, DL Dean Lowry (94) staunchly holds the point against LG Ereck Flowers (79), so much so that Gibson runs right up his lineman's back. Meanwhile, LB Rashan Gary (52) makes Seals-Jones whiff on his edge block so he can pursue from the back side, and Amos makes C Chase Roulllier (73) miss as well to provide extra support.
On third down, Heinicke scrambles and dives for the goal line, believing he has scored, but the replay review rules him down inside the 1. Which sets up …
Play No. 5: Fourth-and-goal from the Green Bay 1, third quarter, 5:56 left
Result: No gain by Heinicke
No one missed this, but it's included because of a quick adjustment Campbell makes just before the snap, shifting DL Tyler Lancaster (95) over to be head-up on the center. Campbell also appears to be tapping Lancaster on his right hip to signal him to submarine the gap on his right, because Campbell wants to go straight over the top, which he does and knocks the ball out of Heinicke's hand.
Play No. 6: Second-and-4 from the Green Bay 5, third quarter, 1:59 left
Result: 2-yard run by Gibson
Not long after, Washington is back near the goal line again, and has just kept the ball after a replay review of an apparent Green Bay fumble recovery showed the Packers never had it. On this play, the run is blocked well on the front side, but not so much on the back side. DL Kingsley Keke (96) splits RG Wes Schweitzer (71) and RT Cornelius Lucas (78) and goes flying at Gibson, while Gary flat-out beats the block of Seals-Jones to crash down hard. Two plays later, Amos breaks up the fourth-down pass in the end zone for Seals-Jones, and the Packers have another big stop.
Play No. 7: Second-and-10 from the Green Bay 14, fourth quarter, 7:18 left
Result: 2-yard completion to Seals-Jones
On Washington's next trip into the red zone, the stop is set up by this play. On the rush, Gary blows around Lucas on the edge and gets a hold of Heinicke, while the coverage play is made by Amos. At the moment Heinicke is looking to save the play by dumping the ball off to Seals-Jones, Amos is a good 8 yards away, but his reaction is superb to hold the tight end to a minimal gain. On the next play, CB Chandon Sullivan gets his interception in the end zone.
Bonus No. 1: Second-and-4 from the Washington 29, third quarter, 14:13 left
Result: Sack-fumble by Gary, recovered by Lowry
Again, this is a play nobody missed, but it's worth showing because even if Gary hadn't gotten there in time for the sack, there's a good chance for a turnover anyway. Heinicke is trying to throw the deep corner route to McLaurin, but Stokes and Savage have him bracketed. Unless the ball sails out of bounds, this looks like an interception waiting to happen.
Bonus No. 2: Second-and-4 from the Washington 47, third quarter, 3:43 left
Result: 27-yard run by Carter
Speaking of potential turnovers, check out this play by CB Rasul Douglas (29). The new defensive arrival comes from all the way on the other side of the field to chase down Carter, and not only catches him, but knocks the ball out. Luckily for Washington, Heinicke recovers. But, wow.