GREEN BAY – Individual standout plays are great, but defense is always first and foremost a team effort.
The Packers put that on display against the Texans in holding Houston to just a touchdown and two field goals until garbage time late in the game.
On a number of key snaps, it took three or more individuals making a standout effort for the defense to get a good result. Here's a sampling:
Play No. 1: Third-and-1 from the Houston 34, first quarter, 8:10 left
Result: 1-yard loss by RB Duke Johnson
This is a great example of a chain reaction of events that leads to the stop. First, DT Kenny Clark (97) gets a great push right at the snap against C Nick Martin (66). With Martin shoved backward, that prevents RG Zach Fulton (73) from being able to pull cleanly around to his left to block LB Preston Smith (91). Fulton practically stumbles over Martin's legs, and by the time he gets to his assignment, Smith is already 2-3 yards in the backfield. Meanwhile, out on the edge, CB Josh Jackson (37) darts around a poor block attempt by WR Brandin Cooks (13) to be the first defender to get to Johnson, and the short-yardage play is foiled.
Play No. 2: Second-and-20 from the Green Bay 31, second quarter, 3:55 left
Result: 5-yard sack by LB Krys Barnes
After a holding penalty and incomplete pass, the Texans want to run a screen, and it takes a good effort on multiple levels of the defense to wreck it. Up front, Preston Smith makes a nice swim move inside to generate pressure on QB Deshaun Watson and prevent RB David Johnson (31) from getting a clean release into the flat. At virtually the same moment, DL Kingsley Keke (96) recognizes the screen being set up and peels off to pick up Johnson heading to the flat. On the second level, CB Jaire Alexander (23) and Barnes (51) react to the screen as well and start to attack. With no chance to really do anything, Watson scrambles and is caught for a 5-yard loss by Barnes. Two plays later, the Texans miss a field goal and their best chance to score in the first half goes by the wayside.
Play No. 3: First-and-10 from the Houston 25, third quarter, 15:00 left
Result: 3-yard run by David Johnson
The second half begins with another effective chain reaction. Again, it starts with Clark spinning off a double-team to close any potential hole up the middle. On the edge, Preston Smith stiff-arms TE Darren Fells (87), giving no ground at the point of attack. As the back looks to bounce outside, Barnes has avoided a weak and late block attempt by RT Tytus Howard (71), and pulling LG Senio Kelemete (64) suddenly facing two defenders in the hole – Barnes and S Raven Greene (24) – having to pick one to block.
Play No. 4: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 15, third quarter, 1:11 left
Result: 1-yard completion to Duke Johnson
This is the first play in a sequence that becomes an important red-zone stop with the Packers leading 28-7. Duke Johnson, a running back, is lined up wide to take a flare screen, but CB Chandon Sullivan (39) is quick to attack it, putting himself in good position so that LT Laremy Tunsil (78) can't block him without illegally hitting him in the back. With Sullivan forcing Johnson back inside, S Will Redmond (25) charges up from the back end to make the first hit, and rookie LB Kamal Martin (54) darts over from the middle of the field, avoiding the block of Fulton to clean up the tackle.
Play No. 5: Third-and-3 form the Green Bay 8, fourth quarter, 15:00 left
Result: 12-yard sack by S Adrian Amos
This is one of the biggest defensive plays of the game, and it's interesting to see how it unfolds. The Packers call an all-out blitz, rushing seven defenders at Watson. The Texans only have three receivers out on routes, so they're in a seven-man protection – five linemen, a tight end, and a back. Someone for the Packers has to win his matchup or this could be trouble, and it's Amos (31) who beats TE Pharoah Brown (85) coming off the edge. But the other element that produces the sack is the coverage in the middle of the field by Jackson and Redmond on Cooks. It's obvious that's where Watson wants to go with the ball, and it's the only place he has time to look, but Cooks is bracketed. The Packers force a field goal and maintain a three-score lead.
Play No. 6: Second-and-6 from the Houston 42, fourth quarter, 9:05 left
Result: 1-yard gain by David Johnson
One more for good measure to show the teamwork against the run as well as the explosiveness of Martin, who was making his NFL debut coming off injured reserve and would appear to have earned plenty more snaps. This one starts with LB Rashan Gary (52) setting the edge with double-arm separation against Fells. On the outside, Jackson darts inside the block of Cooks, and an unblocked Martin lays a wallop on the back. A couple of snaps later, Preston Smith makes the highlight-reel fourth-and-1 stop on Watson near midfield, and the Packers' offense tacks on another touchdown with the short field to put the game away.