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What You Might've Missed: Two key defensive sequences

Preventing additional points allowed comeback to happen


GREEN BAY – The anatomy of a comeback always includes the defensive effort.

Against the Saints, there were two key sequences on either side of halftime during which the Packers kept crucial points off the board.

Here's how they broke down.

Play No. 1: First-and-goal from the Green Bay 7, second quarter, :31 left

Result: Incomplete pass

Leading 14-0, the Saints are in position to make it 21-0 at halftime after WR Chris Olave catches a 27-yard sideline pass, setting up goal-to-go with 31 seconds on the clock and all three timeouts. Making the critical stop starts with rookie DL Karl Brooks (94), stymied by C Erik McCoy (78) on his rush, getting a hand up in the passing lane to bat down QB Derek Carr's throw. But it's worth seeing how well the Packers had this covered. WR Michael Thomas (13) slips from the contact with CB Rasul Douglas (29) at the goal line, and LB Isaiah McDuffie (58) reads Carr's throw all the way, cutting in front of Thomas. Does McDuffie, filling in for an injured LB De'Vondre Campbell, get a pick if Brooks doesn't swat the pass away? His reaction seems to indicate he had a shot.

Play No. 2: Second-and-goal from the Green Bay 7, second quarter, :27 left

Result: No gain for RB Tony Jones Jr.

With timeouts in their pocket, the Saints try a run, but two Packers veteran DBs snuff it out. WR Keith Kirkwood (18) goes in motion and is looking for an edge block to spring Jones, but Douglas undercuts him, forcing Jones inside, where S Darnell Savage (26) is there to make the play. LB Quay Walker (7) and others help clean up to eliminate any gain. The flag thrown was going to be for an illegal block below the waist on Douglas, but it was picked up presumably because the officials ruled the contact came within the tackle box, not on the perimeter, making it legal.

Play No. 3: Third-and-goal from the Green Bay 7, second quarter, :14 left

Result: Incomplete pass

On the third-down rollout by Carr, the Packers have the two routes on the right side covered pretty well. Thomas is on the inside, and as he angles to the back corner, Savage and Walker have him bracketed. At the pylon, Olave (12) separates just enough from CB Carrington Valentine (37), but nickel CB Keisean Nixon (25) reads this perfectly and probably should have intercepted it. His reaction says so. In any event, the Saints settle for a field goal and the halftime score is 17-0 instead of 21-0.

Play No. 4: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 41, third quarter, 7:16 left

Result: Incomplete pass

On the Saints' second possession of the second half, with QB Jameis Winston (2) now in the game for Carr, they have a chance to score again with a first down in Green Bay territory. By moving the chains one more time, they'd get the field goal under 50 yards, but the Packers don't allow it. This sequence begins with solid one-on-one coverage by Douglas on Thomas, who has to make this play, because the Packers are sending a six-man pressure and he's on an island. Fortunately, Thomas slips a little bit, so even if he makes the catch he's not going to break away for a big gain, but Douglas makes sure he doesn't catch it anyway.

Play No. 5: Second-and-10 from the Green Bay 41, third quarter, 7:13 left

Result: 4-yard run by Jones

A little bit of good fortune here, but also credit DL Devonte Wyatt (95) for his balance and recovery. Wyatt and Brooks appear to be running an inside stunt, but it gets messed up, knocking Wyatt out of his gap. But somehow he doesn't go down, staying on his feet and filling the hole anyway, which proves big because Walker slips a bit as he attacks from the second level. If Wyatt doesn't recover to make this play, it's a much more substantial gain for the Saints.

Play No. 6: Third-and-6 from the Green Bay 37, third quarter, 6:29 left

Result: Incomplete pass

Here the Saints try a tight end screen, looking for TE Juwan Johnson (83) to get behind a couple of blockers and move the chains. The botched execution is mostly of their own doing, but this play is notable for who the pass rusher is way out on the edge – it's DL Kenny Clark (97)! Clark's big body getting in the way makes the short completion more difficult, while Nixon is distraught that Johnson got a hand on Winston's hot throw because he was right there to take it away. Regardless, the Saints don't get into field-goal range, take a delay while trying to draw the Packers offside, and end up punting.

Bonus play: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 31, fourth quarter, 4:28 left

Result: 24-yard run by QB Jordan Love

Switching gears to show a key offensive play from the comeback, this one to spark the game-winning drive stands out on the film. First, give credit to Love, who recognizes immediately that LT Rasheed Walker (63) and LG Royce Newman (70) have not passed off the D-line stunt smoothly. He shows no hesitation whatsoever in getting out of trouble to avoid a negative play. From there, his speed gets him to the edge, and then WRs Romeo Doubs (87) and Samori Toure (83) alertly shift from scramble mode to blocking mode, keeping their defenders at bay to make this an explosive play. Just heads-up play by all.