GREEN BAY – Plenty of credit goes to the Packers' youth on defense and what it accomplished on Sunday in Chicago.
But the steady presence of Green Bay's veterans on defense shouldn't get overlooked. The elder statesmen set the tone for a strong showing overall.
Play No. 1: First-and-10 from the Chicago 12, first quarter, 14:54 left
Result: No gain for RB Khalil Herbert
LB Preston Smith (91) is a major player on the opening drive of the game, and it starts with the very first snap. He swiftly avoids the cut-block attempt by TE Cole Kmet (85) cutting across the formation and chops down Herbert at the line of scrimmage. Textbook run defense off the edge.
Play No. 2: Third-and-1 from the Chicago 40, first quarter, 12:15 left
Result: No gain for Kmet
Four plays later, Smith and two other veterans snuff out a trick sneak by the Bears. As Kmet goes in motion and tries to catch the Packers by surprise lining up under center, watch the head of DL T.J. Slaton (93, middle). His eyes are up and he sees what's coming, adjusting his alignment to squeeze the middle more. Smith and LB De'Vondre Campbell (59) also quickly adjust to plug up the middle right before the snap, showing how ready the Packers are for this look.
Play No. 3: Fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 40, first quarter, 11:39 left
Result: No gain for QB Justin Fields
On the next snap, once again Smith isn't messing around. He anticipates the sneak coming, pops inside into a four-point stance – unusual for a stand-up edge rusher – and then splits the left guard and tackle at the snap to get his arms around Fields and hold him up. The defense gets back-to-back short-yardage stops and a turnover on downs.
Play No. 4: First-and-10 from the Chicago 37, first quarter, :32 left
Result: 7-yard loss for RB D'Onta Foreman
Another veteran showing his anticipation skills early in the game is S Darnell Savage (26), who on this play reads the swing pass so quickly, he's sprinting at Foreman before the ball is even out of Fields' hand. He runs by TE Robert Tonyan (18) before his former teammate even has a chance to block him, and Savage gets the TFL.
Play No. 5: Second-and-7 from the Chicago 46, second quarter, 14:00 left
Result: No gain for Foreman
Here's yet another veteran tone-setting move as Campbell simultaneously beats the block attempt by WR Chase Claypool (10) and blasts rookie RT Darnell Wright (58) into the backfield on the outside pitch to Foreman. DBs Keisean Nixon (25) and Rudy Ford (20) end up getting credit for the tackle, with Ford coming from the other side of the formation to lay a big hit. But Campbell made the play.
Play No. 6: Second-and-10 from the Chicago 20, second quarter, 6:37 left
Result: Holding on LT Braxton Jones
It's now Chicago's fourth possession of the game, but it's worth pointing out another defensive veteran making his presence felt. This time it's LB Justin Hollins (47), who sets a solid edge at first and by continuing to power his way into the backfield, draws a holding penalty on Jones. The official's flag flies as Fields escapes. The Bears are put in a hole and end up punting.
Play No. 7: Second-and-6 from the Chicago 15, third quarter, 5:49 left
Result: 3-yard run by Herbert
The game is well into the third quarter now, but here's another example of Savage's speed attacking the line of scrimmage. CB Rasul Douglas (29) has the outside edge set, allowing Savage to whip past Claypool's whiff of a block. He chops down Herbert to set up third down and gets a pat on the helmet from Douglas for his efforts. On the next play, Fields fumbles on a scramble for the first turnover of the game.
Play No. 8: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 21, third quarter, 1:44 left
Result: 1-yard gain by RB Roschon Johnson
Wrapping up the defensive theme of veteran influence, how well has DL Kenny Clark (97) taught linemate Slaton his swim move? Watch how the two swim in sync to stuff another running play.
Bonus play: Fourth-and-12 from the Chicago 23, third quarter, 8:20 left
Result: 35-yard punt return by WR Jayden Reed
Just wanted to throw this one in to show how on the biggest play of the game on special teams, it was once again veterans leading the way. The three blocks to watch for are by S Dallin Leavitt (6), decking DB Josh Blackwell (39) near the point of the catch; S Jonathan Owens (34), creating enough interference on DB Jaylon Jones (31) to help Reed get outside; and last but not least Hollins, trailing the play after rushing the punter but then finding LS Patrick Scales (48) and locking him up as Reed sprints up the sideline.