GREEN BAY – The Packers’ defense clamped down after a rough start last Sunday against the Bengals, allowing just three points over Cincinnati’s final seven possessions.
Veteran linebacker Ahmad Brooks recorded his first sack as a member of the Packers, rookie safety Josh Jones had a team-high 12 tackles and his first two NFL sacks, and second-year linebacker Blake Martinez was right behind him with a career-best 11 tackles.
While they all deserve their share of the credit, it’s also worth taking a closer look at the help they got from teammates on some of their key plays. The essence of team defense at crucial junctures is what this edition of WYMM will examine, along with the Bengals’ aborted third-and-1 play late in the fourth quarter that proved so pivotal.
Play No. 1: Third-and-12 from the Cincinnati 44, third quarter, 8:32 left
Result: 7-yard sack by Brooks
As Brooks (55) gets his first Green Bay sack by busting through on the left side, some credit goes to what Clay Matthews (52) and Kyler Fackrell (51) pull off on the right side. The two OLBs run a basic stunt, with Fackrell crashing inside and Matthews looping around him. The effectiveness of the stunt gives Bengals QB Andy Dalton nowhere to go as Brooks gets home.
Play No. 2: Third-and-7 from the Green Bay 22, third quarter, 3:28 left
Result: 8-yard sack by Jones
Jones (27) gets his second sack of the game here by blitzing off the right side. But watch also what the Packers’ defense does on the other side. S Morgan Burnett (42) blitzes from the left slot, which leaves LB Joe Thomas (48) to pick up Bengals WR Brandon LaFell running down the middle seam, a matchup that normally favors the offense. Dalton’s eyes lock on LaFell, knowing he should have an advantage, but as Thomas stays with him stride-for-stride and maintains inside leverage with safety help over the top, Dalton can’t pull the trigger before Jones gets his leg.
Bengals WR A.J. Green may have helped the Packers here, too, by running his route to almost the same place as LaFell and not spreading the defenders out. In any event, the sack pushes the ensuing field-goal try back to 48 yards, and the Bengals miss it.
Play No. 3: First-and-10 from the Cincinnati 25, overtime, 10:00 left
Result: 2-yard tackle for loss by Martinez
Martinez (50) gets a clear shot through the gap here to bring down Bengals RB Joe Mixon for a 2-yard loss on the first snap of overtime. Why does it look so easy? In part, because Bengals LG Clint Boling (65) can’t slip through to block Martinez due to the work of Packers DE Dean Lowry (94). Lowry eventually knocks Boling to the ground, Martinez attacks Mixon untouched, and the resulting second-and-12 helps the Packers get the three-and-out.
Play No. 4: Third-and-1 from the Green Bay 27, fourth quarter, 4:31 left
Result: Dalton tackled for a 1-yard loss on a busted play
The Packers were having trouble containing Mixon on this fourth-quarter drive and caught a break when he slipped in the backfield at the snap and Dalton was unable to get him the ball. But would the Packers have stopped him anyway? Maybe. Jones and Martinez crash hard into the gap the lead blocker (TE/FB C.J. Uzomah) is attacking. They plug the hole pretty well between Lowry and DT Kenny Clark (97), who impressively takes on a double-team with all the strength he can muster.
Most likely, Mixon would have cut to his left at the handoff, where Burnett is charging through unblocked. The play probably comes down to whether Burnett can bring down Mixon one-on-one at the line of scrimmage, but we’ll never know how that collision would have turned out. The Bengals are forced to settle for a field goal, which keeps the Packers within seven points and leaves 3:46 on the clock for Aaron Rodgers and the offense to complete the comeback.