GREEN BAY – As the Packers racked up seven sacks in their 26-20 overtime victory over the Buccaneers on Sunday, there was no one overriding theme to the pass-rush success.
A combination of solid coverage in the back end, strong efforts up front, and protection miscues by Tampa Bay all contributed.
Here’s a sack-by-sack breakdown of all those little things.
Sack No. 1: Third-and-6 from the Green Bay 42, second quarter, 11:44 left
Result: 8-yard sack split by LB Clay Matthews and DT Mike Daniels
The superhuman effort of Daniels (76) to split the double-team block of C Evan Smith (62) and LG Kevin Pamphile (64) is the highlight of the play, and deservedly so. But watch also the coverage to QB Jameis Winston’s left, which is where his eyes are trained right from the snap. Tampa Bay’s two most explosive weapons, WRs DeSean Jackson (11) and Mike Evans (13) are over there, with Evans on the inside. CB Davon House (31) is all over Jackson on the short route, while S Morgan Burnett (42) and S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21) are bracketing Evans. Clinton-Dix’s anticipation of where Evans is going is spot-on, and even after a slight slip, he read the route so well he still would have beaten Evans to the sideline. Daniels busts through so quickly Winston doesn’t have time to look at any other options, who are all pretty well-covered, too.
Sack No. 2: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 30, second quarter, 4:31 left
Result: 8-yard sack by DT Kenny Clark, and 62-yard fumble return for a TD by DE Dean Lowry
Several different things going on here that help produce the biggest defensive play of the game. First, the Packers catch a bit of a break, as Winston slips just as he tries to set his feet in the pocket. At that moment, he’s looking in the direction of Evans, who has gained some separation from House on an in-cut. But the slip not only prevents him from throwing the ball right away, it also prompts him to take his eyes off Evans and look elsewhere. But TE Cameron Brate (84) is blanketed by Burnett, and TE O.J. Howard (80) is double-covered by S Josh Jones (27) and Clinton-Dix. Eventually, Clark gets home, with the help of a delayed blitz by LB Jake Ryan (47) taking out a blocker, and the rest is history.
Sack No. 3: First-and-10 from the Tampa Bay 36, second quarter, 3:47 left
Result: 1-yard sack by Ryan
Ryan initially drops into coverage and eventually comes up to make the sack on Winston, who doesn’t like anything he sees against Green Bay’s zone coverage and decides to tuck and run. His only feasible outlet based on his scrambling angle is WR Chris Godwin, but Burnett is all over him, so the ball is never thrown.
Sack No. 4: Second-and-5 from the Green Bay 26, second quarter, 1:19 left
Result: Zero-yard sack by Matthews
As Matthews loops around the long way to chase down Winston from behind, the coverage in multiple places is worth watching. First, CB Damarious Randall (23) is step-for-step with Jackson along the right sideline. Second, Jones is in good position over the top on Brate, who had caught a 28-yard TD pass over the middle in the first quarter. Finally, similar to the first sack, watch Clinton-Dix’s anticipation again of Evans’ route, this time over the middle as the inside help for House. The Packers’ Pro Bowl safety is all over it.
Sack No. 5: First-and-10 from the Tampa Bay 26, third quarter, 11:04 left
Result: 6-yard sack by Matthews
These next two are the gift sacks, the result of blunders on protection calls by the Buccaneers. Here, Pamphile and LT Donovan Smith (76) both block Lowry, with neither picking up Matthews coming off the edge. On top of that, RB Peyton Barber (25) also gives his QB no help in the backfield. Hard to know whose responsibility was Matthews, but he had to be someone’s.
Sack No. 6: Third-and-3 from the Green Bay 44, third quarter, 7:38 left
Result: 14-yard sack by Lowry
Again, it’s hard to know who’s responsible for whom, but in this case, RG J.R. Sweezy (73) and Smith both take LB Blake Martinez (25), while RT Caleb Benenoch (77) and Barber both focus on Matthews. That leaves a wide-open lane for Lowry to come barreling through, giving Winston no chance, and the defense gets a key stop.
Sack No. 7: Second-and-17 from the Tampa Bay 13, fourth quarter, 1:09 left
Result: 3-yard sack by Clark
Here’s something not seen every day – Daniels dropping into coverage. While Clark and LB Nick Perry (53) run a stunt on the right side, Daniels drops off the line and then charges ahead as Matthews fights off a chip block and closes in from the side. Eventually, Clark gets Winston around the leg, and Daniels and Matthews help him finish it off.