Game Changing Play of the Week: Back to Back Sacks Allow Packers to Take Control

Rashan Gary and Kingsley Keke combine to end a rare Eagles scoring opportunity early in the game.

For the second week in a row, I predicted the Packers to win a blowout. And while it wasn't necessarily a blowout due to some classic fourth and long Mike Pettine defense and yet another special teams disaster, the Packers were still never in any real danger of losing the game. 

There was definitely some nervousness on Twitter at a couple parts of the game, particularly after the punt return touchdown, but also right at the beginning of the game. 

The Packers allowed a long scoring drive to open the game. But after burning seven minutes of clock the Eagles had to settle for a field goal, and that essentially sealed their fate.

A fluke opening drive for the Packers' offense might have made some fans nervous, but had Aaron Jones not inexplicably dropped the opening toss, the Packers could well have driven down the field to score.

When the Packers' defense hit the field next, a pair of back to back sacks knocked the Eagles out of scoring range, allowing the Packers to get the ball back and never look back again for the rest of the game. 

The plays

The two plays in question exemplify some outstanding production the Packers got out of their 2019 draft class on Sunday, and show just how much some of these players are beginning to come into their own.

The first came on a second and eight from the Packers' 30-yard line. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz took a snap out of the shotgun, and for a moment it looked like the Packers might bring an extra rusher, but it ended up just being the four-man tandem of Rashan Gary, Kenny Clark, Kingsley Keke and Preston Smith.

Smith and Clark both shoved their men right back into the quarterback, which forced Wentz to step up into the pocket. However, Keke held tight in the middle, giving Wentz nowhere to go. Gary managed to change from a bull rush (that appeared effective) into a swim move to get back inside his man when he saw Wentz forced up inside. The result was his first sack of the day, one that knocked the Eagles back to the Packers' 33 and setting up a third and long.

At this point, the Eagles are still in position for a more-than-makeable 50-yard field goal. The Eagles go out of the gun again, and this time the Packers bring a four man front of (from left to right) Preston Smith, Keke, Gary (on the inside) and Za'Darius Smith. Again, no extra rushers here--just four men on five offensive linemen, and the Packers' front whips them.

Both Gary and Keke get tremendous push on the inside, forcing Wentz out to his right. Keke actually falls down here, but no matter. Wentz appears to have a hard time discerning how good of a block his line has on Preston Smith; he thinks about going outside the tackle, but thinks twice, doubling back inside, nearly getting sacked by Preston in the process. That hesitation back to the inside gives Keke the time he needs to get back to his feet and make the huge sack as soon as Wentz turns his head toward him.

The result is a nine or 10 yard loss that pushes the Eagles back out of field goal range, and out of fourth-down conversion territory given the distance to go.

When the Packers got the ball back, they drove right down the field and scored their first touchdown of the day on a fourth-down conversion to Davante Adams. The Packers never looked back after this, and the outcome was never really in doubt.

 

A lot of people foolishly proclaimed Gary to be a bust or a bad pick, but his trajectory throughout the 2020 season has been very exciting. This was the second week in a row he was out for the game's first play over Preston Smith, but his stretch of outstanding play goes back weeks now. He appears to be developing a more versatile arsenal of pass rush moves. 

More than anything else with Gary, though, what's so exciting is that the man just does not stop ticking. "High motor" may be a bit of a cliche, but it also might actually be insufficient to describe what we see with Gary on the field. He is absolutely relentless in both pass rush and in run pursuit. We're just starting to see his potential come to fruition, and if he continues to improve at the same rate, he could already be a Pro Bowl caliber player in 2021. 

And let's not take anything away from the rest of the Packers' 2019 draft class. Elgton Jenkins is, of course, already a stud. But Darnell Savage has three picks in the last two weeks and has been playing some outstanding football since October, shaking off a rough first month of the season. Keke has also been steadily improving with increased playing time and is starting to look like a gem in his own right. And if Jace Sternberger continues to improve steadily alongside Robert Tonyan, the Packers are going to have a real nice stable of young tight ends, especially once the promising rookie Josiah Deguara returns to action in 2021. 

It's just a reminder of why you never judge a draft class on draft night.

__________________________

Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Comments (26)

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Lphill's picture

December 07, 2020 at 04:18 pm

The key here is a 4 man front , the packers should never again use a 3 man or God Forbid a 2 man front, had Blake Martinez played behind a 4 man front for the Packers he would have been the run stopping tackling machine he is on the Giants. Bring pressure from your front four and life is easier for your linebackers.

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stockholder's picture

December 07, 2020 at 05:35 pm

I've been complaining about the 3 man front since Capers.

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PhantomII's picture

December 07, 2020 at 08:02 pm

So simple...... So stubborn.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

December 07, 2020 at 11:14 pm

Blake was a run tackling machine for the Packers. That's why the Giants gave him the contract they did. 145+ tackles = tackling machine for the Packers. Packer fans complained he was too slow and couldn't cover. The difference isn't the front 4 it's an ILB on the giants that can cover.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

December 08, 2020 at 07:00 am

I don't watch the Giants at all. I see from stats alone a ton of injuries at the LB position and some guys - Downs (45) and Cam Brown (52) - stinking up the joint according to PFF. Ditto Tae Crowder (39 grade) and David Mayo (44). Kyler Fackrell is who he is, but he is having a bit of a down year including in coverage per the stats, though he is playing a ton and his coverage stats per PFR are decent. OLB Lorenzo Carter is pretty good but has been on IR since week 6 and he doesn't sound like a coverage guy. They traded Markus Golden.

Blake was a tackling machine for GB. Some years he was awful in coverage but he later was more up and down. He is having a mildly better year in NY than in two of the four years he played in GB.

Martinez does have Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams playing in front of him. I can't find another decent LB on the team. As I indicated, I don't watch the Giants.

What I see from the stats is that Blake Martinez is having a somewhat better year in NY than he had in two of his last three seasons in GB, but that difference is not extraordinary. He is playing on a team with the 9th best defense by points, 4th against the run, and 18th vs. the pass despite having a lousy offense.

How ya doing? I have been curious about Martinez and more so about Fackrell and how well they'd play elsewhere, and these comments seemed like a good time to investigate a bit.

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jlc1's picture

December 08, 2020 at 01:41 pm

I do see the Giants a fair amount and Martinez still gets pushed back alot. Also remember the Giants play in the NFC East and so they have 6 games against minor league competition this year.

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HankScorpio's picture

December 07, 2020 at 07:24 pm

Young front seven defenders coming into their own and making impact plays is music to my ears. I hope they keep it up.

May Khrys Barnes and Kamil Martin follow suit.

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Alberta_Packer's picture

December 07, 2020 at 08:42 pm

We probably won't see a blow-out game this season - especially with the defense's tendency for 2nd half swoons. However there is some reason for optimism - with the development of Gary, Keke, Martin and Barnes (but not until next year). The d-line is still the achilles heel of the team and will require at least 2 more NFL calibre d-linemen. Currently the team has only 1.5 - Clark and Keke. Perhaps it's time for a 4-3 defense - thinking that Preston Smith may be better suited at DE than OLB (as he's sub-par in coverage and against the run but very good as a north-south rusher)? While at it, let's toss in a new DC.

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mrj007's picture

December 07, 2020 at 09:22 pm

I notice that swoon as well. It’s almost as if NO adjustments are made at half time. Seems third quarter is when Packers’ opponents make up ground.

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

December 07, 2020 at 10:47 pm

Not correct. Pettine makes lots of adjustments at half time. He tells the defense: It's now swoon time!

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mrj007's picture

December 07, 2020 at 09:26 pm

Looks like some of the players are improving- but it seems like as soon as they start to play well, Pettine takes them out of the game. I noticed K Martin made a nice play yesterday and promptly was replaced.... Robert Salah would be a DC I would like to see in Green Bay.

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

December 07, 2020 at 10:48 pm

Robert Saleh will probably be a Head Coach next year.

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SterlingSharpe's picture

December 08, 2020 at 06:29 am

Salah isn't going anywhere except to become a head coach.
But Gregg (2 G's) Williams is available!
The Bounty Man!

If he will help make our defense tougher, more physical, I'm fine adding him.... as long as he doesn't do anything to cost us any draft picks :)

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lawatrain's picture

December 08, 2020 at 06:50 am

He’s available for a reason. Jets were his last stop, I do believe.

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Stroh's picture

December 08, 2020 at 10:44 am

If Salah was the DC, you'd be complaining ad nauseum that he plays nothing but Zone Defense over and over again. The same Zone coverage over and over and over!

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Tundraboy's picture

December 07, 2020 at 10:44 pm

"and out of fourth-down conversion territory"

I dunno with the Packers that takes on an entirely new meaning.,although maybe back to back sacks is the answer.

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Lphill's picture

December 07, 2020 at 10:45 pm

Winn out for the season torn tricep.

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Coldworld's picture

December 07, 2020 at 11:33 pm

Sounds like Greene and Ervin could be out too.

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jannes bjornson's picture

December 08, 2020 at 05:22 am

Looks like Ervin was rushed out before he was 100%.

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SterlingSharpe's picture

December 08, 2020 at 07:38 pm

That really really really hurts.
He was a sneaky good addition for our DLine.
That sucks big time.
Damn tricep.

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Since'61's picture

December 07, 2020 at 11:01 pm

Keep the 4 man rush. Keep pressure on the QB and we will more good games from the Smiths, Gary and Keke.

Our secondary makes plays when we rush 4 and create pressure. We will force more turnovers by rushing 4.

Out of our 4 remaining games we only need to focus on stopping the run against the Titans. The other games rush 4 and let our DBs make plays. Thanks, Since ‘61

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jannes bjornson's picture

December 08, 2020 at 05:25 am

The four man front will still be more effective stopping the run. Use a 4-2 scheme and even 5-2 looks like Pittsburgh. Titans attack the edge, best to stay low and try to keep leverage.

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SterlingSharpe's picture

December 08, 2020 at 07:39 pm

Where's our Packer fan in THAILAND?
Is it you, or Dan?

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edp1959's picture

December 08, 2020 at 03:06 am

The number 1 and 2 picks need to spend some time on special teams, maybe they can help. Need to get some use out of them, Taysom Hill did it at NO so can they.

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Kaitlyn's picture

December 08, 2020 at 06:33 am

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jlc1's picture

December 08, 2020 at 01:37 pm

As noted it wasn't a blowout because of some "classic" breakdowns. that they are classic is why you can't expect the Pack to blow anyone out. But for sure it GB that is on the edge of blowing the other team out rather than the other way around. Go Pack Go!

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