Game Changing Play of the Week: Preston Smith Sack Forces Seahawks to Punt Game Away

Preston Smith's late sack of Russell Wilson was perhaps the biggest play of the game against Seattle.

Last offseason, the Packers went out and brought in Preston and Za'Darius Smith hoping they would transform a dead Packers pass rush, turning the unit into a force to be reckoned with.

Needless to say, the investment has paid off big time. And on Sunday in a divisional round playoff game against Seattle, the Smiths eached notched a pair of sacks. None were bigger than the final sack of the game by Preston Smith.

The play

Preston Smith had been coming after Wilson all day long. There were at least three or four times where it looked like Preston was going to have a sure sack, only for Wilson to escape. Preston eventually got home with a sack earlier in the game, but this one here, on third and five with just over three minutes to go, was massive.

For one, it kept the clock running. An incompletion gives the Seahawks more time to work with, or at the very least, more time for the Packers to have to run off the clock, assuming they get the ball back.

Two, it makes it much harder for the Seahawks to decide what they want to do on fourth down. On fourth and five in that position, you gotta think the Seahawks are going to go for the first. But after they got backed up with the sack, they sent out the punting unit. A foolish mistake, of course--the Seahawks are no longer playing with a Legion of Boom defense, and Aaron Rodgers was playing MVP-caliber football. They made the decision to punt, and in doing so essentially punted the game to the Packers (not to take away from the offense, which still made a pair of must-have first downs to seal the game).

Preston has done much of his best work on third down this year, and it happened once again in the most crucial spot of the season so far.

The Seahawks made the awful mistake of attempting to block Preston with a tight end, and Preston got around it almost immediately. By the time the right tackle saw Smith sprinting past, it was too late--Wilson never had a chance. Smith took advantage of the mismatch and got to the quarterback before Wilson even had time to think about what he was going to do with the football.

 

The decision to punt after this play is going to be second-guessed all offseason, as it should be. Meanwhile, just last week I had written that the advantage the Packers had in the pass rush game would be the difference maker in the end. Turns out it very much was, and the Packers' prized offseason acquisitions led the way.

__________________________

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 (17)

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dobber's picture

January 14, 2020 at 10:56 am

Could very well be a different sack that was the difference: Jaire Alexander's sack on the Seattle 2-point attempt. If Seattle gets that 2-pt, and makes it a 3 point game, they have the momentum and the Packers on their heels.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 14, 2020 at 11:26 am

Corner/safety blitzes have been effective against Willson all season. Surprised Pettine was so Dom-like in quarter three and four. Have to step up the pressure even more against Santa Clara.

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Razer's picture

January 14, 2020 at 11:31 am

Seattle did have the Packers on their heels the whole second half. Watching Russell Wilson escape the pocket and find a target was the narrative of part 2 of the game. This sack was huge because it was the first interruption of Seattle matching down field and scoring.

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Crazytim87's picture

January 14, 2020 at 11:39 am

AGREED!! GO PACK GO

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splitpea1's picture

January 14, 2020 at 11:04 am

We needed that sack SO bad....I was beginning to brace myself for season-ending disappointment, and then P. Smith came through. Then the big pass to Davante, the big pass to Graham, and everything was wonderful again.

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JerseyAl's picture

January 14, 2020 at 11:22 am

From my end zone view, I remember seeing Martinez blitzing on a game with Fackrell. While he didn't get that far, his presence to Wilson's left kept Wilson in the Pocket where Smith found him.

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Barazinho's picture

January 14, 2020 at 02:54 pm

Agreed - Martinez had contain. In general, it looks like they all stayed in their lanes - there wasn't much room for Russell to run. Hollister was chipping (and Amos had him covered), but Preston came so wide that the RT couldn't get there. Nice defense!

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Razer's picture

January 14, 2020 at 11:38 am

Without a run game, I think Pete Carroll made a good call to punt on the late game 4 and 5. Let's face it, the packer offense had stalled, the Seattle defense was playing well, they had 3 time-outs and there was plenty of time left on the clock. Aaron Rodgers had to make two HUGE long, 3rd down throws to seal the win. Even if he can't put together a complete game, Rodgers showed that he still has the arm to make tough plays.

Good call but still a great QB.

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Cubbygold's picture

January 14, 2020 at 01:09 pm

It was 4th and 11 I believe. I think it was the right call too.

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Lphill's picture

January 14, 2020 at 12:05 pm

A problem I have is the non fiumble recovery, should have been Packers ball and maybe go up 14 to 0 , I think those refs got the word from the NFL to give it back to the Seahawks so we don’t have a blowout in the making and viewers lose interest . That was my game changer.

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Razer's picture

January 14, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Typically, i am not inclined to believe conspiracy explanations but the crazy inconsistencies in NFL refereeing and play reviews has me thinking this way as well. This non-fumble was bad but the "new footage" review on the Jimmy Graham catch was movie script unbelievable.

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mnbadger's picture

January 14, 2020 at 12:32 pm

I was thankful they punted. Defense was tiring.
I like our odds of winning way better with four minutes left, a 5 point lead and the ball in arod's hands vs russ Wilson. No matter what the down and distance are.

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edp1959's picture

January 14, 2020 at 01:05 pm

Game changing play of the Week: 3rd and 8, around 3 minutes left in the game, #12 throws unbelievable pass to #17 that moves the chains.

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CAG123's picture

January 14, 2020 at 01:08 pm

Its pretty ironic that Pete did the same thing against the Pack that MM did against Seattle last year.

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4thand1's picture

January 14, 2020 at 06:42 pm

Game changer, the Packers playing playoff football. AR to Devante not making mistakes to hurt the team, D in the 1st half helping the team a lead that held up. 3rd down baby and the D making the final dagger. The Packers were the better team.

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Monkeydemon's picture

January 15, 2020 at 07:52 am

After Preston Smith’s sack, I was both surprised and glad to see the Niners lining up to punt. Pete Carroll should have been smart enough to realize: You don’t want to give AR the ball with less than 3 minutes left.

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Cheesey51's picture

January 15, 2020 at 09:37 am

Preston Smith, Sack and Jaire Alexander (2pt conversion sack) 2 biggest saving plays of the game.

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