Green Bay Packers fans may have had some issues with Joe Barry at the beginning of the season, but the game plan he installed for Sunday’s shutout victory over the Seattle Seahawks was a thing of beauty.
The Packers came away with just their second shutout in the last decade, winning 17-0 to move to the top of the NFC with an 8-2 record. It was also the first time in Russell Wilson’s NFL career that he failed to help his offense score a single point.
There were a lot of factors at play as to why the Seahawks offense sputtered like it did. Before we get into the film and break down what Barry and the defense did, it’s important to contextualize the performance. This was Wilson’s first game back from a finger injury that had sidelined him for weeks, and playing in the cold weather conditions at Lambeau Field likely didn’t help him throw the ball as cleanly as he’s used to.
Having said that, the defense deserves a ton of credit for how they were able to shut down Wilson and the Seahawks offense, so let’s take a look at a few of the big factors that went into the shutout win.
Forcing Wilson to make throws off-platform and under duress made it extremely hard for the Seahawks quarterback to get any kind of rhythm on Sunday. Probably the most eye-opening stat from Sunday’s win was how often the Packers generated pressure without bringing numbers.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Wilson was under pressure on 45.8 percent of his dropbacks but was only blitzed three times the entire game. Generating pressure without bringing a blitzer gave the Packers plenty of support in coverage, and made things nearly impossible for Wilson. When under pressure, he completed just 25 percent of his passes for 33 yards and an interception for a passer rating of just 13.5.
Barry’s plan for Wilson on a number of plays was to use future All-Pro inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell as a spy, but have him give a pre-snap look as a blitzer. A four-man rush was able to routinely generate pressure, and Campbell would be there in support to clean up if Wilson tried to escape the pocket.
Joe Barry had a lot of pressure looks like this, with De'Vondre Campbell dropping back to spy.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 16, 2021
The gameplan was great. Pressure forced Wilson out of the pocket and Campbell would be there to clean up and force hurried throws. pic.twitter.com/9NFLU4yO5E
If the numbers weren’t enough to convince you of how much Wilson struggled under pressure, then the tape should do the trick.
Something coaches try to emphasize with quarterbacks of all ages is for them to keep their eyes downfield when pressure is coming so that they can find their receivers downfield as they get open. When the pressure rattles a quarterback, they will start to routinely drop their eyes to the pocket, looking for ways to escape.
The Packers were able to get Wilson to drop his eyes early on Sunday, and after not playing for the last few games, he wasn’t hesitating a bit more when escaping the pocket than he normally has throughout his career.
Pressure was relentless on Sunday.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 16, 2021
This is only the 2nd quarter, and Wilson was already dropping his eyes and hesitating as soon as he felt the pocket collapsing. pic.twitter.com/KxJnESbnvH
A few individual players deserve recognition for their contributions as well. Preston Smith and Kenny Clark were particularly dominant on Sunday, racking up a combined 18 pressures (h/t PFF).
When Clark and Smith were able to generate pressure simultaneously, the Seahawks had virtually no shot at running a successful play.
Love to see Kenny Clark and Preston Smith beating their blockers almost immediately to generate pressure. pic.twitter.com/y3izGyCWKR— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 16, 2021
Prior to suffering a season-ending biceps injury, Whitney Mercilus had been having easily his best game in the green and gold. He also had the most impressive pass-rush snap of anyone in Sunday’s contest.
Mercilus got his first sack in Green Bay on a great rep and example of converting speed to power on a pass rush. After feigning that he was trying to bend the edge, Mercilus decisively attacked the left tackle’s center of mass, gaining leverage and driving him into Wilson’s blindside before wrapping up the Seattle QB.
Great example of turning speed to power on the pass rush.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 16, 2021
Can really get an OT off balance. pic.twitter.com/wc5QVDNZjy
It’s a huge blow to Green Bay’s defense to lose a veteran pass-rusher like Mercilus, especially with how he had been coming along and acclimating to Barry’s defensive scheme. Replacing him will be difficult, but the Packers are hoping that 2020 undrafted free agent Tipa Galeai can show some flashes in the second half of the season.
Preventing the deep ball
When Wilson has been under center, the Seahawks have thrived offensively with explosive shots downfield to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Despite not having Jaire Alexander to shut one of those two talented wide receivers down, the Packers' secondary had no trouble preventing any explosive plays deep downfield.
The 32-year-old quarterback posted a passer rating of 0.0 on throws 20-plus yards downfield, completing zero of his seven pass attempts with an interception. It wasn’t much better between 10 and 20 yards, with Wilson going just 2-for-8 for 34 yards and another INT.
First-round cornerback Eric Stokes was a blanket in coverage, allowing zero catches on four targets in 49 coverage snaps (h/t PFF). He also had the best deep-ball coverage rep of anyone in the secondary.
When playing near the sideline with inside positioning, cornerbacks are taught to use the sideline as leverage, using their bodies to naturally force the receiver to drift towards the boundary. Stokes did this perfectly with the ball in the air, turning his head and tracking the ball without panicking and trying to grab the receiver.
Such a veteran rep from Eric Stokes here.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 16, 2021
The play speed allows him to stay in phase. Uses the sideline as leverage. Doesn't panic and grab. Gets his head turned.
Absolute TEXTBOOK stuff from a rookie. pic.twitter.com/V85jXbdx3v
I cannot emphasize enough how impressive it is to see a rookie cornerback make a play like this. The play speed, the ability to turn his head and track the ball, and the composure to stay calm and avoid making contact are all skills that rookies struggle with early in their careers. In Jaire’s absence, Stokes has taken huge strides as an NFL defensive back.
Stokes wasn’t the only defensive back to make a great play down the sideline. Darnell Savage had a nice one as well, showing good recovery speed and turning his head just in time to make a play on the ball despite getting initially beat.
Darnell Savage with another nice play on a deep ball.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 16, 2021
Recovery speed to get to the WR, turns his head and sticks a hand out.
Doesn't panic and grab. pic.twitter.com/UqMphcjGTF
The safety duo of Savage and Adrian Amos may not get a ton of attention on NFL broadcasts, but they’ve been a huge reason why the defense has been so successful. They have both been in consistently good positions to make plays in support while also supporting the secondary over the top.
The two of them did a great job bracketing Lockett on a post-corner route late in Sunday’s game. Wilson did a poor job of manipulating the two safeties with his eyes on this play, and Amos had no problem tracking the throw the whole way before coming up with an interception in the end zone.
Savage and Amos played the deep corner-post route perfectly here.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 16, 2021
Bracketed him with ease, and Amos tracks the ball well for an easy INT. pic.twitter.com/bTXQOEDCDV
Amos nearly had two more interceptions at the end of the game, reading Wilson’s eyes and jumping in front of a handful of passes.
Bonus: TJ Slaton showing flashes
He only played 12 snaps against Seattle, but rookie defensive tackle TJ Slaton is really starting to turn some heads.
Slaton was selected in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL draft out of Florida and has slowly but surely started to have more of an impact on defense. This week was his most impressive showing of the year.
Watch the clip below for a handful of Slaton reps, showing his ability to generate push into the backfield in run support, a relentless bull rush, and a great move to get into Wilson’s face almost immediately.
He only played a handful of snaps on Sunday, but TJ Slaton made his presence felt in a BIG way. pic.twitter.com/YcYlaYjgZ4— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 16, 2021
The Packers are still being conservative with how much they want to put Slaton out there, but it’s nice to see a Day 3 pick starting to develop into a key role player before our eyes.