The Green Bay Packers’ defense played its heart out on Sunday afternoon against the Kansas City Chiefs, doing so without a huge number of key players. Already without Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander, the defense saw rookie cornerback Eric Stokes suffer an injury in warmups and nose tackle Kenny Clark leave the game in the first half.
That led to full-time roles for Rasul Douglas and Kevin King (who returned from a three-game absence) at cornerback, while young defensive linemen like T.J. Slaton and Jack Heflin had expanded duties as well. All parties performed admirably against a dangerous Chiefs offense, as the Packers handed Kansas City its worst yardage day with Patrick Mahomes behind center.
Unfortunately, the special teams and offense line mitigated the defense’s success, and the Packers mustered just seven points as a result. But the defense is now quietly a top-six unit in both points and yards allowed. Some of that is due to turnovers and the Packers’ pace of play, however, as the defense ranks 30th in time per drive and 19th in yards and points allowed per drive.
Still, Sunday’s performance was the unit’s best of the year, impressive considering it came against the most explosive offense it has seen all season. hopefully that can snowball forward into more good things moving forward.
OFFENSE (63 plays)
Jordan Love 63
All told, Love generally put up a better statistical performance than Patrick Mahomes on Sunday, aside from an interception in the fourth quarter when he was trying to make a play. Instead, L’Jarius Sneed made a tremendous catch over Davante Adams on the slightly errant throw.
Otherwise, Love’s completion percentage (19/34 for 56) was poor, but no worse than Mahomes’ 54% rate (20/37). And Love had more yards per attempt while matching Mahomes’ one touchdown. Instead, it was his difficulty handling pressure that was the biggest problem for the Packers’ offense through three quarters; the Chiefs’ blitz-heavy attack created loads of pressure and forced errant throw after errant throw.
Aaron Jones 40, AJ Dillon 24
The Packers’ runners actually had a solid day in this game on the ground. Jones gained 53 yards on 12 carries while Dillon posted his fourth game this season with at least 75 total yards of offense. Dillon went 8-for-46 on the ground and caught all four of his pass targets for another 44 yards.
Patrick Taylor was promoted to the 53-man roster this week, but did not make an appearance on offense.
Davante Adams 58, Allen Lazard 53, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 34, Randall Cobb 33, Equanimeous St. Brown 3
Green Bay got its top three wide receivers back this week, and both Adams and Lazard resumed their normal workloads. MVS appeared to be on a bit of a pitch count, playing just over half of the offensive snaps, while Cobb was a regular component of the offense, playing both from the slot and running the jet motion component of the offense.
Adams finished the day with a whopping 14 targets, but could only corral six of them for 42 yards. Lazard had the Packers’ only touchdown on his only target, a 20-yard catch-and-run. Cobb led the team in receiving yards with 50 on three receptions, including a 35-yarder on a prayer from Love early in the game.
Marcedes Lewis 29, Dominique Dafney 25, Josiah Deguara 15, Tyler Davis 1
With no Robert Tonyan, the Packers rolled out more 10 personnel looks (1 RB, no tight ends, 4 WRs) since they do not have a direct replacement for his role on the roster. Instead, Lewis got his usual amount of in-line snaps while Dafney and Deguara continue to run the “move” tight end plays and line up as fullbacks. Deguara caught two passes for 16 yards in the game, while Lewis had one reception for a loss of one yard.
Elgton Jenkins 63, Lucas Patrick 63, Royce Newman 63, Billy Turner 63, Jon Runyan, Jr. 58, Jake Hanson 5
The Packers elected to wait one more week to activate David Bakhtiari, but it’s likely that he would have helped this unit perform much better had he been back. That would have allowed Jenkins to move to the interior, where the Packers had a ton of issues protecting against the Chiefs’ blitzes.
Instead, the team stuck with the same line as they have for much of the last few weeks. The only brief absence was to Runyan, who went to the locker room just before halftime with what the team described as an “illness.” Hanson replaced him at left guard for the last five snaps of the half, but Runyan returned for the second half.
Still, it was a rough game for the line, despite Love only taking one sack. He took seven hits in total and was pressured plenty more.
DEFENSE (65 plays)
T.J. Slaton 45, Tyler Lancaster 36, Kenny Clark 24, Dean Lowry 22, Jack Heflin 10
Already without Kingsley Keke (inactive due to a concussion) and with Lowry on a pitch count due to a nagging hamstring issue, the Packers saw their top lineman, Clark, leave the game just before halftime. Clark would not return, thrusting Slaton, the 5th-round rookie, into a prominent role.
Slaton largely played well, occupying blockers and allowing the off-ball linebackers to flow to the football. He made a few notable tackles of his own as well, finishing with three solo and one assisted tackle. Lancaster had perhaps his best game of the season, and certainly his most active, recording three tackles with one for a loss. Heflin got into the action on a rotational basis as well and looked solid against the Chiefs’ run game.
Preston Smith 48, Rashan Gary 46, Whitney Mercilus 30, Jonathan Garvin 20
Gary basically provided the Packers’ only notable pass rush in this game. He got the team’s only sack and had their only three quarterback hits, giving him 18 hits on the season. That puts him in a tie for 4th in the entire NFL, with only Myles Garrett, Jonathan Allen, and Maxx Crosby recording more. However, he has just 4.5 sacks, while everyone else with 13 or more hits has at least five sacks. Look for him to continue ascending and turning that consistent pass rushing productivity into sacks in the second half of the season.
Smith did not record a tackle despite his extensive playing time, while Mercilus and Garvin combined for two tackles between them.
De’Vondre Campbell 65, Krys Barnes 42, Oren Burks 4
While the edge rushers were not terribly impressive behind Gary, the off-ball backers had largely a tremendous game. Campbell was his usual solid self aside from one or two lapses in zone coverage, but Barnes was an absolute hammer against the run. He stopped a touchdown with a massive stick on Darrel Williams up the sideline and had multiple big gap-filling hits on the running backs. Barnes finished the game with 9 total tackles, including one for a loss.
Burks’ one tackle came in a big spot, as he tracked down Jerick McKinnon on a pass in the flat and stopped him short of a first down. That third-down stop led to a big fourth-down stop when Barnes and Darnell Savage combined to stop Williams in the backfield on a swing pass. Burks would later commit an offsides penalty on a 3rd-and-6 however, but was helped out by another run stuff on 3rd-and-1.
Adrian Amos 65, Darnell Savage 65, Henry Black 10
Green Bay’s safeties largely played a solid game as the Chiefs had just two plays of more than 20 yards. Both of those went to Travis Kelce on plays where the linebackers lost him in zone coverage over the middle of the field.
Savage had a solid game, breaking up two passes and contributing on that fourth-down stop referenced above. Amos was quiet, in part because of the Chiefs’ lack of downfield passing; he had an interception that came on Burks’ offsides play which was of course erased.
Rasul Douglas 65, Kevin King 65, Chandon Sullivan 53
Eric Stokes’ surprising scratch led to Douglas and King playing every snap on the boundary. Douglas’ addition this season cannot be overstated, as he matched up regularly with Tyreek Hill and kept him in check. King’s return also was a boon for the Packers’ depth, as it allowed the team to keep Isaac Yiadom and Shemar Jean-Charles on the bench. King made seven tackles and broke up one pass — an interception that he should have had but dropped.
Sullivan also had a solid game, with five tackles and a stop for loss on a reverse to Hill that he alertly sniffed out.
SPECIAL TEAMS SNAP LEADERS
Burks 19, Ty Summers 18, Black 17, St. Brown 15, Malik Taylor 15, Shemar Jean-Charles 14, Davis 13, Douglas 12, Amari Rodgers 12