The Green Bay Packers have a found a winning formula on defense.
Stop the running back, create third-and-long situations and sack the quarterback.
Coming off a seven-sack performance against Kansas City on Monday, the Packers rang up six sacks on Sunday at San Francisco. Those were key plays as the Packers won 17-3.
Their 13 sacks over the last two games ties a team record set by the 1998 club. (See list at end of this story.)
“That is kind of how we go into each game: stop the run and force them to be one-dimensional,” said Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who had one of the sacks. “They do a great job of the offense in which they run — whether you want to call it the read-option. A lot of misdirection, but they have a numbers of plays where they capitalize on the defense not knowing where to be and a little hesitancy by the defense, but I thought we played fast. You look at the teams who were able to get after them, specifically Pittsburgh and Arizona this year, they played fast and even if they were wrong, they played fast. We had a number of mistakes, no doubt about it. It’s tough when you play that type of offense, but I thought we played fast and for the most part kept them in check.”
The biggest sacks came on back-to-back plays on San Francisco’s best series of the game. (See video above.) On first-and-goal from the 5, Nick Perry beat the 49ers’ best lineman, left tackle Joe Staley. On second-and-goal from the 15, fellow outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott jammed the tight end then looped inside of defensive tackle Letroy Guion’s up-the-middle push, and dropped Kaepernick.
In the third quarter, Matthews blitzed between the center and right guard to bring down Kaepernick on third-and-4.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, defensive tackle Mike Daniels missed an opportunity to sack Kaepernick but Perry hustled his way for his second sack.
About 5 minutes later, the Packers collected another hustle sack. Datone Jones couldn’t get Kaepernick down but Julius Peppers was there with Mike Neal closing fast. On the next play, third-and-16, Sam Shields intercepted Kaepernick.
Finally, on fourth-and-5 from the Packers’ 15 with about 4:30 to play, defensive coordinator Dom Capers sent six rushers, with Neal coming in untouched from left outside linebacker.
“We’ve been on a hot streak,” Neal said. “We’ve just had good pass rush and we’ve got a defense that’s playing hungry. The biggest thing is being able to stop the run. We’ve been able to stop the run early in games and getting us in favorable positions and the sacks come from that point on. We’ve been hustling and bustling and getting them.”
The sacks highlighted a dominating, wire-to-wire performance by Green Bay’s defense. San Francisco finished with 196 yards, with 87 of those coming on two plays. On the other 48 plays, the 49ers gained 2.27 yards per snap. The Niners converted 4-of-13 third-down opportunities, went 0-for-2 in the red zone and had just four plays longer than 12 yards. Noted Packers killer Kaepernick had a 55.4 passer rating and running back Carlos Hyde, who entered the game ranked third in the NFL in rushing, mustered only 20 yards on eight attempts.
“It’s huge. We needed that type of effort because we were just a little bit off today,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of the offense. “We had some guys who didn’t have their best days today so we need our defense to play well. We throw a lot of different guys rushing. Nick Perry’s been very solid for us, Jayrone another sack, Mike Neal with a sack on the fourth down, Julius and Clay. Clay’s doing it all for us. You look at the back end and we’re making tackles, we’re covering guys. The young guy (Damarious) Randall’s been playing well. Sam with a great interception. It’s fun to watch. Those guys are talented guys. I go against them every day in practice so I know the type of ability they have. It’s fun to see them play like this and dominate on defense.”
The Packers host St. Louis on Sunday. Unofficially, it appears the Packers’ best three-game sack stretch is 16 in 1993. The Rams have allowed six sacks in four games.
“Our defense played lights out,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think it was our best performance so far this year.”
MOST SACKS BY PACKERS IN BACK-TO-BACK GAMES
13 — 2015. 7 vs. Kansas City in Game 3, 6 vs. San Francisco in Game 4.
13 — 1998. 4 vs. Baltimore in Game 6, 9 vs. San Francisco in Game 7.
12 — 2001: 7 vs. Detroit in Game 1, 5 vs. Washington in Game 2.
11 — 2012: 4 vs. San Francisco in Game 1, 7 vs. Chicago in Game 2.
11 — 2012: 4 vs. Chicago in Game 14, 7 vs. Tennessee in Game 15.
11 — 2002: 6 vs. Washington in Game 7, 5 vs. Miami in Game 8.
11 — 1993: 7 vs. Chicago in Game 7, 4 vs. Kansas City in Game 8.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.