Why they won: Packers outplay Washington in D.C.
By Kenn Korb
Pass rushing excellence
While the offense is what most are focusing on from this game, the defense is the hero of this game.
The first part of their success was behind the strength of their pass rush.
Green Bay racked up 43 sacks in 2015 (tied-7th in the NFL).
These tended to come in bunches. In 12 of the 16 games this season, Green Bay managed at least two sacks; in 8 of those games, the Packers managed at least three sacks, and had three games of at least 6.
Really, outside of a three-game stretch with zero sacks at mid-season, the Packers were as consistent — and at times devastating — as any pass rush fielded this year.
The pass rush hasn’t really had one guy that has been their go-to guy for sacks this season (though Julius Pepper could be looked at here), but more of an array of players making contributions.
Those 43 sacks the Packers garnered in 2015 included 7 players with at least 3 sacks. Julius Peppers was the leader with 10.5, but guys like Clay Matthews (6.5), Mike Daniels (4.0), Mike Neal (4.0), Nick Perry (3.5), Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (3.0), Datone Jones (3.0), and Jayrone Elliott (3.0) all added production along the season.
That array was on full display here.
Green Bay managed 6 sacks against Washington, with four guys providing those stats: Perry (2), Neal (2), Matthews (1.5), and Daniels (0.5). Beyond the sacks — and possibly more emblematic of the pass rush’s impact — Green Bay also managed a ridiculous 13 QB hits; Matthews (3), Neal (3), Perry (3), Peppers (2), Daniels (1) and Jones (1) provided those.
That impact manifested in other ways as well. The constant pressure hamstrung the Washington passing attack, knocking off Kirk Cousins’ rhythm and not letting him settle into his throws. Cousins was also forced into three fumbles across the afternoon, losing one.
This was a great effort by this pass rush — and something we honestly shouldn’t be surprised by at this point.
Next: High-End Play On The Back-End