Flying High Again: Why Green Bay Packers beat Philadelphia
By Kenn Korb
High quality blocking
All season, with struggles hitting seemingly everywhere on this entire team from their quarterback to their subpackage defenders, one area on the team has been a bastion of strength and consistency: the offensive line.
From the first snap, they’ve been by far the best unit in the league in terms of pass blocking, keeping their quarterback clean pretty much every snap to search for receivers no matter who lined up against them. Even with injuries hitting key spots, the depth and talent of this group (besides the immortal Don Barclay) has been able to step in almost seamlessly and do well.
In this game, they did the same.
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Even without J.C. Tretter and T.J. Lang, the line performed one of their better collective efforts of the season (that’s saying something; many of these weeks have been a master-class in pass protection). With Corey Linsley (the starting center of 2014-2015; missed most of the early season recovering from a hamstring injury) and rookie Jason Spriggs (drafted as a potential tackle, but forced into the starting right guard role due to Lang’s injury and Barclay’s own injury plus utterly awful play), the line allowed zero sacks and just nine pressures to a highly-talented Philadelphia defensive group.
For some insight into what they were up against, we’ll start with the unit and move to individuals.
The Eagles even after no sacks here have racked up 26 sacks on the year –11th-best in the league. Their defense as a whole came into the week as the #1 ranked group in Defensive DVOA; that starts with their line, which is built around forcing pressure with their front four and not blitzing to get to the quarterback.
Leading that group is the big-money man Fletcher Cox. He doesn’t have the box score stats of some elite guys, but as someone who spends a lot of time in the interior that is something which happens often to even the best guys. Even so, he came in with 28 tackles, 4 sacks, and a Pro Football Focus grade of 87.0 (#3 among interior defenders). With him is the elite edge-rushing of Brandon Graham. Though he started slowly in his career, he’s more than made up for it with his play the past couple of seasons; coming in, he had 31 tackles, 5 sacks, and a PFF grade of 90.0 (#5 among edge defenders).
This game, those two stalwarts combined for just 6 tackles, period.
Even the best in the business aren’t making it through the steel wall that is Green Bay’s offensive line this year. They deserve as much credit for the successes of the offense as any skill player — and probably much more.