3. Krys Barnes
Stat line: 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 forced fumble
Brian Gutekunst may have found his next diamond in the rough. Krys Barnes had himself one heck of a game before being injured Saturday night.
For the second week in a row, Barnes was the main man in the middle and made his present felt.
The Panthers were driving on their third possession of the game and took the ball down to the one-yard line. If the Panthers scored, the game would have been 10-14 and could have affected the outcome of the game the way the second half went.
Then on first-and-goal, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater attempted a dive into the end zone when he was met by Barnes who swiped the ball out of Bridgewater’s hands. Kevin King picked up the fumble and returned it 48 yards, setting up the Packers’ third and final touchdown.
That 14-point swing could have been the difference in the game. If the Panthers score there, it’s a much closer game and we all know how the second half went for the Packers offense.
Barnes wasn’t done there though. In the third quarter, the Panthers had a second-and-10. They attempted a screen pass to Mike Davis that Barnes read and reacted perfectly. Barnes exploded past his blocker and dropped Davis for a six-yard loss, putting the Panthers in a third-and-long that resulted in a punt.
Barnes is far and away outplaying Christian Kirksey and is getting recognized for it with his starts the last two games.
The defense will need him moving forward with NFL leading rusher Derrick Henry coming into town next week and a slew of good running backs heading into the playoffs.
Barnes’ stats would have been better had he not had to leave the game in the third quarter with an eye injury. There’s good news there though as it appears it isn’t anything serious and he should be available for the team in their big showdown with the Tennessee Titans next Sunday night.
After 15 weeks, Green Bay is right where they want to be. The Kansas City Chiefs did the Packers a favor by handing the New Orleans Saints their second straight loss, giving the Packers what amounts to a two-game lead on the Saints.
Also working in the Packers’ favor was the New York Jets’ first win of the season. The Jets beating the Los Angeles Rams gives the Packers a little more breathing room. Should the Rams beat the Seattle Seahawks next week, the Packers should only have to win one more game to clinch the number one seed.
Hopefully the second half was a wake-up call for the offense. That type of play won’t work come playoff time regardless of home-field advantage.