The Final Play: Half-Brilliant, Half-Crazy
The Green Bay Packers beat the Carolina Panthers by eight points on Sunday.
They also won by about 8 inches.
“We were pretty fortunate right there, if I’m being honest,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said on Monday, “because we weren’t lined up and it kind of threw them off. Kyler made a heck of a play and we had some other guys get into the mix right at the end and we were fortunate to keep them out of the end zone.”
With Carolina at the 2-yard line with 4 seconds to go, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine trotted out his dime defensive grouping against Carolina’s three-receiver set. With quarterback Kyle Allen in shotgun, running back Christian McCaffrey was lined up to the right of Allen and tight end Greg Olsen was lined up on the right side.
Meanwhile, Preston Smith was at left outside linebacker (over Olsen), Kyler Fackrell was the left defensive tackle, Kenny Clark was the nose tackle and Za’Darius Smith was the right outside linebacker. Linebacker Blake Martinez lined up between Clark and Za’Darius Smith, and safeties Ibraheim Campbell and Adrian Amos were aligned to the left of Preston Smith.
Just before the snap, Martinez walked over to Fackrell to essentially switch spots. Had the ball been snapped, there would have an enormous hole for a walk-in touchdown. Instead, as the video atop this story shows, Fackrell arrived just in the nick of time. Perhaps Fackrell’s late arrival was the key to play. He got inside of left guard Greg Van Roten to make the initial hit, Preston Smith cleaned up and the Packers improved to 8-2.
“Sometimes Blake tends to overthink things,” Pettine said on Tuesday. “He and Kyler had the same job. We always tell them, ‘If you ever have a mirror job with somebody that you can just go left and right.’ Now an ideal way to line up was Blake to the offset back and Kyler away, which, Blake at the last minute goes, ‘Oh, let’s go ahead and get it the way it should be,’ not knowing that the snap was imminent. Obviously, Kenny had to stand up and get out of the way. It’s rare that you cut in front of a guy to go get into your position, and it just worked out that the late movement luckily caused a little confusion with the tackle and Kyler was able to beat him pretty clean and at least get the hit in the backfield. I thought Preston did a good job coming from the backside and grabbing his legs, and then Blake kind of just making sure that he didn’t reach the ball out and get it past the goal line.”
Watching it live, outside linebackers coach Mike Smith couldn’t believe what was going on before the snap.
“I was like, ‘What are y’all doing?’” Smith said. “I think it caught the lineman by surprise. The guard was like ‘Oh, (excrement), here’s someone right here.’ Kyler slipped and made a hell of a play. Yeah, very rarely see that. You’d like not to see that but it end up going in our favor.”
In lining up in a defense focused more on speed than strength, the 245-pound Fackrell was lined up as a defensive tackle. It was brains, not brawn, that won the game.
“He’s a dropper in that defense, a hook player,” Mike Smith said. “When we get over there, he’s like, ‘Z, run! Run!’ You talk about smart. He knew it was coming. Z knew it was coming. And so did Preston. That’s a zone-read. It was early in the year, this quarterback kept it one time on the zone-read but the rest of them he’s handing it off. With Preston on the back side knowing that, we’re going. We’re thinking the quarterback’s not going to keep it. That’s why Preston comes off the back side to make the tackle. It goes back to film study and knowing what they’re doing. But that’s a tough situation. You’re sitting there thinking do you want to load up and play the run or do you want to be a little bit lighter and see if they pass with 2 seconds. Those guys made a hell of a play. It was a tough situation what was called, but you count on your players and trust them, and it won’t matter what the (heck) you’re in.”