Fackrell Goes From Forgotten Man To Unsung Hero
Kyler Fackrell didn’t make a single tackle on Sunday.
All he did was help save the game for the Green Bay Packers.
On the game’s final play, Fackrell knifed into the backfield and got the first shot on running back Christian McCaffrey. Preston Smith stopped McCaffrey just short of the goal line to preserve a 24-16 victory over Carolina.
While Smith was given full credit for the tackle in the official stats, Smith gave credit to Fackrell in the locker room.
“I thought, ‘Why not get the ball to your best guy on offense and try to get him downhill for a win?’ Fack sniffed it out, too – he tackled him first,” Smith said.
“Big play by Fack,” interjected fellow outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith.
“Yeah, big play by Kyler Fackrell. I came in and helped finish it off,” Preston Smith continued.
Carolina got the ball at its 11 with 2:26 remaining and all three timeouts. Methodically, the Panthers marched the ball down the field behind quarterback Kyle Allen. On third-and-2, he hit D.J. Moore for 7. On third-and-5, he connected with tight end Greg Olsen for 9. On fourth-and-10, he stood in the pocket and connected with Moore for 12 to the Packers’ 13.
On fourth-and-1 from the 4, Allen threw incomplete to McCaffrey but an offside penalty on Preston Smith gave Carolina a first-and-goal at the 2. Allen’s first-down pass into the flat to McCaffrey fell incomplete, setting up the do-or-die second down with 4 seconds to go.
“As I sit here and think about it right now,” defensive back Tramon Williams said, “when I came in and sat down I said, ‘Well, they went out with their guy. That’s the way they should have did it.’ They gave it to McCaffrey. I guess they probably thought about it too and were like, ‘All right. 22’s our guy. If we’re going to go out, we’re going to go out with him.’ And that’s what they did. I give respect to them for that. Christian McCaffrey’s a great player. He’s tough to deal with for any defense, but we came up with a stop at the end, which was great for our defense.”
Just before the final play, inside linebacker Blake Martinez made a quick adjustment and Fackrell moved a gap to his right. He split center Matt Paradis and left guard Greg Van Roten. While he failed to bring down McCaffrey, he slowed him down enough for Preston Smith to stop him just short of the goal line.
All that was left was an official review of the play – and then a celebration and some snow angels.
“I was right there and I definitely didn’t think he got in,” Williams said. “Yeah, I was right on the line and I was looking at it and definitely didn’t think he got in. I wasn’t really worried about it and obviously it came out in our favor.”
Said Panthers coach Ron Rivera: “It was a game of inches.”
While Preston Smith had two sacks, Aaron Jones ran for three touchdowns and Davante Adams had a breakout game, the unsung hero will be the forgotten Fackrell.
It’s been quite a couple seasons for Fackrell. A third-round pick in 2016, Fackrell had a total of five sacks in his first two seasons before a breakout 10.5 sacks last year. General manager Brian Gutekunst signed the Smiths in free agency and used a first-round draft pick on Rashan Gary. Through 10 games, Fackrell has zero sacks.
“It’s been good. We’re 7-2,” Fackrell said on Friday when asked how he’s handled his role this season. “It is what it is. I’m taking the attitude of it’ll all work itself out.”
It worked out for Fackrell on Sunday and for the Packers for the eighth time in 10 games this season. It’s a dangerous way to play, though, as the stretch run to the season will begin in two weeks at San Francisco against the 49ers.
“It’s emotional because it’s a big play,” defensive tackle Kenny Clark said of waiting out the replay review. “All those times where we could’ve put the game away, all those sacks we could’ve had, we could’ve had ‘em in fourth-and-15 or whatever, and then some of the penalties that we had. So, we’re trying to put the game away. And to come down to that, that’s emotional. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”