GREEN BAY, Wis. – At safety, interceptions make highlight reels, produce Pro Bowl honors and earn big paydays.
Interceptions also are out of their hands, pardon the pun. After all, if a safety does everything right, chances are the ball won’t be thrown his direction.
“Whether opportunities come my way, that’s not up to me. That’s more so a universe kind of thing,” Savage said before the Seattle game.
Adrian Amos and Savage were part of general manager Brian Gutekunst’s brilliant 2019 rebuild. The same offseason that produced outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith in free agency and Rashan Gary with a first-round pick also yielded Adrian Amos in free agency and Savage with a first-round pick.
Combined, Amos and Savage are one of the top safety tandems in the NFL. They lack attention-grabbing stats but their steady, understated play has been vital for a team that reached NFC title games in 2019 and 2020 and is back in position in 2021 with the fifth-ranked scoring defense in the league.
The interceptions are fleeting but the impact has been incredible. Savage has seven career interceptions, including at least one in six games. Green Bay won all of those games, including this year’s game at Chicago. Amos has six interceptions with Green Bay. Green Bay won all six of those games, including vs. Cincinnati and Seattle this year.
Amos is second on the team with 67 tackles, tied for first with two interceptions and tied for fourth with six passes defensed. He ranks fifth among the NFL’s safeties with a missed-tackle rate of only 4.3 percent, by far the best of his career.
Savage is fourth on the team with 41 tackles, has one interception and is tied for second with eight passes defensed. He is tied for fourth among NFL safeties in passes defensed.
Together, they work in such harmony in serving as the reliable glue that’s held together a secondary with a revolving door at cornerback. They are a key reason why the Packers are sixth in 20-yard completions allowed.
“I think those guys have done an excellent job,” defensive backs coach Jerry Gray said recently. “You look at Savage, you look at (Adrian), you say, ‘OK, what are you doing and what are you asking the guys to do?’ And we put a lot on their plate. To me, you look at them and they’re just as vital as a middle linebacker in this scheme. They may not call every play, but there are some techniques and things that they have to play that they have to know by formation. ‘What are you doing? How are you going to do this? What are you going to do here?’ Because, all of a sudden, if you make a mistake, it does end up in a touchdown. I think those guys are doing a really good job of communicating back there.”
While the Packers could use more big plays from their safeties – Savage is tied for second among safeties with three dropped interceptions – the key for the rest of the season could be the play of dime defensive back Henry Black. With 25.9 percent playing time, he’s 17th on the team in defensive snaps and is averaging 16.5 snaps per game. He’s given up too many completions and, perhaps more importantly, missed too many tackles. For context: Amos has 67 tackles and three misses; Black has 18 tackles and four misses. But there’s been no sign of giving his playing time to Vernon Scott, the other backup safety.