The Packers had a stellar performance Sunday against the Buffalo Bills as they picked up their second home win of the season after shutting out the Bills 22-0. While the offense had their share of hiccups, the defense didn’t seem to flinch. Say what you want about the Bills offense, but I feel like the Packers defense finally put together 4 good quarters of football, especially up front.

Mike Pettine seemed to call a great game. He knew when to blitz, who to send, and what coverage to play behind. I think I saw Pettine send more stunts this week than he has all year. The Packers defense finished the game with a total of 7 sacks. At the beginning of the year this was an area of the team that I was worried about. We haven’t seen much out of Nick Perry or Clay Matthews in recent seasons. There has been a lot of talk especially about Matthews. Some fans seem to think that he has lost a step or that he isn’t the pass rusher that we have seen in past years. What he showed on tape against the Bills said otherwise.

Key pieces were added to the front after training camp, such as Reggie Gilbert. Gilbert turned a lot of heads last season in his limited amount of reps, but when he was on the field he made a big difference in the pass rush. I feel like Gilbert is showing us flashes of what he is capable of as a pass rusher. He had a solid game against the Bills. He got 1 of the 7 sacks, but the stat column doesn’t tell the whole story for what he has done this season.

Kyler Fackrell really surprised a lot of people. He finished the game with 4 tackles and 3 sacks. Toward the end of the game he flipped the switch and had some really good rushes. The key thing for him is doing it consistently. What I saw from him was good leverage, hand placement and angles.

Let’s start by taking a look at Matthews and Perry. I was happy right off the bat that Matthews finally got (half) a sack where he didn’t get flagged. Matthews is playing pretty wide here. He is shifted over almost a full player at the snap of the ball. He takes a really wide angle and gets over the top of the back. I like the angle because if he were to go underneath the back then Allen could potentially scramble for a first down. If you read my scouting report over the Bills, one of my biggest concerns was Allen tucking the ball and running. I think Pettine and the defense really wanted to shut that possibility down.

I like the way he finishes off this sack. He takes a good angle towards Allen at full speed. If he were to play this a little upfield, Allen again could slide up and scramble. Matthews knew he had to get the sack and also play contain.

Perry starts off a little tighter towards the tackle. The very first thing I noticed about his rush was the hands. Every pass rusher has to use the hands and use them violently. He uses a two hand punch and swats with his outside hand. The initial two hand punch will “shock” the blocker. That sets up his second move with the rip. As you can see, Perry rips with the inside hand and then gets in pursuit mode. I like how he stays tight to the tackle the whole way for the sack.

Next lets look at Gilbert. I’d like to start by saying that I’m glad that the coaching staff has found ways to get him on the field more. Gilbert ended up getting 25 total snaps against the Bills. I hope they continue to use his strengths throughout the season.

The thing that makes this a good rush is the shoulder dip. Watch the inside shoulder really dive underneath the tackle. The old saying always holds true that the “low man wins the game of football.” He gets a good shoulder dip, keeps the feet moving and circles around the find Allen. What makes Gilbert such a good pass rusher is that he never stops his feet. Some rushers would be tempted to stop, peek in the backfield, and find the quarterback. Gilbert never stops from the time the ball is snapped. He gets back there on a mission to disrupt the pocket.

Jermaine Whitehead got in on some of the blitzing action even. The 3-4 defense is so appealing to teams because of its flexibility. I does a great job in disguising who the 4th or 5th rusher will be on each play.

In the 4-3 defense the offense almost always knows which 4 players will be rushing, mostly because those 4 players will have their hand in the ground. It can be a tip off to the defense that can make it somewhat predictable.

Before the snap, Whitehead is lined up over the number 2 receiver. He doesn’t tip off anything presnap. He gets there at the snap of the ball because of his speed and angle. I always like it when a coordinator will mix in defensive backs as rushers. It is a good way to keep the offense on their toes and also get some of the more athletic players involved in the blitzing process.

Lastly, lets look at the sack Martinez got. Pettine again disguises the rusher presnap. Martinez gets just enough of a shuffle downhill to get a head start before the snap of the ball. I like that Pettine wants to send his strongside linebacker through the B gap. The strength of this formation was balanced, but once the motion occurred the strength shifted to the short side.

The play of Clark holds the center and guard long enough for Martinez to come through clean and get the sack. I like to see inside linebackers get in the mix when it comes to blitzes like this. Had this been a run, all the gaps would have been covered and Martinez could have got a tackle for loss on the running back. The play action movement helps as well. That gives Martinez even longer to get there and make the sack.

I hope this trend continues to the next game against the Lions. Detroit has the 10th best passing offense in the NFL and I’m hoping Pettine again has something up his sleeve to slow it down.

The Packers take on the Lions October 7th at Ford Field.

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