A single-word retweet was the only response Za’Darius Smith seemed to have for Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis and his recent criticism of the Green Bay Packers defense.
The former Baltimore Ravens star said on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” earlier in the week that the Packers “have a real issue on defense and that is, in their front seven, they don’t have that dictator no more,” referring to the departure of former standout Clay Matthews.
But the Packers’ new pass rusher had a little bit more to say — or, rather, show — during Sunday’s midday game when he wrapped up Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott for a sack on third down and celebrated with Lewis’ signature ‘squirrel’ dance at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Smith, who chose Green Bay over Lewis’ Baltimore during the offseason, had only said “Wow” in his retweet of Lewis’ comments Saturday. Hard to argue much more needs to be said after the Packers shut out the Cowboys in the first half on their home field, largely because of the pass-rushing antics of new faces on their roster.
Smith’s sack in the first quarter was his fourth of the season, while fellow new addition Preston Smith — who left the Washington Redskins for a four-year, $52 million deal with the Packers this offseason — tallied another to push his total to 5 1/2 sacks on the season.
“I know Clay Matthews was not a heavy run stopper, but he created havoc,” Lewis had said to punctuate his criticism of the Packers.
The Packers finished the half with two picks — only Prescott’s 10th career game throwing multiple interceptions — as Jaire Alexander snatched up a deflected pass and second-year cornerback Chandon Sullivan made an acrobatic play to haul in the second.
The Packers led 17-0 at halftime and were fortunate to escape a few injuries that might have stalled the progress of the aforementioned defense, including one to Za’Darius Smith himself. The pass-rushing star remained down on the field with what appeared to be cramping but walked off on his own, not showing much concern.
Rookie safety Darnell Savage Jr. also looked to suffer a bad leg injury when he got tangled up in teammate Blake Martinez bringing down Cowboys rusher Tony Pollard. He is questionable to return with an ankle injury but reemerged on the sideline before the end of the first half.
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The Smiths Are Good for Business in Green Bay
Offseason investments for the Packers — including Za’Darius Smith’s $66 million deal and safety Adrian Amos’ $37 million deal — have brought rich and swift returns through the first four weeks of the season, elevating the team’s defense to a level somewhat unfamiliar in Green Bay. The Packers entered Week 5 among the top 10 defenses in the NFL with a clear strength against passers.
The Smiths have, in no small part, turned helped turn around the unit and keep the team supported while the offense has gone through some growing pains with young personnel and a new system under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur. Preston Smith was ranked the eighth-most successful at winning pass-rush battles among the league’s defensive ends and outside linebackers, according to ESPN Analytics.
In four seasons for the Redskins, Smith never once had more than eight sacks in a season but will be more than halfway there by the time Week 5 concludes.