Buried beneath the disappointment of Sunday’s 37-8 loss to San Francisco, there was a touching moment between one of the Green Bay Packers’ star players and someone watching the game at home.
During the second quarter, Packers outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith bounced up from the turf after sacking 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on 2nd-and-20 and emphatically pulled up his jersey, revealing a white T-shirt with a show of support for one of the Packers equipment staff member’s sick mothers. She is presumably battling breast cancer, as the symbolic pink ribbon was displayed on Smith’s celebratory shirt.
“He told me about his mom and I was like, ‘Man, we should do something for her’ because she’s a big fan, so we came up with the idea to do the shirt,” Smith told reporters in Sunday’s postgame. “And I was like, ‘Man, wouldn’t it be cool if I did it for my next sack celebration?’ So I did it for her tonight, I hope everyone got a chance to see it.”
Reporters and analysts joked after his sack about Smith’s awareness of the on-field camera, but he was still excited to learn after the game the national broadcast picked up his message and that it would surely reach its intended recipient. Smith said the shirt design and idea was the idea of the equipment staffer, who got together with the Packers pass-rusher after the bye week to iron out the details.
“I was like, ‘Man, why not?” Smith said.
On the night, Smith also teamed up with fellow Packers pass-rusher Preston Smith for another split sack later in the game to give him 10 total sacks on the season. Both Smiths — who joined the Packers in free agency in the past offseason — are among just seven players in the NFL with double-digit sacks this season, as Preston Smith is fourth in the league with 10.5 sacks.
Za’Darius Smith’s 10 sacks tie him at fifth-most with both 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead — who tallied two against Aaron Rodgers on Sunday night — and suspended Cleveland Browns pass-rusher Myles Garrett.
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Smiths Critical of Packers’ Loss to 49ers
While a warm message was delivered, the Packers locker room was dread and disappointment following their second bad road loss in California this season.
“It leaves a bad taste in all of our mouths,” Za’Darius Smith said Sunday night of the blowout loss to the Niners. “I think we got outcoached and outplayed by this team, so just go in (Monday) and watch the film and correct our mistakes.”
The Packers defense struggled all night long to slow down Garoppolo and the Niners offense, which racked up 23 points in the first half and crossed the finish line just short of 40. Explosive plays — an area defensive coordinator Mike Pettine focused on during the bye — were once again a problem for the Packers with George Kittle’s 61-yard touchdown pass among the most abhorrent of mistakes.
“We’ve got to take away all their explosive players,” Preston Smith said, expanding later on. “They found a way to get their playmakers the ball. They found a way to get (Kittle) involved and involved in a big way. We knew coming into this game if he was playing, which he did, that he was going to be a key piece of their offense and helping them get going. And he did that tonight.”
Playoff hopes still plenty intact, the Packers will have a more favorable stretch of games to fix their issues on defense with upcoming games against New York Giants and Washington Redskins, both league cellar-dwellers that each sport 2-9 records on the season.
“As a team, we’re close to where we want to be, but we’re far away at the same time,” Preston Smith said. “We’re not far off where we want to be, but we’ve got a lot of work to put in to be the team we want to be, to leave the mark we want to leave.”