The Green Bay Packers’ pass-rushing Smiths spent a good amount of time chasing Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson around the backfield during Sunday night’s 28-23 divisional win, which led one of them to draw a strange comparison between the Seahawks passer and a farm animal.
Packers outside linebacker Preston Smith, who finished with two sacks to tie fellow pass rusher Za’Darius Smith for most in the game, seemed to praise Wilson’s nimble moves under pressure when asked about him in the postgame. While he was brought down five times and hit on several more occasions, he escaped a few situations to either make it back to the line of scrimmage or rush for additional yards on a collapsed play.
“It was like chasing a chicken in a field with no fence,” Smith said after the game, via The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman.
Wilson completed 21 of his 31 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown while also leading the Seahawks with seven rushings for 64 yards, but Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers still proved the better passer on the night with his two touchdown throws complementing running back Aaron Jones’ two touchdown runs. Rodgers also received better protection with the exception of a few straight-shot sacks.
Both coming to Green Bay during last year’s offseason, the Smiths have been the front-and-center force of the Packers during their resurgent season. While Za’Darius Smith finished as the only NFL player with 90 or more pressures and tied for the league led with 37 quarterback hits, Preston Smith applied similar pressure from the opposite edge to form one of the best tandems in the NFL. The pair finished the regular season with 25.5 sacks and 31 tackles for loss between them.
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On one hand, the Smiths and the rest of the Packers’ defensive line have matched up once already with the 49ers pass protectors. On the other, they are looking as solid as ever after a standup effort against the Minnesota Vikings in San Francisco’s divisional win at home on Saturday afternoon.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was hit just three times, sacked twice, during the 49ers’ 27-10 victory as his offensive line maintained control for the majority of the game. The same group of linemen — even healthier now — kept the Packers off Garoppolo enough in Week 12 for him to stake the 49ers to a 23-0 lead at halftime and a 38-7 victory on Monday Night Football.
Looking deeper into the numbers, though, the pass protection for both the 49ers and Seahawks rated pretty similarly during the regular season. According to ESPN statistics, the Seahawks ranked 28th in the league with a 54 percent pass-blocking win rate as a team, while the 49ers were 26th with a 55 percent win rate. Conversely, the Packers have the ninth-best (47 percent) pass-rush win rate with both the Smiths and defensive tackle Kenny Clark playing like stars.
Clark, who tallied the only other sack against Wilson on Sunday, finished with four tackles after being questionable to play in the game with an illness.