Za’Darius Smith didn’t say much at the time about being snubbed as an All-Pro after leading the NFL in pressures this season, but the Green Bay Packers outside linebacker did have a little something to say after his first sack in Sunday’s divisional playoff game.
After Smith sacked Russell Wilson during Sunday night’s second quarter, he rushed into the Seattle backfield and pulled down his white undershirt, revealing in dark black letters the word: SNUBBED. He finished with two sacks on the night after tallying 13.5 sacks during the regular season, helping the Packers win 28-23 over the Seahawks to advance to the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday night in Santa Clara, California.
Smith’s two sacks against the Seahawks bring his running tally up to 15.5 total in his first season with the Packers. He also finished his inaugural year in Green Bay as the NFL’s only pass rusher with more than 90 pressures on the season. Despite putting up excellent numbers, though, Smith finished fifth in the All-Pro voting among edge rushers and was left off the team in favor of first-teamers Chandler Jones and T.J. Watt and second-teamers Shaq Barrett and Cameron Jordan.
Considering none of the four are still playing in the postseason, Smith seems to be having the last laugh as one of the few vote-receiving edge rushers to still be playing for something in the playoffs. The only other edge rusher to garner All-Pro votes among the four remaining postseason teams is 49ers rookie defensive end Nick Bosa, getting two votes ahead of brother, Joey Bosa, with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Smith and the Packers (13-3) will attempt to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since winning the title during the 2010 playoffs when they travel to Levi’s Stadium next Sunday at 5:40 p.m. CT to take on the top-seeded 49ers (13-3) for the conference title.
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Additions Shine Yet Again for Packers
Both of the Packers’ Smiths were successful at pressuring Wilson through the divisional matchup with outside linebacker Preston Smith also tallying two tackles in the victory, but they were hardly the only fresh talent doing damage in front of the final Lambeau Field crowd of the season.
One of the first names that comes to mind is veteran tackle Jared Veldheer, who was forced to step up with starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga battling an illness that has been making its rounds through the Packers’ locker room. He made his first career start in a Packers uniform after he reversed course on his early-season retirement and was signed from the New England Patriots to help Green Bay make a playoff push.
It isn’t the first time Veldheer has stepped up as he was asked to do the same when Bulaga left late the Packers’ Week 17 win against the Detroit Lions. Both times, Veldheer has proved to be worth the time and money with well-rounded protection that kept the offense rolling.
Another midseason pickup and name who was mentioned a few times during Sunday’s win is return specialist Tyler Ervin. The former Jacksonville Jaguars running back not only provided a much-needed shot in the arm for the Packers’ return game during the regular season but also took two carries for 25 yards against the Seahawks, including a smooth 18-yard run that helped the Packers maintain their first-half momentum.