Kevin King, Green Bay Packers defense make a big play 'just soon enough' in win over 49ers
GREEN BAY – Soon enough.
Monday night came down to the Green Bay Packers' defense making the right call and the right decisions at the right time — leading to their biggest play of the season.
With 73 seconds to go and the San Francisco 49ers facing a 3rd-and-3 at the Packers' 46-yard line, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine dialed up a pressure, sending seven players at 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard. Allowing a first down essentially would end the game.
His defense had tightened up in the second half yet again, allowing just six points and 111 total yards. But they couldn’t give up three more. For them, it was a matter of trust. His trust in them. Because despite breakdowns in man coverage throughout the game, Pettine dialed it up again.
“Mike is an aggressive play caller,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. “He’s not afraid to make those calls.”
Clinton-Dix ended up being the free runner in the numbers game up front, with Jermaine Whitehead, Blake Martinez and Clay Matthews all getting caught in the protection.
“Kind of put our guys on an island on the back end,” Matthews said.
“Somebody gotta get home,” Clinton-Dix said. “And if you’re the free guy you better get there and make a pressure or something or it’s going be a problem.”
As the ball was snapped, Kevin King and Tramon Williams noticed something with the pair of San Francisco receivers on their side of the field. Former U.S. Olympian Marquis Goodwin, who had already caught four passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, was in the slot with King over him.
Williams said there was one last moment of communication between the pair before the ball was snapped.
“We saw the guys, both of them came up the field and we’re like ‘hold on,’” Williams said. “We’re sitting because it’s zero coverage. Then you kind of read their body language and at some point you’re like ‘they’re going!’”
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan dialed up a “dagger” route concept, in which Goodwin shot upfield on a vertical route. But instead of Williams’ man breaking in, like in most dagger concepts, he ran an out route.
“I’m like man, that’s a route,” King said. “I’m looking at it like ‘damn.’”
And Goodwin was indeed going, unleashing that 4.17-second 40 speed.
“Happened to be on the Olympic speed,” King said with a smile. “They weren’t lying about that.”
Clinton-Dix didn’t get to Beathard, but he did force an early throw. He couldn’t see what happened next.
“Just make sure I get my head across, don’t commit a Clay Matthews play and get the job done and hope they don’t call a flag,” Clinton-Dix said.
The ball floated up, and King turned around.
“Just soon enough,” he said. “Soon enough. Gotta make it a little hard on myself, I guess.”
Shanahan was visibly upset on the sidelines, not just in giving the ball back to Aaron Rodgers — who eventually led the Packers on a game-winning drive in the final 67 seconds — but that Beathard chose that part of his design to throw to.
“They out-blitzed us and we had to get rid of it,” Shanahan conceded. “There were four options on the play, but that wasn’t the one that we wanted.”
The Packers' defense had forced one turnover earlier in the game, which led to a field goal. But otherwise, Beathard was only sacked twice and hit four times. He had a perfect quarterback rating for most of the game and finished with a 16-for-23 effort for 245 yards and two scores and a 115.3 rating. The 49ers ran the ball for 174 yards and 5.8 yards per rush.
Most of that damage was done in the first half, with the 49ers scoring 24 points on 290 yards of offense.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” safety Kentrell Brice said. “We just gotta figure out how to play starting fast and finishing fast and play a complete game. Right now we’re not playing a complete game.”
Yet, just soon enough, they made a play.
“You know what the situation is,” defensive tackle Kenny Clark said. “Things weren’t going so good, honestly, the whole day, and (Pettine) put his trust in us at the end of the game to make a play and Kev made it.”