Za’Darius, Preston Smith take issue with Ray Lewis; injuries piling up
ARLINGTON, Texas – On Saturday, Za’Darius Smith tweeted a reaction to a video clip of Baltimore Ravens Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis questioning the leadership of the Green Bay Packers’ front seven on defense with a simple “Wow” response.
On Sunday, after his first sack of Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott in the Packers’ 34-24 victory, Smith re-enacted Lewis’ famous pregame introduction dance.
Za’Darius Smith was asked about the dance and if the team needed to prove anything at AT&T Stadium, but Preston Smith – the pair do their media availabilities together – answered the question first.
“Every time we touch the field you’ve gotta silence the naysayers but we know at the end of the day what we’re capable of," he said. "We’re capable of being a great defense. Of course, y’all see flashes but we’ve gotta make sure we’re being consistent with it. At the end of the day, we were disrespected by somebody saying there was no leadership up front and we’re not going to say the name and make him more famous.”
Za’Darius Smith then interjected.
“It’s cool. I’m going to hit on that,” he continued. “Just to have that comment come in; what we did was I told the guys it’s more than being a leader on this defense. We’re all going to have to be leaders at some point. To be able to do that we focused on that the whole week. We actually printed out some papers and put them in the defensive room. So to have the motivation, man, it all worked out for us and we’re 4-1. Four-and-one.”
Za’Darius had two sacks on Sunday, bringing his season total to five. Preston Smith had one sack to up his season total to 5.5
Those direct-snap plays to running back Aaron Jones looked like a nice twist coach Matt LaFleur added to the offense.
Turns out they were backup center Lucas Patrick’s doing.
“They weren’t meant to be,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Both times, it was when he (Patrick) was going left, he was kind of throwing it a little bit right.
“The first time, I can’t believe he (Jones) caught it. It was literally outside the frame of my body and he caught it. After that, I said, ‘Hey, just be alert for the snap here. You never know if it’s going to happen again.’”
Indeed, it did.
Jones handled it nicely and on one beat cornerback Chidobe Awuzie around the corner for a 15-yard gain.
Patrick was forced into the game after Corey Linsley left with a concussion.
Injuries piling up
Heading into Sunday's game, the Packers were without star wide receiver Davante Adams (toe) and backup cornerback and special teams gunner Tony Brown (hamstring). Then against the Cowboys they lost Linsley, safety Darnell Savage (ankle), tight end Robert Tonyan (hip) and inside linebacker B.J. Goodson (neck).
According to multiple reports, Savage sustained a high-ankle sprain but no structural damage was found.
Head coach Matt LaFleur offered no updates on the injured players.
"There was a lot going on," LaFleur said. "There was a lot of that going on. You have to adjust in this league, and I thought our coaches did a pretty good job. But again, there’s still a lot out there to clean up. That’s what we have to do moving forward."
Cornerback Kevin King played through a groin injury suffered against Philadelphia but bruised a knee. Outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith tweaked an injured knee suffered in the Denver game on multiple occasions, though he did finish the game.
"One thing that I didn't do, I didn't put my brace on before the game," Smith said. "I thought I was going to be OK, but as you can see when I went down I had to come out. They actually put the brace on for me. I think I went down another time and that's when the brace kept sliding off. I just had to rejuvenate it and get myself back together."
Next man up
All week it looked like rookie running back Dexter Williams would be the one filling in for running back Jamaal Williams, who was ruled out Friday with a concussion.
On Saturday, the Packers elevated running back Tra Carson from the practice squad and cut defensive lineman Fadol Brown. Carson wound up being active and Dexter Williams was not, leaving Carson in line to play the first offensive snaps of his NFL career.
“It was crazy,” said Carson, who entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2016 and played special teams for two games for the Packers last season. “I get the call up and I’m active playing in the game. Earlier this week, I was on practice squad.
“I really appreciate the coaches for trusting me and putting me out there.”
Carson carried six times for 14 yards and caught four passes for 18 yards. Most importantly, he was solid in picking up the blitz on passing downs and didn’t turn the ball over.
“I felt good,” he said. “During the preseason, I ran with the ones the whole time (because Jones and Jamaal Williams were hurt). I’m just happy they trusted me and put me out there.”
Crosby battles hip tightness after tackle
Just six minutes into the game it looked like the Packers might have an issue on special teams when kicker Mason Crosby dove to tackle Cowboys kick returner Tony Pollard along the Dallas sideline on a 27-yard return. After Crosby committed to going low, Pollard tried to cut back and he kneed Crosby in the left hip.
“It was like a dead leg,” Crosby said. “I went to push up and I was like oh, just gave myself a sec. Once I started moving it, it was tight. I didn’t like how it felt the whole game but since it was early on it was a little bit of a bummer, but I’m good.”
Crosby laid on the turf initially and then had his left hip looked over by the Packers’ medical staff. But he did not miss a kickoff or place-kick opportunity and went 2-for-2 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points.
“I was happy it was my left leg, honestly,” Crosby said. “Because it was up high, kind of up in that hip area and left leg I could kind of fight through some of that tightness. The guys covered (kicks) great after that one. We covered great, a lot better this game after that kick for sure.”
If Crosby were to have missed time, punter JK Scott would have attempted field goals and backup quarterback Tim Boyle would have been the holder. While Crosby was being attended to, Scott, Boyle and long snapper Hunter Bradley did get some precautionary snaps in on the sideline.