GREEN BAY - Preston Smith’s 10th sack of the season could cost him roughly a couple hundred thousand dollars.
After a pair of sacks Sunday pushed him into double digits for the first time in his career, Smith shared a bet he made with running mate Za’Darius Smith. Neither Smith had ever reached 10 sacks in a season before. Earlier this season, after it became clear both would get there, the two agreed that whoever reached that milestone first would buy something nice for the entire defense.
Za’Darius Smith said his gift would have been a gold chain for each defensive teammate with their individual number. Preston Smith had a different idea. He’s giving each player on the defense a Rolex watch.
“Damn,” Za’Darius Smith said when his teammate shared what his gift would be. "The whole defense, Rolexes. So, yeah, that’s big. The whole defense?"
“The whole defense,” Preston Smith said. “They helped me get there.”
Preston Smith’s first sack Sunday set a single-season career high, surpassing his previous high of eight from 2015 and 2017. His second sack came on a third-and-8 in the fourth quarter.
Za’Darius Smith entered Sunday with the team lead at 8.5 sacks, a half sack more than Preston Smith. He did not have a sack Sunday, though he hit Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen three times.
“I’m excited about it,” Preston Smith said of reaching the milestone. “My teammates helped me. I couldn’t have gotten it done without the other 10 guys on the defense doing their job. It’s very exciting for me, a career high, double digits for the first time in my career. It’s just a great feeling right now, and going into the bye week 8-2 with my teammates is a great feeling also.”
Adams back in big way
It was the second game of Davante Adams’ return from a right turf toe injury, but Sunday looked like vintage Adams with a 7-catch, 118-yard performance. Despite the conditions, he was explosive off the line of scrimmage and in his routes and hauled in receptions of 37 and 38 yards.
“I don’t think he was (100 percent last week) but I give him credit for playing,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “He definitely looked like he was getting in and out of his breaks a little better today. Felt smoother. I wish I had thrown the deep shot to him a little more inside, give him a chance to run away from his defender, but overall he played really well – he played strong, ran good routes and he was an important part of our success.”
It was his third 100-yard receiving game of the season in just six contests. He had five over 15 games last year and four in a 16-game season in 2016.
Despite the big individual numbers, Adams and the passing game took a backseat to a 163-yard, three-touchdown rushing effort.
“That’s the way that this team has been able to be most productive is pounding the ball and the receivers making plays, you know, whenever they come up,” Adams said. “I don’t want to steal the show or have Matt (LaFleur’s) mindset change as far as how we’re going to attack any team. Obviously I’d love to catch a million balls but if we can run the ball effectively, especially in weather like that when you know we’ve got to run it, it’s just going to make us better as a team.”
Jones dedicates TDs to parents
With Veteran’s Day coming up Monday, Aaron Jones said his three-touchdown performance Sunday was for his parents, retired Army Command Sergeant MajAlvin Sr. and retired Army Sergeant Major Vurgess.
“It means a lot,” Jones said. “Right before we came out from warm-ups I shook my dad’s hand and he saw my gloves and he’s like ‘I like those’ and I was like, ‘They’re yours after.’ This game was everything to me. Those three touchdowns were for them and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for me and my family and everybody else. Just a little appreciation for them and I love my parents.”
Rolling the dice
They don’t call Panthers coach Ron Rivera, “Riverboat Ron,” for nothing.
After Carolina scored on Christian McCaffrey’s 3-yard touchdown run to cut the Packers’ lead to 24-16 with 11 minutes, 58 seconds left in the game, he chose to go for a 2-point conversion.
An extra point would have made it a seven-point game and would have given the Panthers the choice to tie the game or go for the lead with a 2-point conversion had their scored another touchdown.
But he said going for 2 was a no-brainer.
“That was purely analytics,” he said. “The thing is, if you get it there and you score at the end, then you’re kicking to win the game. If you don’t get it there, you get an opportunity to go for two again, which we felt pretty good about the play we called the first time.”
Allen’s pass to tight end Greg Olsen was incomplete.
“I haven’t studied analytics before,” Allen said. “I just know that when they call that play, I have to execute it.”
The Packers caught a big break on their final drive of the first half when referee Jerome Boger ruled that Panthers defensive end Gerald McCoy committed a roughing the passer penalty.
It was third and 13 from the Packers 7 when Rodgers was pressured and threw the ball incomplete. McCoy’s hit on Rodgers was not late and it appeared he tried to turn and make sure he didn’t land squarely on top of Rodgers.
Boger didn’t see it that way and flagged him for landing with all his weight on Rodgers.
“I can’t get up here and criticize the call, even thought I disagree with it,” Rivera said.
Instead of the Packers punting from their own end zone with just over 4 minutes left in the half, the drive was extended. Rodgers drove the Packers all the way to the Panthers 1, where coach Matt LaFleur tried to score a touchdown with 2 seconds left.
He gave the ball to Jamaal Williams, who was blasted 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
The tackler: McCoy.