Packers defensive front goes heavy with stunts to wreak havoc on Bears OL

A key element to the Green Bay Packers’ defensive game plan against Chicago on Sunday involved a heavy amount of post-snap movement from the interior defensive line–a big adjustment from what we saw in 2022.

Last Monday, when meeting with reporters, interior defensive lineman Kenny Clark said that Green Bay would have a “different plan” this season. Of course, ahead of the team’s matchup with Chicago, Clark didn’t divulge what that included; he just ended with “You’ll see on Sunday” and a wry smile.

That difference that Clark was alluding to was the usage of stunts along the defensive front. Daire Carragher of Packer Report mentioned that Green Bay used 28 stunts against the Bears–the most in the NFL by a wide margin. For some context, Carragher added that the Packers averaged just seven stunts per game in 2022.

Instead of rushing in a straight line from point A to point B, a stunt is when two defenders cross each other’s paths to the quarterback. This can cause confusion among the offensive linemen and potentially result in a free run at the quarterback.

One example came in the fourth quarter when Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Kenny Clark and Devonte Wyatt ran stunting actions and pressured Fields into an interception thrown to Quay Walker.

The fact that the Packers utilized stunts along the defensive front against Chicago isn’t all that surprising since we saw Green Bay using them often throughout training camp and in the preseason. However, the sheer frequency at which the Packers ran stunts against the Bears is what may be the surprising aspect. Those 28 stunts accounted for 38% of the Packers’ total defensive snaps.

A key factor behind the Packers’ dominating victory in Chicago was their ability to control the line of scrimmage on defense – with the help of stunts – limiting the often dynamic Bears run game and putting constant pressure on Justin Fields. The Bears running backs averaged less than 4.0 yards per rush, while Fields was pressured a whopping 36 times and on over 50 percent of his dropbacks, according to PFF.

Along with the Packers’ usage of stunts, we saw a defense that, overall, was playing much faster, flying around the field and swarming to the ball carrier. Joe Barry also sent several blitzes, and just as he did during the final few games in 2022, Jaire Alexander traveled out of the huddle with the opponent’s top receiver, which in this case was DJ Moore.

Throughout offseason programs and into training camp, whether it be from what players had to say or what we saw on the field, there were signs that this year’s Packers’ defense was going to look different than it did a year ago, which as Barry pointed out recently, was a must.

“You definitely have to evolve,” said Barry last Thursday. “I think you have to do that every single year or offenses are just too good now and they change and they evolve and they sign players and they do different schemes. Defensively, you definitely have to keep up with that. I’m a firm believer, my philosophy is what it is, but I definitely think there’s going to be tweaks and there’s going to be subtleties that you change and do things different every single year.”

I imagine that the post-snap movement used by the Packers’ defensive front caught the Bears’ offense somewhat off guard, given that this style of play was not a big part of their defense last season. Now, with that on film, offensive line units will likely be more prepared moving forward, but I don’t believe this was a one-game fad for the Packers, either. This more aggressive style of play seems to be here to stay.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire