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Pressure important for Packers vs. Brock Purdy but doesn’t guarantee success

If you ask Green Bay Packers second-year defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt, the key to Saturday’s divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers is to pressure quarterback Brock Purdy.

“You can’t just give him that time in the pocket,” said Wyatt on Wednesday. “That’s it. Just got to get back there fast and get pressure in his face, and like I said, we’ll have a great day.”

Excluding the 49ers’ Week 18 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams, where they rested many of their starters, pressure on Purdy was a common theme in the 49ers’ other four losses.

The Cleveland Browns would pressure Purdy on 48 percent of his dropbacks, according to PFF. The Cincinnati Bengals were able to create pressure on 46 percent of his snaps and the Baltimore Ravens on 42 percent. For context, Justin Fields was the highest-pressured quarterback this season on 48.9 percent of his dropbacks.

The Minnesota Vikings would get after Purdy on just 36 percent of his pass attempts – roughly league average – but they made the most of those opportunities coming away with two interceptions. Purdy would also throw two interceptions against Baltimore when facing pressure and one versus Cincinnati. Cleveland did not generate a takeaway via pressure but held Purdy to just 4-of-12 on passes.

“Just get him off his spot, you know,” Wyatt said. “You’ve just got to get pressure on him, know what I’m saying. When he’s throwing that ball (with pressure), it’s just off rhythm. I watched it a lot on film.

“When D-linemen just get pressure into him, he’s always throwing off or it’s behind them or it’s overthrown or short. There will be a lot of picks or stuff like that. so when you get pressure on him, it’s a guarantee we’ll get a turnover.”

In these four games, pressure certainly was a factor, but in the grand scheme of the NFL season, that’s only about a quarter of the games. Overall, Purdy was actually one of the more efficient quarterbacks when under duress, completing 55.8 percent of his throws, the second-highest mark this season.

Purdy also ranked second in yards per pass attempt when under pressure and threw the third-most touchdowns.

“I think it’d be unfair to Brock Purdy and the way he’s played since he’s been there to say, ‘Oh, he’s just playing good because he’s got great players around him,'” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “It helps to have great pieces but any offense that has success, you instantly have to look at the triggerman.

“We talked about Dak last week. The thing that impressed me going into that game was how consistent he’s been. Brock Purdy, absolutely. You talk about from an efficiency standpoint, ever since he’s taken control of that huddle since he got his first start, the efficiency’s incredible.”

So simply pressuring Purdy doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s better than the alternative, which is him throwing from a clean pocket where he’s completed 77 percent of his throws. And while overall, Purdy has been relatively effective when facing pressure, that disruption can lead to mistakes, with Purdy’s six interceptions and 10 turnover-worthy plays both ranking in the top 10 in terms of most in each category.

Potential success in this area for the Packers’ defense is twofold. Step one is, of course, generating the pressure to get Purdy off his spot and to disrupt the timing and rhythm of the play, which can be its own challenge at times against the 49ers’ offensive line.

“They’re definitely great,” said Wyatt of the 49ers’ offensive line. “It’s just keep doing what we’re doing day by day. We get a new challenge every week, so keep doing what we doing, keep rushing and keep playing with my DL and we’ll be good.”

Then, step two is for the Packers’ secondary to be positioned well to make plays on the ball. Purdy has shown that he can handle pressure by knowing where to go with the ball in those situations, and with the 49ers’ ability to pick up yards after the catch, explosive plays can still be generated if the secondary is caught out of position or missed tackles ensue.

The Packers’ pass rush has been up and down throughout the season but has picked up steam as of late. Recent performances include pressuring Justin Fields on 62 percent of his dropbacks and Minnesota’s quarterbacks 54 percent of the time. Overall, the Packers’ defense ranked sixth in pressure rate during the regular season and 16th in total sacks.

Improved consistency from the interior defensive line, resulting in a steady push up the middle, has played a big factor in these results over the last few weeks. When pressure is consistent, there isn’t a position group on the defensive side of the ball that doesn’t benefit.

“Communication,” said Wyatt on the pass rush having a greater impact recently. “We’ve all been on the same page and we’re all working together and seeing the little small things, and we’re taking advantage of our opportunities.”

Pressuring the quarterback is always important, but if Purdy is able to play from a clean pocket with the playmakers that he has around him, well, that’s going to make an already difficult task for this Packers’ defense all the more challenging. While pressure is a must and can lead to turnover opportunities, against Purdy and the Niners offense, that’s not a given either.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire