Green Bay Packers must press and strike Tom Brady to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC title match, making Sunday an ideal time to unleash the budding defense star’s pass.
Rashan Gary has a real chance to be the X-factor player of the Packers vs Brady.
Since week sixteen, Gary has been ranked number two in total pressure contestants (14, despite playing in only three of the four potential matches) and first in quick-pass productivity, according to Pro Football Focus. Perhaps his efficiency as an accelerator is due to the fewer surprises and opportunities involved in being a third precipitate behind two rookies. Or maybe Gary could make a bigger impact if he was more on the court.
During his last three matches, Gary had a quick 52 scrolling shot. About once in every three rushing shots, he pressed.
The Packers could definitely use a repeat of that percentage on Sunday against Brady.
Internal pressure has always been the best way to fight Brady, who may be the absolute best at executing stealthy movements in the pocket to avoid edging dashes, creating space and finding throw lanes. The collapse of the pocket and the limitation of its ability to escalate into the pocket will be pivotal, and Al Hazm will have two players – Kenny Clark and Zadarius Smith – capable of causing the necessary turmoil inside.
Edge pressure, however, cannot be ruled out, even against Brady. Remember to return to the 2015 AFC title match. Brady was bruised and punched in the Denver Broncos passes, sacking him four times and hitting him 17 times. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware delivered three bags and 11 edge-stealing hits, and the Patriots scored just 18 points despite Brady throwing 56 times. He finished with two interceptions and a 56.4 passing rating, one of his worst post-season performances.
Hitting Brady 17 times may not be realistic on Sunday, but a Packers pass has a chance to dominate the game like the Broncos did five years ago.
Gary, Clark, Zadarius Smith, and Preston Smith could be a massive quartet like a dash. This group should play a great game on Sunday, and it sure could benefit Mike Petén’s defense to give Gary more opportunities to disrupt from multiple passing angles, especially in clear passes when Zadarius Smith can kick in. He has been very effective in doing such important work to be a key player in the biggest game of the season.
Keep in mind that this isn’t just a sample size of three Gary games. Consider this amazing stat from PFF:
In the first meeting between the Packers against the Pirates, Gary played only 17 shots and only lunted 10 times. He throws down one of the Six Packers’ punches, but isn’t yet a reliable pass-rush member. His jump was postponed in the second year.
In Week 10, Gary fought a breakout match in his second season, making seven pressures against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s been nagging as Aaron Donald on an every moment basis since then, leading to a stunning lead for a talented young player playing in real time over the Super Bowl competitor.
During his last two home matches, Gary has rushed 35 times and created 13 pressures. Veteran Preston Smith might find ways to influence the game in other ways, but he only has 28 total pressures on 421 swift pass shots spread over 17 matches.
The Packers are on the cusp of the Super Bowl, but the football giant stands in their way. For the best Brady, Al Baker needs their best on the field. And Rashan Gary has undoubtedly stood out as one of their best, especially in terms of doing the one thing they desperately need to beat Brady the Bucs. Pressure.
Time to unlock the number 52 in the main NFC game.