As the cold, frosty scene at Lambeau Field began to take shape after the Green Bay Packers defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 28-23, in the Divisional Round, you sense an energy that had been missing for a few seasons now.
Green Bay finds themselves one game away from Super Bowl LIV when they’ll meet the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 19. But before we reach that game, there have been two players that have singlehandedly changed the focus.
Enter the Super Smith Bros. in Green Bay
But the infectious likeability of Za’Darius or the hard-pressed Preston had been missing in Green Bay’s locker room for some time now.
Sure, the face of the franchise is still Aaron Rodgers for Green Bay, but sharing some of that star power with two defenders doesn’t come around too often in the NFL.
General manager Brian Gutekunst had one of the more successful off-season accusations that saw him bringing Adrian Amos from the Chicago Bears, drafting an All-Rookie Team player in Darnell Savage Jr., and, the greatest cherry on top, signing the Smiths from the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins, respectively.
The Smiths’ Bond
But the fact that the Smiths arrived in Green Bay and became fan favorites overnight was no mere coincidence. If you were interviewing one, then you were interviewing both Smiths.
The duo has hardly been separated on and off the field for Green Bay and their production has definitely shown on the gridiron.
Za’Darius finished the 2019 regular season with 13.5 sacks and Preston finished with 12 sacks.
However, their sustained success has allowed Za’Darius to lead the league in quarterback pressures at 14.8 percent — while Preston was 10th with a quarterback pressure of 11.7 percent, according to Next Gen Stats.
The @packers top 3 pass rushers Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith & Kenny Clark combined for 163 QB pressures during the regular season, 2nd-most by a teammate trio in a season in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016).#SEAvsGB | #GoPackGo pic.twitter.com/zj1cBUa4uz
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 10, 2020
The dynamic duo was also on display during their win over Seattle on Sunday evening. There’s no better way to truly win over a fanbase than by Preston sacking Russell Wilson on third down to force a punt late with the game in the balance.
Za'Darius & Preston Smith combined for 4 sacks, 10 QB pressures, and 12 hurries tonight.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 13, 2020
It’s insane to think of two players having this much impact on a new team in their first year but the Smiths have done just that. They have arguably been the best players on this team and both have shown up in crucial times when the team needed them most.
Both have expressed interest in having a long-term career with Green Bay, and head coach Matt LaFleur and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine couldn’t have asked for better players.
Their legacy can grow even brighter with a win in the NFC Championship game — and then by winning the Super Bowl.
Green Bay has had a lot of firsts to experience in 2019 season — which featured a lot of unknowns, as well.
How would a new head coach perform? How would Rodgers perform with unproven tests? And how would this defense gel together with a lot of new building blocks?
All of that kinetic energy, the bonding, pushing each other to their limits, have all been because of the Super Smith Bros. Regardless of how this season plays out, their legacy and foundation have instilled a winning culture in Green Bay.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) January 10, 2020