GREEN BAY – The headlines for the Packers’ two biggest defensive plays against the Vikings went to Kenny Clark and Kevin King.
But don’t discount the impact Dean Lowry had on both of them.
Late in the first quarter, Clark strip-sacked Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins and Lowry made the recovery, but he wasn’t just Johnny-on-the-spot to get the ball. Running a stunt on the interior with Clark, Lowry actually took out two Vikings linemen as Clark looped around him for the hit on Cousins.
Then in the fourth quarter, Lowry carried out an assignment he was responsible for all game – staying with Cousins on the play-action bootleg. As he chased Cousins and kept the space between them to a minimum, the Vikings QB threw up the ill-advised pass that King picked off in the end zone to in effect seal the victory.
Not bad work for the fourth-year defensive lineman who’s steadily becoming a larger and larger factor in Mike Pettine’s defense with each passing week, no matter how quietly he goes about it.
“Dean, he doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does, but he’s a huge part to this defense,” Clark said. “He’s making plays, even though people don’t see it.”
Lowry’s fine if the accolades don’t come his way because his efforts are noticed by those who matter. The Packers signed Lowry, a fourth-round pick out of Northwestern in 2016, to a contract extension this past summer. Through the first two weeks of 2019 he has resumed the high-level play with which he ended last season, proving the Packers were right to keep him in the fold.
Officially he has seven tackles to his credit (one for loss), plus the fumble recovery and a deflected pass while playing more than 40 snaps each game. Unofficially last week he also pressured Cousins a handful of times.
His defensive mates laud his football IQ, and how he’s gotten seemingly a step quicker every year in the NFL, a result of both improved strength and speed as well as anticipation that comes with experience.
Inside linebacker Blake Martinez sees first-hand both on the field and in the film room how Lowry continues to show up and create a presence up front.
“100 percent,” Martinez said. “He’s been one of the guys that silently did his job and is doing his thing, and now people are starting to recognize it.
“For me, I’ve always known he’s a disruptive force and a guy that’s made my job easier. Obviously Kenny is an amazing player, and a lot of people look towards Kenny, but both of those guys have done awesome, and I’m glad I have them in front of me.”
Clark is glad to have him right next door, and the two are starting to make a habit of working in tandem. Back in 2017, Clark stripped Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston of the ball and Lowry scooped it up and ran it back 62 yards for a score.
They’ve also made it work even when it doesn’t look exactly how it’s drawn up.
On the aforementioned stunt against the Vikings leading to the strip-sack, Lowry tripped slightly over Clark’s foot, and he took down the two Minnesota linemen with him. Clark simply hopped over the pile of bodies and got the job done.
“As I was falling I kind of picked off the center, and I knew I was going down so I brought the guys with me, I guess,” Lowry said. “But it worked out well and Kenny came off of me. That’s also good chemistry, knowing how to play off of me, and Kenny wrapped around and made a great play.
“The ball was out, I got up from the ground and jumped on it. I didn’t quite make it as far as my one two years ago when Kenny forced it and I had the Lambeau Leap there, but it was a good play.”
Then he just became an interested and excited spectator.
“I thought I pushed Cousins kind of further back towards where he didn’t want to go, and he lofted one up there,” Lowry said. “Kevin showed off his athleticism and was in the air about three seconds and came down with it. It was a cool angle where I saw the interception from.”
At this rate, Lowry’s going to start getting more credit if not make more big plays himself. He’s also setting a valuable example as a veteran playing in front of up-and-coming D-line prospects like Montravius Adams, Tyler Lancaster and Kingsley Keke.
In plenty of ways, he’s already rewarding the organization that rewarded him.
“There’s no question they made a commitment towards me, and I have to step up,” he said. “I think so far that’s been the case.
“It’s really each week, and now we’re having some younger guys in there, so it’s on me and Kenny to help those guys come along, to impart our experience and wisdom that we’ve seen in different looks and different plays, and help them come along. Because we’re only as strong as our weakest link.”