I was watching some Green Bay vs. Chicago game film last night (yes, I'm a week late, so sue me), and came across two plays that I thought said an incredible amount about nose tackle B.J. Raji and his value to the Packers.
The first play is the first offensive snap of the third quarter. The Bears have Matt Forte in the backfield, a tight end to either side of the offensive line and two wide receivers split out right. The Packers counter with their three-man down line, with Raji at nose tackle, Ryan Pickett and Jarius Wynn at defensive end, and Clay Matthews and Erik Walden at the line of scrimmage.
The Bears screw up the blocking on this play, but it's still impressive. At the snap, both tight ends take off on pass routes without chipping on the OLBs, and Forte runs a wheel route out of the backfield. The Packers rush five to the Bears' five blockers. The right tackle takes Matthews, the left tackle takes Walden and the right guard blocks Pickett. However, Raji is threatening enough that left guard Chris Williams pairs with center Roberto Garza to double-team him, leaving Wynn unblocked. Result: Wynn shoots through and makes the sack. That's exactly what a nose tackle is supposed to do: eat up blockers so someone else can make the play.
On my second play, which happens to be the next play of that drive, the Packers switch to their nickel defense with Raji and Wynn. The Bears split out three WRs, keep Forte in the backfield and place TE Kellen Davis to the left side of the formation.
The play is a run to the left side. Raji, single-blocked this time, destroys Williams with an arm-over and breaks through the line towards Forte. Unable to run through the gap that was supposed to be there (right guard Chris Spencer was pulling in that direction), Forte is forced to make a premature cut and run to the left, parallel to the line of scrimmage. He ends up running into Walden and Davis, and finally being brought down by Walden for a loss of one.
To be sure, both plays were team efforts. Walden setting the edge against Davis made it much harder for Forte to bounce the run outside. But Raji's penetration, which doesn't show on the stat sheet, was enough to doom the play from its beginning. That's the value that Raji brings to this Packers defense.