Green Bay Packers' Tim Masthay punts against the New York Jets during the third quarter of Sunday's game at The New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Masthay averaged 41.5 yards on eight punts, including five punts downed inside the 20. / Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Tim Masthay put together what was easily his best game in his short tenure with the Green Bay Packers.
But it was much more than that. Given the circumstances, it was perhaps the best performance by Packers’ punter in perhaps 2½ seasons.
In a defensive struggle in which field position was critical and the wind was playing tricks with the ball, the Packers’ first-year punter was one of the game’s biggest playmakers in their 9-0 victory at New Meadowlands Stadium.
His net average of 41.5 yards on eight punts included five punts downed inside the 20. Only one was returned, and it was for a mere 2 yards. He averaged 4.54 seconds of hang time. He helped contribute to the fact that the Jets’ average starting position was the 22-yard line, compared to the 36 for the Packers.
“He changed the field (position) like I haven’t seen in a long time,” Packers kicker Mason Crosby said.
Coming off a solid, two-punt performance the previous week against Minnesota, Masthay has now put together a consistent run after being shaky the first six games.
But this was the best Masthay has hit the ball all season.
“In a game, yes it was,” Masthay said. “I hit the ball well last week, but it was only a two-punt game. So I was really happy to be able to win a game where we had to punt a lot, and I really happy to put together a consistent performance and help the team with field position.”
Unlike in the Packers’ overtime loss against Miami three weeks earlier, when a short punt by Masthay during the sudden-death period helped set up the Dolphins’ game-winning score, Masthay came through in the clutch, too.
With the Packers leading 6-0, they were forced to punt into the wind from their own 36-yard line with 3:57 to play, Masthay booted a 41 yarder with 4.9 seconds of hang time that bounced once and went out of bounds at the Jets’ 23-yard line. That took some of the pressure off the defense, which then prevented the Jets from getting a first down.
“That was an outstanding day of punting,” Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said. “To have them have to drive 70 or 80 yards, that’s the kind of field position we like to go out there with.”
Masthay used the Australian-style kick, dropping the point of the ball on his foot, on that final punt. That’s normally reserved for times when Masthay us trying to pin teams inside their own 10 and not when he’s kicking for distance.
“I had been feeling good hitting that Aussie, end-under-end punt, and I can get it off quickly, too,” Masthay said. “We just felt like it would be a good time to use it there at the end even though we were backed up, and I connected on it well.”
Kicker Mason Crosby was responsible for all the points scored in the game.
He made field goals from 20, 41 and 40 yards and missed wide left from 45 in tricky winds that gusted from 15 to 22 miles an hour at kickoff time.
“It was a tricky day, probably the trickiest day we’ve had,” Crosby said. “They said it before the game, when the wind comes into the stadium it feels like it’s pushing right to the middle of the field, so both sides it almost feels like the wind is in your face. Strange day. They said they hadn’t had much wind, and that this was the windiest day. It got me on the 45-yarder. I looked at the flags, and that was the biggest mistake. They were coming left to right, and I played it left side, and it actually turned left.”
Jets kicker Nick Folk also missed a field goal. He was wide right from 37 yards on his only attempt of the day.
Crosby put the game away with his 40-yarder with 27 seconds to play. It was a bit of a risk to even try the kick, considering the Packers were leading just 6-0. A block by the Jets could have cost the Packers the game.
“I just thought, ‘It’s like any other kick,’” Crosby said. “You just have to hit it the way I do. I get good lift on the ball. You trust the protection and if something happens (and) they block it, we do what we do and shut it out. I make the kick, and the game’s over. That’s the risk-reward there.”
Donald Driver lasted only 1½ quarters on Sunday before his quadriceps injury sidelined him.
He played through the injury the previous week against Minnesota but couldn’t finish this game.
Driver practiced on Friday but then didn’t feel the need to test it before the Packers turned in their inactive list.
“Donald wouldn’t work out, which I trust Donald,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He tried to fight through it.”
Kick returner Pat Lee left the game with an ankle injury and did not return.
Defensive end Ryan Pickett tested his sore ankle before the game and wasn’t ready to play. He was inactive along with running back Dimitri Nance, cornerback Brandon Underwood, fullback Quinn Johnson, linebacker Diyral Briggs, tackle Mark Tauscher, guard/tackle Marshall Newhouse and guard Nick McDonald.
A limited comebacker
Defensive end Cullen Jenkins estimated playing 20 to 25 snaps Sunday, a week after a strained calf in warm-ups prevented him from playing against Minnesota.
“There was a little nervousness in warm-ups,” Jenkins said. “In the game there was definitely some soreness, I wasn’t 100 percent. The biggest problem I had was turning the corner, when I had to turn to the left side. There was one play early when I beat (left tackle D’Brickashaw) Ferguson around the edge real fast, and (quarterback Mark) Sanchez stepped up, I was trying to turn the corner and I didn’t have that usual turn I have. I feel like I left some plays out there, but I was good enough to go.”
For the plane ride home after the game, Jenkins wore a Halloween costume dressed as Mr. T. He had a beard and his hair cut in a Mohawk, and wore military fatigues and a plethora of gold necklaces.
“Just a little fun,” he said. “Coming off the losses one of the big emphasis was guys aren’t having enough fun around here and we need to get back to having fun. Just decided to have a little fun, and I was hoping I wouldn’t get in trouble. Tell my kids back home, ‘Daddy didn’t get in trouble – yet.’”
A weight problem
Defensive lineman Howard Green, who was claimed off waivers from the Jets last week, saw his time in New York end because of an apparent weight problem.
According to ESPNNewYork.com, the Jets told Green he had to meet a weight requirement when he returned from the bye week. Green weighed in at 375 pounds and was released last Tuesday.
The Packers listed him at 340 pounds.