Green Bay Packers cover man Davon House (31) blocks a punt by the Jacksonville Jaguars' Bryan Anger during the second quarter at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012. The Packers' Dezman Moses (not pictured) recovered the ball for a touchdown. / Dan Powers/Gannett Wisconsin Media
Davon House saw several players on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ punt team point him out as he shifted toward the ball from his jammer position and figured he would have no chance to get to rookie punter Bryan Anger.
He was wrong.
Even though they identified him as a possible rusher, no one blocked him, and it turned into the biggest play in the Green Bay Packers’ closer-than-expected 24-15 win on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
House, one of the Packers backup cornerbacks, had a free rush at Anger and blocked the punt, which was recovered in the end zone by rookie linebacker Dezman Moses. The touchdown gave the Packers a 14-3 lead with 8:45 left in the second quarter.
“They called it out, so I don’t know if they just blocked it wrong or what,” House said. “But I came scot-free. No one touched me at all. When I motioned in, they said something and they pointed at me, and I still came in free.”
Adding to the Jaguars’ indignity on that play was this: The Packers had only 10 players on the field, and Jacksonville still couldn’t get everyone blocked. Several players on the Packers’ punt return team said they had no idea that they were one player short. Indeed, they had only eight players in the box plus the jammer on the right side, Jarrett Bush, and return man Randall Cobb deep. The missing player appeared to be rookie Jarrett Boykin.
“Is that right?” Moses asked. “Well, we got it done anyway.”
It was just another big play in a season full of them by the special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum’s units, which already had a fake field goal for a touchdown in Week 2 against Chicago, a fake punt for a first down in Week 4 against New Orleans and a recovery on a surprise onside kick last week at St. Louis.
It was a much-needed play on a day when the offense was sluggish without its top two receivers, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, and the defense allowed Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert to throw for a career-high 303 yards.
“Special teams has been the lead dog all year,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “They set the tempo with the blocked punt. Shawn Slocum and the special teams, our focus was to put pressure on their punt protection, and I thought the execution of Davon House on the block was excellent.”
House was upset that he wasn’t able to recover the block. The ball pinballed around the field, eluding Packers linebacker Jamari Lattimore and perhaps one or two others before Moses recovered it.
“It seemed like four or five guys had a shot at it before me,” Moses said. “I just kept hustling to the ball, and I saw it bounce around a few times, so I got my hands on it, and the play was over from there.”
But it wasn’t a perfect day for Slocum’s units.
Holder Tim Masthay couldn’t pull off a fake field-goal pass in the third quarter, and kicker Mason Crosby shockingly missed a 32-yard chip shot that he bounced off the right upright in the third quarter.
Of all the special teams trickery the Packers have pulled off this season, the fake field goal on fourth-and-6 from the Jaguars’ 37-yard line was perhaps lowest-percentage play. Before the snap, Crosby motioned wide to the left, and Masthay dropped back into the shotgun. The left-hander rolled to his left but his pass deep down the right side for tight end D.J. Williams came up well short. Williams was open after Jaguars cornerback Aaron Ross fell down in coverage. But Masthay couldn’t put enough on the throw because of pressure from defensive tackle Terrance Knighton.
It was the same play the Packers tried at Minnesota in 2010, when they also faked a 55-yard field goal and had holder Matt Flynn try a deep pass to tight end Andrew Quarless, who couldn’t come up with it.
Masthay had another option, tight end Ryan Taylor, open in the left flat but the defensive pressure prevented him from making that throw. The problem was Masthay was expecting man coverage and didn’t realize the Jaguars were playing zone until it was too late.
“I realized they were in cover-2, and that I probably wasn’t going to have that deep throw,” Masthay said. “But by that time, I had a guy right in my face, and I couldn’t turn and throw to the open guy on the left side. So if I would have recognized the defense pre-snap, we probably would’ve gotten the first down. So that’s on me for the pre-snap awareness.”
For Crosby, it was his first miss this season from inside 50 yards. His previous three misses were from 52, 51 and 58 yards. He did rebound to punch through a 25-yarder that put the game away with 25 seconds left in the game.
Though the winds weren’t strong at 10 mph out of the northeast at kickoff, they did appear to be swirling, especially in the south end zone, where Crosby missed.
“When I hit the ball, it felt good coming off my foot and actually looked like it was on a good path, and then it kind of just jumped to the right,” Crosby said. “That’s weird. That’s not a hit I normally hit inside the 50.”
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.