The Green Bay Packers haven’t quite been able to find their rhythm on special teams one month into the 2013 NFL season.
They appeared to be on the cusp of something when Ryan Taylor blocked a Sam Koch punt during the second quarter of Sunday’s 19-17 win over Baltimore, but it was quarreled seconds later when fullback John Kuhn tried unsuccessfully to recover the ball.
It became a live ball since Kuhn touched it, enabling James Ihedigbo to recover it and afford the Ravens a new set of downs.
Baltimore proceeded to march down to the Packers’ 1-yard line before being stuffed on fourth-and-goal on a Bernard Pierce run to nullify Kuhn’s blunder.
“The play of football is about reacting, and in a lot of cases, to the ball itself,” Packers special-teams coach Shawn Slocum said. “John made a mistake in that play and he’s a guy who’s very accountable. He’s a guy who does things right most of the time and he made a mistake on that play.”
The botched block negated a very heads-up play by Taylor, a third-year tight end and one of the unit’s most veteran players following the loss of inside linebacker Robert Francois to a season-ending Achilles tear.
It's the most recent in a series of up-and-down plays for a special-teams unit that ranked 12th in the Dallas Morning News' rankings for the 2012 season. The Packers still rank last in the league on kickoff returns (13.0) and are more than six-yards per return behind 31st-ranked New Orleans (19.2).
The one area the Packers excelled on Sunday came on punt returns where Micah Hyde returned five punts for 68 yards, including a 23-yard return before halftime that put them in Ravens’ territory.
When Randall Cobb exited due to a leg injury in the second quarter, Hyde even handled his first punt inside the Packers’ 20-yard line where Cobb had been featured during the early portion of this season.
Hyde’s 13.6 yards per punt return average would’ve been even higher had it not been for him hesitating on his first return in the first quarter and then slipping on his second.
“I thought his first two was not enough production,” Slocum said. “I thought that he was a little hesitant – he slipped on the first one, the second one he was a little bit hesitant. The last three, I thought he did a great job. He got going quickly off the spot of the catch and we had good production with it.”
In an effort to manage ball security, the Packers kept both running backs Johnathan Franklin and Michael Hill back on kickoff returns though only one of four Ravens’ kickoffs were returned.