Field position factors into Packers' loss

Michael Cohen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY - When wide receiver Ty Montgomery looped around a teammate to block Jeff Locke's punt, the Green Bay Packers took over at their own 48-yard line. The ensuing drive covered 52 yards in five plays and, after two key penalties on cornerback Terence Newman, produced a touchdown.

Though Montgomery's block occurred in the first quarter, the Packers never had better field position than they did at that point in time, fewer than seven minutes into the game. In a battle for starting position the Packers lost handily, and the Minnesota Vikings maintained their edge through the clutch punting of Locke, who was steady and reliable outside of Montgomery's block.

"He did a nice job," Packers special teams coordinator Ron Zook said. "He punted well. He probably would’ve taken not quite as good (a performance in exchange for) not giving up the blocked punt, but after that, he got focused and did a nice job."

Locke, who is in his fourth season with the Vikings, placed five of his seven punts inside the 20-yard line to pin the Packers on their half of the field. The Packers' average starting position was their own 20-yard line, and only once did they start a drive beyond their own 25.

Micah Hyde and Trevor Davis, the two returners for the Packers, did not have a single opportunity throughout the game. Every punt was either fair caught or allowed to bounce and roll. They have yet to return a punt all season.

"Punters in this league are so good that you’ve got to go catch the football and not give them a chance," Zook said. " ... Micah, he’s playing a lot of defense, also, and so whether that’s got anything to do with being a little winded and so forth (I don't know)," Zook said. "What we see on tape and what he sees are two different things. It’s easy for me to say, ‘Hey, let’s get it and go.’ He’s back there and he’s got to make that decision. The big thing is to go get the football and not let it roll."

Meanwhile, the Vikings enjoyed an average starting position of their own 32-yard line. They began only two drives inside their own 23, and six times the offense started a series beyond its own 25.

Opposite Locke was Jacob Schum, the punter claimed on waivers by general manager Ted Thompson. Schum, who was playing his second game for the Packers, punted five times but placed only one inside the 20-yard line, which was largely a product of the Packers' poor field position. His average net of 38.6 yards was almost identical to Locke's mark of 38.7 but well shy of Tim Masthay's franchise record (40.2) set last season. Schum's contact with the ball was also inconsistent.

His strong suit was hang time. Schum averaged 4.64 seconds of hang on his five punts, unofficially, and his final punt was airborne for 5.34 seconds, a veritable eternity."He hit two punts really well and two punts not as well," Zook said. "We didn’t have any returns against us. I think our job is net punt. I talked about that all week long is we’ve got to (get) field position. In the National Football League, it’s about field position. That’s one thing we can use as a weapon. Jacob knows that. He’ll be fine.

"He’s got the good hang times and he’s good directional. We talked about it today. The net punt is obviously something that we’ve got to really concern ourselves with."

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