GREEN BAY - The football was live inside the 5-yard line. Anyone could grab it. If there’s one play that makes a kickoff returner recoil, spikes blood pressure and makes the thoughts race, this was it.
Ty Montgomery kept his cool in the first half of the Green Bay Packers’ 34-27 win over the Detroit Lions. After backspin carried Matt Prater’s kickoff out of the end zone, it looked like the football was headed out of bounds. It stopped short of the sideline.
That’s when instincts took over.
“No panic,” Montgomery said. “I knew what I wanted to do. I had already signaled to the guys blocking. … Either I was going to keep it in the end zone, or I was gonna do what I did.”
What Montgomery did was improvisation. He ran a half circle around the football, sticking his feet out of bounds. He then dropped to the ground and covered the football.
RELATED: Cook on crutches after ankle injury
RELATED: Packers start fast, hold on for win
An official threw the yellow flag. Turns out, a kick returner can coerce an out-of-bounds kickoff penalty, so long as he touches the football for the first time while he’s out of bounds. The Packers got possession at the 40-yard line instead of the shadow of their own end zone, setting up a touchdown and 14-3 lead four plays later.
After the game, fellow receiver Davante Adams quipped it was the kind of savvy play expected from a Stanford graduate.
“That’s the type of stuff he can pull off,” Adams said. “It was a head-smart, heads-up play by him.”
It was also a play that easily could be forgotten in what became a 31-3 halftime lead. There no shortage of big gains through the opening 30 minutes, with the Packers offense showing more explosion than any point since early last season.
Maybe it isn’t a coincidence their spurt was aided partly because of Montgomery remembering the rule book. The Packers entered Sunday’s game wanting to flip field position. They had ranked 30th in the NFL with their starting field position averaging at the 21-yard line through the first two games.
After an opening drive that started at the 25-yard line, getting the ball at the 40 was a welcomed change. It helped boost the Packers’ average starting field position to the 33.5-yard line Sunday. Four times, the Packers started beyond their own 30.
Montgomery rejected the notion his play had anything to do with Stanford smarts. Yes, it’s a rule he’s known since college, but he thinks any kickoff returner knows what to do in that situation. Yet so many times return specialists panic when the ball is live inside the 5-yard line.
“Really,” Montgomery said, “the only thing I have to be cognizant of is that I don’t touch the ball before I establish myself out of bounds. That’s why I started out of bounds, and then tried to get the ball. … You don’t have to be from Stanford to do that.”