GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers' running game post-Eddie Lacy is not going to be easy to follow.
But for one night, it was all about wide receiver Ty Montgomery, whose position from this date forward might have to be adjusted to running back given his role in the Packers’ 26-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
On the same day that Lacy was placed on injured reserve, James Starks was inactive with a knee injury, Knile Davis played for the Packers for his first time and former practice squad rookie Don Jackson had his NFL debut marred by a left wrist injury, Montgomery was the focal point of coach Mike McCarthy’s revived offensive attack.
Montgomery, who lined up in the backfield roughly 40 times, rushed nine times for 60 yards and caught 10 passes for 66 yards in the most complete performance of his short career. Lining up as a back in mostly four-receiver sets, Montgomery became someone the Bears had to account for through more than just their seven-man drops into coverage.
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“This is how we're going to have to play until we get Knile up to speed and Don up to speed," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "I'm really proud of Ty. I thought he played great tonight. He made a lot of plays. The short passing game is like an extension of the running game in games like tonight when you're going with a lot of four-receiver packages with Ty back there.
"I'm really proud of the way he played. There's a lot to build on."
Montgomery saw a little bit of action out of the backfield last year before suffering a season-ending ankle injury, but this year he was an afterthought in the offense until about three weeks ago when McCarthy decided he wanted to get him involved in the backfield role Randall Cobb had served in.
When Lacy got hurt against Dallas two weeks ago, Montgomery started working with the running backs almost exclusively and after it was determined both Lacy and Starks would be out this week, he was prepped for a major role in the offense.
"I’m a football player, and as a football player, I can do anything that’s asked of me," Montgomery said. "That’s the mindset I have, that’s the mindset I was raised with, that’s the mindset my mom gave me. No matter what it is, she told me to be a versatile athlete. That’s what I try to do."
The 6-0, 216-pound Montgomery is a far more powerful runner than the 5-10, 192-pound Cobb and showed it on a 7-yard run to the Chicago 10 on the Packers’ second series. But on fourth and goal at the 1, Montgomery got the carry and was submarined by cornerback Tracy Porter and fell short of the goal-line, ending a golden opportunity for the Packers.
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It was the last time he was going to be stuffed.
After the Packers fell behind 10-6 due to a Rodgers fumble that was recovered in the end zone, Montgomery went to work.
On first down at the Packers 15-yard line, Montgomery got the ball on an inside zone play. He patiently waited for the trash to clear and then broke into the clear for a 30-yard gain. It was as close to a Lacy-style run as the Packers could manage without their leading rusher.
“The O-line did a great job the way they set that up,” Montgomery said. “I was able to find the hole and I got vertical. It was my first long run. I was pretty happy about that. I would have liked to score, but I couldn’t out-run everybody.”
Montgomery got the ball four straight times on the drive and produced 44 yards. Then he made a diving catch at the 5-yard line on third and 4 that the Bears challenged. The ruling on the field stood and two plays later the Packers were in the lead again after Rodgers hit receiver Davante Adams for a 5-yard touchdown.
Montgomery produced 27 yards on the next drive, 14 on the ground, as the Packers marched 88 yards on eight plays to take a commanding 20-10 lead.
“I’m definitely not surprised by what he did,” Jackson said. “He prepares like a pro. Even last night in the hotel we were meeting to make sure everything was sharp. He did what he did because he’s a pro.”
Jackson was also ready to give a lot against the Bears. Both he and Montgomery spent time with Rodgers Wednesday night in the hotel going over some of the things they might have to do just to make sure everyone was on the same page.
Despite just being signed from the practice squad Thursday morning, Jackson had been preparing for several weeks to help out if needed. This past week he and Montgomery were both used with the No. 1 offense and Jackson was prepared to help in anyway necessary.
He probably would have played a lot more, but in the second quarter, Rodgers left him out to dry on a check-down and Jackson got clobbered, in the process injuring his left hand. He was taken to the locker room for X-rays, which he said were negative, but his hand was so swollen and sore a decision was made not to use him.
“They were worried about ball security,” Jackson said. “I wanted to be out there bad. It’s a weird situation, but I didn’t want to hurt the team.”
Jackson said the trainers tried to put a club on his hand, but it wasn’t going to allow him to hold onto the ball well enough. Jackson said he’ll have further tests on the hand on Friday to see if there was any damage the X-rays didn’t show.
Waiting to eat up any leftover snaps was Davis, who was acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday for a conditional seventh-round draft choice in 2018. Davis said he knew the entire run game package, but he wasn’t able to learn everything about the pass game and thus was limited to a handful of snaps.
He played late in the game and carried twice for one yard. Davis said the long week before the Atlanta game will allow him to be ready for far more action. He said he could see the Packers going from a lead-back emphasis to a committee approach, especially during those games when four-receiver sets aren't always doable.
“Definitely,” said Davis, who was used on kickoffs. “It looked good today. It’s not bad to (do it as a committee). Everybody stays fresh.”