GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers trailed by 13 points near the midway point of the third quarter after quarterback Aaron Rodgers scrambled up the middle for a 20-yard score Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
Rodgers was hit late after crossing the goal line, and the Packers used a 15-yard penalty to kick off from midfield. Coach Mike McCarthy called for an onside kick.
Facing right, Mason Crosby slammed the ball into the ground to generate a high hop that, if all went well, the Packers would leap and recover.
But rookie wide receiver Trevor Davis missed his block on the outside, which allowed a member of the return team to knock Micah Hyde out of the air. Hyde, the designated catcher, never had a chance.
“It was dialed up right the way you would like it,” special teams coordinator Ron Zook said. “Mason’s kick wouldn’t have gone out of bounds and it would have gone 10 yards but it wouldn’t have mattered — it’s immaterial.”
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It was immaterial because safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was inexplicably offside on the opposite side of the formation. The needless penalty would have nullified a potential recovery had Davis made his block and Hyde received a legitimate opportunity.
“We talk about it all the time,” Zook said. “You cannot break the plane. That’s one of them, you had to be looking.”
Talking the talk: As the eldest player on the roster, outside linebacker Julius Peppers was asked a number of state-of-the-team questions during Monday’s open locker room: How can this team turn things around? Why are you optimistic? How can you overcome slow starts?
The answer that jumped out the most came in response to a question about the Packers’ playoff chances. Despite losing four of their last five, the Packers are very much alive in a convoluted NFC playoff picture. And with a very convoluted NFC North, the Packers are very much alive there, too.
In fact, Peppers thinks the Packers will win the division.
“We’re going to get it done,” Peppers said. “There’s no reason to believe anything other than that. In this locker room, we know where we stand. We don’t necessarily want to get caught up watching other teams and what they’re doing. We’re focusing on us, and we’ve just got to get a win. That’s the bottom line.”
Backup boys: Injuries to left tackle David Bakhtiari and right guard T.J. Lang forced a pair of backups to play heavy reps in Sunday’s game.
Utility lineman Don Barclay replaced Lang, who left with an ankle injury after only four snaps, and remained on the field for the final 74 plays. Rookie Jason Spriggs, a second-round pick from Indiana, replaced Bakhtiari and played 24 snaps.
“You always want the players that we have out there because obviously they're, you know, the best of the best,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. “We feel like our guys that went in relief of those guys, they also shared that mindset: When I get that opportunity to step out on that field, I have to — there can be no drop-off, and that's the mindset and that's the goal.”
Missing Montgomery: Coming into the Titans game, most expected Ty Montgomery to play more snaps than James Starks at running back.
Montgomery was coming off a strong game against Indianapolis and Starks was coming off a month of inactivity due to knee surgery.
But Starks played 55 snaps and Montgomery 22.
It turns out Montgomery was limited again because of continuing complications with sickle-cell trait that began affecting him the week of the Atlanta game.
“Initially he was on a rep count, and so obviously, and the way the game kind of played out, that also factored into it,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said.
Montgomery carried three times for 9 yards and caught two passes for 11. Starks carried seven times for 33 yards and caught three passes for 11 yards and a touchdown.
Line of communications: With all the miscommunication that occurred in the secondary against the Titans, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was asked whether he thought the players needed to have more input with defensive coordinator Dom Capers on what coverages and calls might cause the least mistakes.
“We’re in this thing all together,” he said. “I remember last year Sam Shields pulled all the DBs together and he said, 'Whatever Dom plays, we’re just going to play it.' There is no smacking. It’s up to us. Whatever he calls, we have to communicate and make the play.’ It’s that simple. “