Packers' pass defense proves vulnerable without cornerback Kevin King
GREEN BAY – By now, the Green Bay Packers should have enough experience playing without Kevin King to be able to cover up his absence.
But when King, the Packers’ talented but oft-injured cornerback, came out of the game with a groin injury Sunday in the 29-29 tie with the Minnesota Vikings, the defense started giving up big plays.
The worst of the bunch was a 75-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Stefon Diggs, which erased all the momentum the Packers had built from a 10-play, 62-yard field goal drive that had made it a two-score game with 7 minutes, 35 seconds left in the game.
“We probably didn’t handle Kevin King’s injury very well,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We just weren’t as detailed down the stretch. It was obviously an ability for them to extend drives and they hit the big play there on the touchdown, too.”
The Packers had to deal with King’s bum left shoulder the first half of last season before he was placed on injured reserve. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum and missed most of the offseason workouts.
In training camp, he injured his right shoulder and has been wearing a brace to protect it. He wore one on his left shoulder last season.
King played all 70 snaps in the season opener, but he only played 26 against the Vikings. In his career, the 2017 second-round pick has played 478 snaps in 11 games or 40 percent of all Packers defensive snaps over that span.
King left the game in the first half and veteran Davon House replaced him. King and fellow starter Tramon Williams had held Diggs to three catches for 24 yards on six targets, including a deep ball down the sideline King had well-covered.
In the fourth quarter, Cousins caught fire and the Packers had no answer. House was in man-to-man coverage on the deep ball to Diggs and could have played it better, McCarthy said, but he should have had deep safety help as well.
“I think it’s pretty clear the coverage we were in,” McCarthy said of a single-high safety look. “I think the hesitation on the route was something that Davon reacted to probably too much.
“But yeah, they’re not supposed to throw the ball 75 yards down the field like that.”
Later, rookie Jaire Alexander replaced House and was in coverage with Brice on Adam Thielen’s 22-yard touchdown that led to the game being tied with 36 seconds left.
If King is out this week against Washington, McCarthy and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will have to decide who replaces him and how much help they give him. Washington’s receivers are nowhere near as good as Minnesota’s, so the Packers will be catching a bit of a break.