MINNEAPOLIS – Trevor Davis was running downfield as a gunner on Green Bay Packers punt coverage late in the second quarter Sunday night when it happened again.
Davis said he felt his hamstring tighten. He has had hamstring problems dating to training camp and began his season on injured reserve. On Sunday night, it forced Davis to miss the second half of a 24-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Davis said he has tried figuring out how to preserve his hamstring muscles, but the search for answers clearly continues.
“I know I have tight areas in my body that I need to loosen up,” Davis said. “I’ve been trying to more and more, but you can never really know the exact reason why.”
Davis showed his value again against the Vikings. He had a 13-yard punt return, and also a tackle for no gain in punt coverage. Without him, the Packers turned to backup running back Jamaal Williams to return kicks, and defensive back Tramon Williams to return punts.
The drop-off was noticeable, especially in the punt game. With the Packers trailing by 10 points but poised to get possession with six minutes left, Williams let a punt bounce inside the 20. The football then hit him, and the Vikings got possession at the Packers’ 15-yard line, running another minute off the clock.
“I thought I was going to be able to slide over from it,” Williams said. “I should've just tried to get out the way of it. It was kind of a last-minute thing. Obviously, I had all intentions to fair catch it, but the ball shifted at the last second.
“It's one of those things where you just can't make that mistake at that point of the game.”
Davis' hamstrings have been slow to heal, something he said has been “very, very” frustrating.
“You do a lot every single day,” Davis said. “You put in a lot of money toward your body, and things like that. Certain things you just can’t control, even though how much you try. So it’s just back to the drawing board, trying to figure out what you can do to stop all that really.”
Third down and out
There’s no way around it – third down has been a disaster for the Packers throughout 2018 and it was again on Sunday night. The Packers went 2-for-10 on the down in the loss to the Vikings, including a stretch of six straight misfires from the first through the fourth quarters.
“Our third down has been our black eye,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We need to improve the third down. I mean offensively, if you look at, through our analytics the last five weeks we were actually on an upswing in a number of components that that we feel are very important to being successful. But third down has been a constant for us. So, we had an extra couple days over the weekend as a staff. We just didn’t get it done.”
Olivia Reiner and Ryan Wood discuss McCarthy's press conference on the Monday following the Packers' loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Olivia Reiner, PackersNews
After a 3rd-and-1 conversion on a run by Aaron Jones early in the first quarter, this is how the Packers fared afterward:
3rd-and-2: 1-yard run by Jones
3rd-and-10: 36-yard completion to Davante Adams
There were also two third downs that didn’t count due to penalty. One was a Minnesota offside that the Packers couldn’t capitalize on with an underthrown ball to Adams and a second was a delay of game.
After Sunday’s game, the Packers have now been sacked 20 times on third down this season.
“Just execution,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of the struggles on the down against the Vikings. “They played a little different on defense. They didn’t pressure really in the first half and then they brought a couple in the second half, but just execution. Just execution. Guys in the right spot, me making the right throw, we just weren’t on the same page on a few of those. And, they made a couple plays on a couple of them.”
Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs had a message for the Packers after securing the victory with a tough catch on the final series of the game, allowing Minnesota to run out the clock.
Diggs started waving bye bye to the Packers faithful.
“Last time we played them, they flipped the bird on us,” Diggs said. “It ended in a tie. This time around, I just tried to do everything that I can, do my job and that was it.”
Diggs definitely did that. He finished with eight catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Same old story
The Packers defense did what it could with limited resources, but that’s starting to sound like a tired excuse.
The Packers were missing linebacker Nick Perry (ankle, injured reserve), safety Raven Greene (ankle), defensive tackle Mike Daniels (foot), cornerback Kevin King (hamstring) and cornerback Bashaud Breeland (groin) on Sunday. The biggest loss was Daniels, whose pass rush was sorely missed.
Holding the Vikings to 24 points wasn’t bad, although it might have been 30 if kicker Dan Bailey hadn’t missed two field goals.
“It has been like that all year long,” Williams said. “We make no excuses for it. When we do get out on the field we need to hold up as a defense. We have been playing well throughout games, but haven’t been able to finish for whatever reason.
“Guys are able to score when they need to score, and are coming away with victories. I don’t know how to turn it around, all we can do is continue going to work, keep fighting.”
The Vikings signed quarterback Kirk Cousins to a three-year fully guaranteed contract worth $84 million and it certainly was worth every penny as far as matching up with the Packers.
In two games, Cousins completed 64 of 86 passes for seven touchdowns with one interception, good for a pass rating of 123.5.
“He did a great job of managing what we needed to get done,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “I was really proud of him and I thought he played exceptional.”