Cornerback Kevin King puts himself in position to make crucial play for Packers
ARLINGTON, Texas – Kevin King saw Dak Prescott pat the football once, twice. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback had looked left at the snap, but now he was looking right. Staring down his receiver. Staring down King.
What happened next depends, at least in part, on the color of the jersey you wore Sunday afternoon. Receiver Michael Gallup had run a slant into a deep curl, turning just before the 45-yard line. There was some contact as Gallup pushed his way downfield, but no flag. By the time Gallup turned, Prescott’s pass was already midair.
And King was sprinting straight for it.
“Dak already kind of knew where he was throwing that ball,” King said afterward, leaning against the wall next to his locker deep inside AT&T Stadium. “Because, if you watch the film, he definitely should not have thrown it – at all. Got to take advantage of stuff like that.”
King had failed to take advantage of a gift interception in the third quarter. Prescott’s pass smacked the Green Bay Packers cornerback in both hands, but it was a little bit behind King, who dropped the football as his feet tangled in the turf.
No way he was dropping this one.
“Really, I caught his eyes,” King said. “So I saw it the whole way.”
King’s interception with 10:26 left in the fourth quarter Sunday was the pivotal play the Packers needed from their defense. Before the play, things were getting dicey. The Cowboys had momentum. The Packers’ seemingly insurmountable lead was shrinking.
Then, King caught Prescott’s eyes, and the football.
His 15-yard runback inside the Cowboys’ 30 set up what would become Mason Crosby’s 38-yard field goal, icing the Packers’ 34-24 win. The victory improved their record to a blistering 4-1 to open the Matt LaFleur era.
“We’re always one play away,” King said. “You always want to be the guy to make it.”
Three days earlier, it seemed unlikely King would have a chance to be that guy. He’d exited the field with a groin injury late in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and, no matter how much time he spent with trainers, the pain wasn’t improving.
King, who missed more games than he played during his first two seasons, missed practice Wednesday. He missed practice Thursday. He was listed as doubtful on Friday.
Through the week, King said, he didn’t think he’d be able to play.
“Then it was Friday,” King said, “I was doing stuff and I was like, ‘Damn.’ It kind of surprised me, because I didn’t really feel it too much. But I thought it was just kind of taking its course, getting a little better. Then I started revving it up a little bit more, a little bit more.
“I woke up Saturday, thought it might be sore just from doing stuff and everything, and it was good. And I’m like, ‘Man, I’ve got to say something.’”
The Packers upgraded King from doubtful to questionable on Saturday, but that’s far from being cleared. It’s a long season, and the team’s medical staff wasn’t willing to risk further aggravating a soft-tissue injury.
So two hours before kickoff Sunday, King was on the field. He did light, 40-yard sprints. He jogged the full 100 yards. He high-stepped while running sideways, testing his groin.
There was no pain.
“His presence is amazing,” said Alexander, who opened Sunday with an interception off a deflected pass Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper dropped. “I feel like we’re the best tandem in the league. So for him to come out and get a pick like that, that’s just great.
“Kevin prepared all week. Even though he was questionable or whatever, he came out and fought with us.”
King’s interceptions showcased why he’s had so much success – when healthy – early in his career. His physicality overwhelmed Gallup, who could not get any separation. It also frustrated the Cowboys.
To be sure, there was contact between cornerback and receiver on the play. But that is King’s game. His press-man technique off the line of scrimmage has been the formula he’s used since the Packers drafted him with the first pick of the second round in 2017. It was nothing new, it was not enough contact to warrant a penalty flag, but it left the Cowboys feeling incredulous.
Prescott said he determined to target Gallup because he thought King had interfered with the receiver. Not the best judgment, given how inconsistent interference is being called currently across the league.
“I think I saw what everyone saw,” Prescott said. “They got very handsy, mugging. We were pretty sure it was going to get a call, or something was going to come out of that.”
His head coach agreed.
“I don’t know if you saw the play,” Jason Garrett told reporters, “but the receiver was contacted the whole time and pulled down. It was an interference on it.”
King won’t be swayed. He’s given up on his legion of doubters. The tweeters who complain over every sighting on the injury report. Two years ago, King said, he stopped checking his name on social media. He washes all those criticisms away.
King wasn’t above accepting help Sunday. The Packers didn’t want to overextend him, knowing it’s a long season. They rotated him off the field at times, playing Chandon Sullivan. They matched Alexander against Amari Cooper, the Cowboys’ top receiver. King also was shut down after tweaking his knee following the interception, something he described after the game as only a bruise.
With the game on the line, the Packers weren’t taking King off the field. And the third-year corner delivered.
“They were smart about it,” King said. “They didn’t just go out there and have me play every play. It’s definitely a long season. But in critical situations, I want to be out there for my team.”