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New kick returner Tyler Ervin sets up Packers in positive positions

GREEN BAY – On Monday, the Green Bay Packers claimed Tyler Ervin off waivers from Jacksonville. On Wednesday, he practiced with the team for the first time. On Sunday, Ervin was something of a folk hero after taking his first punt return against Washington upfield for 10 yards.

It was not only the single longest punt return on the season for the Packers to that point, but it also got the team’s punt return game out of the red for the season. Heading in, a quartet of returners had managed just minus-8 yards.

Ervin would return four punts for 51 yards with a long of 18 in Sunday’s 20-15 victory over Washington, and several set up the Packers in good field position. Ervin’s returns set up the Packers at midfield (touchdown), the Washington 48, the Green Bay 43 (touchdown) and the Washington 49.

“That was very encouraging,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said. “We figured we’d have some opportunities for some returns and I thought Tyler came in and did a great job for us. I thought the guys blocked well for him as well.”

Despite the limited practice time with the blocking unit, Ervin said he felt he had alleys to attack upfield.

“I think I did a pretty good job,” said Ervin, who had not played in a game since Oct. 27. “Always can get better. Just have to go and watch the film tomorrow and see where we can improve. Me, definitely, just have to continue to get my head down and get as much as I can. Try not to force anything but when the yards are there, I just have to take them.”

Green Bay Packers running back Tyler Ervin (32) runs a punt back during the 2nd half of the Green Bay Packers 20-15 win over the Washington Redskins at Lambeau Field in Green Bay  on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019.  Photo by Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Za'Darius Smith says knee fine

Early in the season, Packers outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith would be slow to get up after a play, leave the field and then return. But Sunday, he was down for quite some time after tackling Washington running back Adrian Peterson for a loss.

After limping off and getting attention in the medical tent, Smith returned to action and said after the game he was spiked and that he should be OK going forward.

He finished the game with three tackles, one tackle for loss and one hit on the quarterback.

Someone was bound to be the first to flip the script. Usually, opponents spend the week before playing the Packers lauding Aaron Rodgers’ many accomplishments. Inevitably, an opponent was going to cut the opposite route.

Washington linebacker Jon Bostic took that mantle this week. Asked by local media how to stop the Packers' offense, Bostic said Washington needed to make Green Bay one dimensional. That one dimension? Stop the run, not the pass.

Make Aaron Rodgers beat you.

“I heard about that,” Rodgers said after the game.

His response?

“Bring it on.”

Rodgers didn’t have his best game of the season Sunday. After a hot first quarter, the Packers' offense, and Rodgers specifically, cooled off. Rodgers completed 18-of-28 passes for 195 yards, one touchdown and a 96.6 rating.

The greater significance: An opponent finally had the audacity to suggest stopping Rodgers was secondary to stopping the Packers’ run game. Not that Rodgers will admit to using the bulletin-board material for motivation.

“I’m too old,” he said. “I don’t need to. I’ve been around a long time. I’ve seen a lot, heard a lot. That stuff means absolutely nothing once the game starts. It’s just fodder for the weekly columns and the Wednesday locker room stuff. You’re waiting for a golden response from me, but I’ve played long enough, and I know my responsibility.

“If guys want to make us pass, sweet. Let’s do it.”

Too many slip-ups

Through most of the season, the grass at Lambeau Field has looked a lot better than it has played.

Players have had some issues trying to find the right cleats because the field has been so slippery. Opposing teams haven’t had the luxury of playing multiple games on the surface and understanding what cleats they can wear and what cuts they can make.

Washington kick returner Cam Sims made it 19 yards before biting the dust on his first kick return.

“That was the worst field that I have played on besides Buffalo,” said Sims’ teammate, cornerback Quinton Dunbar. “You had to be careful with your footing.”