Packers corner Keisean Nixon faced his biggest test to date against the Buccaneers, then he passed it
GREEN BAY – Keisean Nixon likes to talk his talk. He’s brash, unapologetic and does so with a smile that says he knows you want to laugh at his boldness. On Sunday against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Nixon proved he can walk the walk as well.
After the game, Nixon didn’t stand around and exchange pleasantries or jerseys with any of the Buccaneers players he’d just spent all night covering. He went straight to the sideline, knowing he’d proven what he needed to prove in the defensive 14-12 win.
“You ain’t got no friends in this. Take the win and go home,” Nixon said after the game.
It was one of the few times Sunday that Nixon wasn’t on the field. The cornerback and special teams ace was everywhere. No one contributed more to help the Green Bay Packers win Sunday than Nixon. He played the most snaps of any player, with 57 snaps on defense and 16 on special teams.
“I think he played an outstanding game,” coach Matt LaFleur said Monday. “I think they had a 10-play drive to start the game and a 13-play drive to end the game and everything else in between there, they didn't do much. There was a lot of three-and-outs, I think we had four at least defensively. So yeah, I thought he did an outstanding job.”
Nixon entered the game in the first quarter for the Packers, after cornerback Jaire Alexander left the game with a groin injury and did not return. Green Bay shifted Rasul Douglas to the outside and used Nixon in the slot corner position. And as the new guy on the field, he saw the bulk of the attention from Brady.
“They always attack somebody new coming in,” Nixon said after the game.
And how does Nixon feel like he responded? “I responded.”
That he did. During the Buccaneers' opening drive of the second half, Brady and running back Leonard Fournette had them moving, thanks to chunk yardage running plays and defensive pass interference. Looking to cross midfield, Brady targeted Russell Gage but Nixon was there waiting with a textbook punch out of the ball, forcing a fumble that the Packers recovered.
“That’s my first one,” Nixon said, before realizing he needed to chase down an equipment manager to get the ball for a keepsake.
Tampa Bay's next offensive drive started on the 2-yard line, because that’s where Nixon downed Pat O’Donnell’s punt. It was an athletic play that flashed speed and awareness, as momentum took Nixon’s body toward the end zone and he managed to execute a ballet style toe point to keep from causing a touchback.
Nixon’s stat line included six tackles, but no play was more vital than the one midway through the third quarter.
Two drives after the downed punt, the Tampa Bay defense intercepted Aaron Rodgers. It was the only one of the four turnovers (two for each team) in which the team got it in their opponent's territory. It meant Tampa Bay started on the Green Bay 47-yard line, and Brady immediately took a shot to tight end Cameron Brate that picked up 19 yards.
The next play, Brady looked for Packers killer Scotty Miller, but Nixon forced an incompletion. After a run went nowhere, and Tampa Bay was facing a third-and-9 from the Green Bay 27-yard line, Brady took a shot to the end zone, his first throw there of the day. Nixon had been waiting for the play and was ready.
“They tried me, trying to go deep. I felt like it was coming,” Nixon said. “They ran the play earlier in the game. I thought they’d come back to it and they did, right before half.”
Nixon caught up with Breshad Perriman as they crossed into the end zone, turned back toward the pass and stuck up his left hand, knocking away what should have been a classic over-the shoulder pass from Brady. After the Nixon pass breakup, the Buccaneers were forced to settle for a field goal. In what became a 2-point game, holding Tampa Bay to three points on the drive proved to be a difference maker.
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“I think anytime you get a guy that is in a backup role,” LaFleur said, “and they're called to step in and for him to play to that level, it wasn't perfect, I mean, there was ... like everybody's gonna make mistakes in the game. But it was pretty damn good. So we're really pleased with his effort.”
The Packers believe Jaire Alexander avoided serious injury, according to a report from PackersNews reporter Tom Silverstein. But in his absence, Green Bay found something in Nixon. A special teamer in his fourth-year in the league, Nixon received his biggest test to date. Getting ready to walk out of the locker room Sunday night to celebrate with his waiting teammates, Nixon was asked if he passed the test.
Sauntering toward a waiting Eric Stokes and Douglas, Nixon looked over his shoulder, grinned and declared, “We won. Hell yeah, I passed it.”