Packers giving up too many blocks
Shawn Slocum admits his Green Bay Packers' special-teams unit has allowed way too many blocked field goals and punts this season.
In fact, the Packers have allowed a league-high five blocks (two punts, two extra points, one field goal) this season compared to zero combined in 2013.
Prior to this season, the last time the Packers had a punt blocked came on Oct. 14, 2012, at Houston. Extra point? Dec. 11, 2011, versus Oakland. It had been more than three years since a field goal was batted on Nov. 7, 2010, against Dallas.
The Packers missed their second extra point of the year in the fourth quarter of Monday night's 43-37 win over Atlanta when rookie Ra'Shede Hageman squeezed past the gap controlled by defensive lineman Josh Boyd and reserve guard Lane Taylor. The miss looked like it might come into play late when Green Bay was leading by only six points with 2 minutes remaining.
Additionally, Green Bay nearly had a punt blocked in the third quarter when Brett Goode snapped the ball to punter Tim Masthay to avoid a delay of game penalty. Many, including personal protector John Kuhn, weren't even in place.
"We need to do a better job," Slocum said. "Really overall the protection, we've had some breakdowns on the placement unit and twice on the punt team. For me, as the special teams coach, that's unacceptable."
Starting right guard T.J. Lang previously would have been manned the spot Boyd is occupying on the blocked point-after attempt, but he and left guard Josh Sitton were removed from the field-goal and extra-point units after suffering lower-leg injuries in the Packers' 44-23 loss to New Orleans on Oct. 26.
So the Packers have been utilizing two defensive linemen, rookie Mike Pennel and Boyd, to stem the tide. Boyd said last month he never had played on the field-goal unit until this season, his second in the NFL.
The Packers and the Chicago Bears are the only teams in the NFL to have two extra-points blocked this season. Meanwhile, Green Bay, Arizona and Carolina are the only teams to have two punts blocked.
"Whoever's in there's got to step up and get it done," Slocum said. "We've been really solid with our field goal protection with Josh Sitton and TJ Lang there by side by side. We had Oakland jump over us and block either a field goal or an extra point in a (2011) game that was out of hand and other than that, Julius Peppers blocked one, but we've been solid for a long time in there. It's something that we haven't done this year acceptable to me, and you shouldn't have kicks blocked."
The Packers got off to a good start with linebacker Brad Jones deflecting a Matt Bryant's 53-yard attempt before halftime to maintain their 31-7 lead. It was the first field goal the unit has blocked since Sept. 27, 2009 against St. Louis.
Until things get it corrected, however, the Packers understand opposing teams will be trying to take advantage of their ongoing issues. It seems unlikely Lang and especially Sitton will be rejoining the unit this season, so it's up to others to step up in their place.
"Once you show a weakness in protection, particularly in a field goal protection or punt protection, you better fix it," Slocum said. "Even if they don't block it. If you show something, it better be fixed that week or it's going to get exposed. Whether you have one blocked or more than that blocked, you have to show up week to week and get that done, and that's an area we need to do a better job."
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