Hyde's 'risks' on punt returns paying off
Micah Hyde idolized Desmond Howard as a kid growing up in Fostoria, Ohio.
That's what made his most recent accomplishment that much sweeter.
The Green Bay Packers' second-year defensive back tied his fellow Ohioan and former Packers cornerback Will Blackmon for the most punts returned for a touchdown (three) in franchise history following his 55-yard return in Sunday's 30-20 win over the Detroit Lions.
"I watched Desmond every Saturday on 'College GameDay,'" said Hyde of the Cleveland native. "He was a great football player and I respect the hell out of him. It's an honor for me."
For his efforts, Hyde was named the NFC special-teams player of the week. He was joined by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was tabbed as the NFC offensive player of the week. It was the first time since 1996 the Packers captured both honors in the same week.
Hyde finished the regular season averaging 15.8 yards per punt return, the highest among individuals with at least 14 returns. He and Philadelphia Pro Bowler Darren Sproles were the only NFL players to return more than one punt for a touchdown this year.
His touchdown was one of the few bright spots for the special-teams unit on Sunday, which gave up a block on a 52-yard Mason Crosby field goal and muffed an onside punt recovery. It also couldn't have come with better timing.
The Packers struck out on four attempts from the Detroit 1-yard line on their first offensive series. Green Bay's defense gave up a little ground after the turnover on downs, but then forced the Lions into making Sam Martin punt from his own end zone.
The down-field blocking on the play was solid. Defensive backs Sam Shields and Chris Banjo were able to wipe out the right gunner on the play with Jarrett Bush holding Isa Quddus-Abdul at bay from the other side. It helped create an ally for Hyde, who made two defenders miss with his decisive north-south approach before finally outrunning Martin for the opening score of the game.
The Packers platooned the punt return duties this year between Hyde and receiver Randall Cobb en route to finishing fifth in the NFL with 11.5-yards per return. Hyde believes it comes down to taking chances, but also being smart. The Packers have fumbled only once this season. Minnesota was the only team that didn't have a misstep.
"We talk about that stuff in meetings about having trust in the guys in front of us," Hyde said. "Me and Cobb on the back end, we're going to take risks. They know that and they appreciate that."
Hyde said after the game he wasn't expecting any texts from Howard, though he joked he might tweet at him. In the big picture, game-changing plays like Sunday are what make a difference in the postseason.
Certainly, the Packers wouldn't mind getting some Howard-like production in the playoffs. After all, it was the former Heisman Trophy winner's 244 yards off kickoffs and punts, including a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, that made him the Super Bowl XXXI MVP during the Packers' 35-21 win over New England.
A third punt returned for a touchdown still isn't a bad accomplishment for a player that was considered too slow for some scouts after registering a 4.56-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.
"I've been telling you that since Day 1," said Hyde with a laugh. "People don't believe me. I'm just some 4.56 or whatever the hell it was. I don't know. I chuckle a little bit at that stuff."
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