All week the conversation inside the Green Bay Packers’ meeting room revolved around St. Louis’ tendency to call trick plays on special teams.
So when it finally happened Sunday, nobody associated with the Packers was caught off-guard. In fact, they expected it.
Head coach Jeff Fisher and coordinator John Fassel got aggressive with the Rams trailing 21-10 with 6:33 left in the third quarter, calling for a fake punt on fourth-and-2. Defenders converged on punter Johnny Hekker, whose only option was to pass downfield.
It appeared all of his targets were blanketed until cornerback Demetri Goodson fell down in coverage in the middle of the field, leaving safety Cody Davis wide open for a 20-yard gain. The Packers’ defense made up for the conversion when defensive end Datone Jones blocked a Greg Zuerlein 50-yard field goal.
“They do that a lot. You see that all the time,” punt returner Micah Hyde said. “They have like an offensive playbook for fake punts. They have so many. Coach said the whole week, ‘Let’s be smart. Let’s be safe. They’re capable of doing anything.’ It’s just the type of special teams they have. They got us on it. I felt like we did well bracketing the punter, but he found somebody last second.”
It was one of several forgettable moments for the special-teams unit Sunday, though none of them really had any bearing on the Packers’ 24-10 victory.
The first occurred in the second quarter when Green Bay punter Tim Masthay had arguably his best punt of the year in dropping a 52-yard punt inside the Rams’ 5-yard line. However, gunner Jeff Janis overran the ball and accidentally nudged it backward.
It was originally spotted at the St. Louis 1, but was ruled a touchback upon review when officials determined Janis didn’t establish himself again after entering the end zone.
“I knew where the ball was, that was the biggest thing, and I was just trying to not let the ball cross the goal line,” Janis said. “I just have to be a little bit more aware of where my body is.”
Tight end Richard Rodgers also was flagged for illegal hands in the face in the fourth quarter, which wiped out a 47-yard field goal from Mason Crosby on fourth-and-9. It would have put the Packers ahead by two touchdowns, but instead resulted in a Tim Masthay punt.
Afterward, coach Mike McCarthy seemed to disagree with the call and applauded his special-teams unit for helping contain the Rams and punt returner Tavon Austin, who had only two returns for four yards.
“Special teams I thought had a good day,” McCarthy said. “We had the points taken off the board there on an unfortunate call there by the official.”
It wasn't all negative. Jones' blocked field goal protected a 21-10 lead at the time and was the third of his career.