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Special Teams Comes Back To Bite Packers

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Special Teams Comes Back To Bite Packers

All week long going into the NFC Divisional game matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, head coach Mike McCarthy praised the consistency in his special teams personnel as one of the reasons they were able to so effectively contain Devin Hester and DeSean Jackson the previous couple weeks.

"To line up with just the same punt team three weeks in a row has been huge for us," said McCarthy on Tuesday Jan. 11. "It’s something we haven’t had all season long. Our consistency is definitely there. We’re really focusing on the fundamentals and the finish."

Fast forward to the game against the Falcons, and the Green Bay Packers special teams were back to their old, inconsistent ways while giving up a 102-yard touchdown return to Eric Weems.

Prior to the game, the Packers made the decision to stick with the same group they'd been using the past couple weeks and keep fullback Korey Hall and safety Atari Bigby off the 45-man gameday roster.

By keeping Hall and Bigby on the inactive list, it can be argued that the Packers made a mistake.

Hall, a former linebacker at Boise State, was the Packers' leading special teams tackler during the regular season with 15 tackles, which is even more impressive considering he missed four games due to injury. The next closest was Jarrett Bush with 12 tackles.

Bigby, meanwhile, was praised by Packers scribe Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for making the "Play of the Week" against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11 by making a shoestring and potentially touchdown-saving tackle of Percy Harvin.

Heading into the Atlanta game, both Hall and Bigby missed the previous two games (against the Bears and Eagles) with knee and groin injuries, respectively.

However, both looked to stand a decent chance of playing Saturday's game. Last Thursday, both were listed as being full participants in practice for the first time in three weeks.

It's possible the Packers still didn't think they were healthy enough to contribute in a game the magnitude of the Atlanta game, but by comparison, offensive lineman Jason Spitz was made active on Saturday after not having practiced on either Wednesday or Thursday of last week. Hall, Bigby and Spitz were all listed as questionable against the Falcons.

With another game against Hester slated for this upcoming Sunday against the Bears in the NFC Championship game, it will be interesting to see whether the Packers decide to make Hall and Bigby active once again.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (21) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

RockinRodgers's picture

Hopefully having last game off will do them both good. This game could be decided by the Packers not being awful on special teams.

Bad Knees's picture

The problems with special teams will not change since McCarthy will not replace Slocum...ever, they are buds. Just grin and bare it and hope Slocum does not cost them a chance for a Super Bowl appearance.

Ruppert's picture

Even forgetting special teams, I thought Bigby would be up for the sake of trying to stop Michael Turner. Maybe he just wasn't as healthy as he needed to be. Let's hope the week off gave Masthay some needed rest.

Josh's picture

So if hall and bigby are active sunday who would take there place on the inactive list...you mentioned Spitz but who else?

Brian Carriveau's picture

Those are always difficult decisions. You'd think that maybe someone in the linebacker group of Rob Francois, Matt Wilhelm or Diyral Briggs might be inactive.

jdondlinger's picture

I though Hall was active and Nance was inactive?

Brian Carriveau's picture

Both were inactive.

jdondlinger's picture

Oh okay, I remember Nance on the list but not Hall fro some reason. Hopefully they have Hall active this week. I think like you wrote Brian, one of Briggs, Francois or Wilhelm could be inactive instead. Maybe Underwood inactive instead of Bigby?

hyperRevue's picture

What's up with the rotating kick returners? Shouldn't they be sticking with one guy this late in the season? And shouldn't that guy be Pat Lee?

cole's picture

Lee has looked the best and quickest at going north/south. He should be returning kicks not starks.

JerseyCheese's picture

Zombo as well, Brian. Having Bigby, Hall and Zombo all healthy and active will certainly help the special teams. I believe there was a story during the regular season on how the starters from special teams have changed drastically during the year due to injury. You have to keep the ball away from Hester, he's a game-changer.

That being said, we did do a good job against him in week 17 and against DeSean Jackson in the Wild Card game.

Dibz69's picture

Packers 48 - Falcons 21. STFU!

PackersThad's picture

I actually agreed with the decision to keep Hall and Bigby inactive because I thought the ST core had good consistency. They were containing runners and not allowing big returns. But apparently they did not on Saturday. So I look forward to Bigby and Hall back on special teams next week. Also, that may prevent Nick Collins from playing ST and getting nicked up (no pun intended).

Also, Football Outsiders have stated that Crosby is a liability on kickoffs. I assumed they are referencing his tackling, but for some reason Crosby has not been kicking the ball deep or in the endzone at all. What's up with him?

cole's picture

Yeah, I don't get it. How can crosby kick these long field goals, even though he rarely makes them, and not kick the ball into the back of the end zone.

IMO with how much depth we will have this upcoming year we need to find a new kicker in the draft. The only thing Mason can do consistently is kick great onsides.

hoogus's picture

He's supposed to have a big leg, but if he does, he hides it well. The knock on Longwell was his kickoffs, but Crosby doesn't seem to be better. Nor does his accuracy make up for it.

I think Crosby's kicking is the liability on kickoffs.

hoogus's picture

He had only 4 tbs this year. His production really fell of the table in that department.

CSS's picture

Let me just say this: The mental threshold/barrier this team broke through on Saturday can't be overstated. Against a disciplined, opportunistic team I didn't think the Packers could make mistakes and win the game. Just like the 1st meeting with the Falcons and every other close loss or close game this season.

Queue the Jennings turnover followed by a special teams touchdown. Following plays like that the Packers pattern all year was inconsistant play, lack of a killer instinct and allowing the opposition the confidence to actually believe they belonged on the same turf as the Packers.

That game was huge, that is why I actually believe in this team without reservation at this point. They re-focused, didn't deflate and throttled ahead. That's a team with an edge, a killer instinct.

I 'believed' before, but now I'm a 'believer'.

lebowski's picture

I'm sorry, but when your kickoff strategy becomes 'squib kick and give them possession near midfield' because you just don't trust anyone to make a stop, it's time to fire the special teams coordinator. And it wasn't just this week, almost every week it seems that becomes our strategy at some point. Ridiculous.

Bad Knees's picture

Agreed, well put

Norman's picture

Just kick it out of bounds and let them start at the 40 every time. Or get Crosby to perfect the art of kicking it out of bounds INTO the endzone, that would be lethal. Probably couldn't be done consistently outdoors, but I'll bet if you told Ray Guy to practice this over and over, he could have done it, at least in domes.

I'm sure some geometry whiz will tell me it's actually a shorter distance to the back of the endzone, which would also be a touchback, so maybe it's a dumb idea.

Hopefully Crosby will be kicking off a lot on Sunday.

Wiscokid's picture

It's not just our inability to stop the other team from huge returns but our inability to make returns.

Why is it so difficult to fix Special Teams? We've been trying to do that for several years now and it's still broken.

Does anyone have an opinion on that?

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