Cory's Corner: Pat O'Donnell Is The Packers MVP

The Packers punter is No. 2 in the NFL with nine punts inside the 20. 

The Packers have found their punter. 

Last year, it was Corey Bojorquez, from 2018-2020 it was JK Scott and in 2017 it was Justin Vogel.

Green Bay has been through three punters in the last five years. So who would’ve thought that the next quality punter in Green Bay was a former Bears castoff?

But that’s exactly what Pat O’Donnell is. And he’s a perfect weapon for a team that will be built around its running game and defense. 

“That was the story of the game,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur. “This game was won by our defense and on special teams. That was the difference for us.”

How good was O’Donnell? He tallied seven punts on Sunday between two of the NFC’s heavyweights and five of those were inside the 20. That amount is the most for a Packers punter since 1976. 

The Packers won with old-school football against the Bears and it continued on a steamy afternoon in Tampa. Whether you like it or not, this is going to be the winning script this season. 

The Packers must play excellent defense and value the ball on offense. But in order to play good defense, they must win the field position game.

The Packers offense had three 3-and-outs and three 4-and-outs. I didn’t see a lot of “All gas and no brakes” in the second half. I saw an offense just gasping for breath to get to the finish line.

And the person that broke the tape first was of all people, a punter. Now, normally when people talk about punters it must be because of something bad. A shanked punt, (shankapotaomus perhaps), a blocked punt or the butt punt like we saw from Miami punter Jason Vinlove.

Is that exactly how LaFleur wanted to win? I doubt it. The offense looked good at times but when they got a lead, they started to get timid. The defense continues to prove why it was billed as one of the better defenses in the league. 

Could the 31-year-old O’Donnel be the hero of Green Bay? A place where there will be back-to-back first ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks under center? Why not? It’s not like there is just one way to win a football game. There are many ways to win through special teams, defense, offense and coaching and clock management decisions. 

So have confidence that the Packers can win in a lot different ways. Know that the defense held Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offense to four 3-and-outs. Don’t focus on the 13-play, 89-yard drive at the end of the game. Focus on how that unit stifled that offense and all-time Super Bowl winner throughout much of the game.

Right now, the MVP of this team is O’Donnell. He is continually putting the opposition in tough spots, leaving the defense with plenty of room to work. 

So don’t be worried about a 14-12 road win over a Bucs team that is expected to go deep into the playoffs. Be hopeful about a team that now has more layers than just a quarterback. 

The special teams are special once again. 
 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

8 points

Comments (37)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
NickPerry's picture

September 27, 2022 at 06:41 am

O' Connell has been GREAT. Not just punting but holding the ball. I mentioned this once before and I may be losing my mind in my old age, but Mason Crosby's XP attempts and FG attempts seem to go straight through the uprights. They don't seem to be doing that strange hook left then slice to the right anymore. Nope, just right down the middle.

I think we have to give our new ST Coach some kudos too as well as all the players who play ST. Coco is snapping the ball well, at least I haven't seen any issues. Rudy Ford and Keisean Nixon have been solid as has Leavitt when he's out on the field.

HEY, is it possible? Did the Packers FINALLY get it right with Bisaccia? It's still early but I think so. $2 million WELL spent.

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Guam's picture

September 27, 2022 at 08:10 am

I no longer cringe when the Packer special teams trot out onto the field. Every phase has been solid to very good so far this year. Between Bisaccia (mostly Bisaccia!) and Nixon, Ford, O'Connell and other special team acquisitions the Packers finally have it right. GPG!

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Coldworld's picture

September 27, 2022 at 09:14 am

I still hold my breath when they punt to us. Otherwise we look radically more disciplined and focused.

4 points
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Guam's picture

September 27, 2022 at 03:09 pm

The lane/spacing/depth discipline in kick and punt coverages are so much better. Hard to believe at least three prior coordinators couldn't figure that out. Amari's fielding still causes me some angst, but even he looks more confident in his responsibilities. What a turnaround!!!!

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NickPerry's picture

September 27, 2022 at 11:58 am

LOL...I'm still cringing a bit but a little less with each passing week. Good for you though Guam!!!

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Guam's picture

September 27, 2022 at 03:11 pm

Like CW, I still hold my breath when Amari is fielding punts, but the cringe spasms have passed thankfully!!

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HawkPacker's picture

September 27, 2022 at 08:55 am

NP, I think it is very possible the bad ST's are behind us. We may have a hiccup now and then, as all team's ST's do but all in all, we look so much better. The new ST coach came in and did a complete overhaul and started from scratch, he had us sign a few good ST players that he was familiar with and we drafted players with some emphasis on ST play.

This is huge for us moving forward.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 27, 2022 at 01:06 pm

Did the Packers FINALLY get it right with Bisaccia?

Last year after 3 games we were 2-1, coming off a last second road victory over the 49ers thanks to....the FG unit. This year, we're 2-1, coming off a road victory against the Tampa Bradys.

It LOOKS like the placement unit is solid....but last year it looked solid too, until it didn't (at Cincinnati). Missed FGs are turnovers and we had more than anybody last year. It looks like improvement now, but as you said, it's early yet.

We haven't had a turnover on a return unit yet. We haven't been gashed for a long return yet. Those are good things. We had one of the best returns of the weekend wiped out by a penalty.

I think it looks good now, but we didn't lose a single game where special teams was a major cause of the loss until the last game. It's too early to tell.

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Savage57's picture

September 27, 2022 at 06:49 am

One thing I've noticed with O'Donnell is the ball sounds different when it comes off his foot, like it was hit with authority.

It's somewhat like the sound the clubface makes in the hands of a great driver of a golf ball. It just sounds right and tight.

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

September 27, 2022 at 08:33 am

OK, now I have to listen, really listen, for that sound 😀. Does it come through all the noise in the stadium, such that we can differentiate it?

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

September 27, 2022 at 10:18 am

I have no idea what sound the ball makes when struck well by a driver. I know exactly what it sounds like when the ball hits a tree, the woods, or the house across the street from the course.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 28, 2022 at 05:02 am

Sounds like your handle could be Doug in sand trap!

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T7Steve's picture

September 28, 2022 at 01:54 pm

At least you didn't mention a splash. Do you need a certified description?

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mnbadger's picture

September 27, 2022 at 12:27 pm

A well struck ball off my driver sounds like . . . I have no idea?
If I ever do hit it square, the sound is silent.
I FEEL something smooth and sweet from the tips of the fingers through the arms, shoulders and torso all the way to the toes.
I'm guessing this is what O'donnell feels on a regular basis.
Great addition and can't figure what he did to get moved out of chi'town, but glad he did.
GPG!

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

September 27, 2022 at 02:12 pm

Well, I spent yesterday on the golf course and if you want to hear a sound, you should have heard me after I got a 10 on that par five. Took three shots to get out of a fairway sand trap which put me in a bad frame of mind.

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T7Steve's picture

September 27, 2022 at 07:31 am

I hope we can keep his leg fresh. It might put him out of practice, but, 2 punts a game is a number that our O should leave him because they score.

So nice to have this conversation and hope we can keep having it.

Thanks Cory.

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murf7777's picture

September 27, 2022 at 07:52 am

It’s great to see some very good punting, its been too long. I hope he isn’t our MVP very often thou. Its early but the arrow is pointing up for the ST’s.

4 points
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RCPackerFan's picture

September 27, 2022 at 08:00 am

O'Donnell has honestly been a big surprise for me. His punting has been better then I was thinking it would be. He has been really good at changing field position and pinning teams back. He has good experience punting in bad weather too.

The part that really stands out to me though isn't his punting. Its his holding. He has been very good at holding. Its a very underrated job, but extremely important. The part that makes me think its been really good is watching Crosby's FG's. Every one of them are going straight. There is no slice or hook. It is straight on. I don't remember the last time I had seen him do that. I have to give a lot of that credit to O'Donnell.
I will also give credit to our Long Snapper as well. He has been really good at this point.

Signing O'Donnell will likely be overlooked when talked about best free agent additions. But he absolutely has been a great addition.

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HawkPacker's picture

September 27, 2022 at 09:02 am

Now looking at the big picture, I believe we are a better team than last year. Yes, we have lost Adams but that allowed us to sign some very good defensive players. Our defense is better than last year, our ST's are certainly better than it has been in years and our offensive is trending upwards. Our OL is rounding into shape and our WR's are gaining experience and gaining Rodgers' trust.

I am disappointed in Watkins and disappointed that Watson has been hurt. We may need to sign someone but not sure who is available at this point in time. It may not be an option for us.

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Oppy's picture

September 27, 2022 at 09:08 am

On paper, it sure looked like we took a lateral-to-backwards step with the change in punting personnel, but it's clearly been a massive upswing.

It's almost like coach Bisaccia really knows what he's doing.

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HarryHodag's picture

September 27, 2022 at 10:16 am

While I understand the thinking behind 'MVP', it brings up another thought: when you say the punter is doing such a great job it means the offense isn't. O'Donnell doesn't get on the field unless the offense stalls.

But I agree he's been great. If I was coaching a punter I would say, 'pick a side and kick the ball as far as you can out of bounds'. Why teams try to cover a punt return is beside me. Unlike kickoffs, there's no penalty for kicking the ball out of bounds. Kick it 50 yards, no return, we win.

Another thing to ponder: why does the NFL count field goal distance from the point of contact with the kicker's foot, but counts the distance on punts from the line of scrimmage?

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Leatherhead's picture

September 27, 2022 at 01:24 pm

Why teams try to cover a punt return is beside me...

I think your metaphor might have been mixed up, but if I understand you correctly, you are questioning the wisdom of giving your opponent an opportunity to return the punt.

If that's what you're saying, I'm 100% in agreement, and have said so for a long time.

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Oppy's picture

September 27, 2022 at 03:57 pm

Measure of a punt is a functional measure of the efficiency of the play. The Line of Scrimmage is the current spot of the ball; the net punt is change of field position. It doesn't matter where the punter was at the moment his foot contacts the ball; all that matters is where the ball ends up in relation to the LOS.

Measure of a field goal is a completely academic, and has no bearing on the game. The distance of the attempt has no bearing on the game- 7 yards or 70, you either successfully convert the FG attempt or you do not. The only reason to measure the field goal distance is to attempt to place some sort of context to the difficulty the kicker faced on the attempt. In that way, it makes sense to measure from the point of contact- but it has nothing to do with tangible game stats, if you think about it.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 28, 2022 at 11:09 am

I remember as a little kid, being able to punt a ball 30 yards in a Punt, Pass, and Kick competition, and thinking "I'm only 10 yards shorter than a pro!"

But, there's that added distance....you're 10 yards behind the line so a 30 yard punt is only moving the ball 20 yards downfield. Not that good. Plus there might be a return.

These NFL punters are amazing. They routinely knock that baby 50-70 yards in the air, with some good hang time. Can anybody calculate the velocity of that ball by the time it reaches the returner? It must be well over 100 ft/sec, isnt' it?

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GPFORCE's picture

September 27, 2022 at 10:25 am

Well let's not get ahead of the ball just yet. We will see how he does in January but so far so good! Have good feeling about this guy! Go Pack Go

2 points
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wildbill's picture

September 27, 2022 at 10:57 am

He did kick in Chicago so I doubt the weather will cause him any issues

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LambeauPlain's picture

September 27, 2022 at 11:37 am

Well, we don't have to get ahead of his preseason and first 3 season game stats. Those show a very consistent, strong, leg he can control with sublime placement.

Even better, McD is established and has been consistently good for 8 years with the bares (why did they let him walk?) with 564 punts averaging 45 yards per.

I have never worn a Packer Punter's jersey. Yet.

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PackAttack4155's picture

September 27, 2022 at 11:29 am

Its great to see solid, and consistent, punting that pins opposing offenses deep. I'd bet the defense is thankful for him. If he can continue into the cold weather, even better. Yes, he has cold weather experience, let's see it in a Packer uniform first. His holding game is a huge plus as well. So far, he's been an excellent offseason pickup.

1 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

September 27, 2022 at 11:29 am

A punter as MVP so far, Cory? Really?

Then I read this: "He tallied seven punts on Sunday between two of the NFC’s heavyweights and five of those were inside the 20. That amount is the most for a Packers punter since 1976."

Since 1976? Sold me, Cory! That is amazing.

Getting Rich as ST coach was inspired. Not only is he quickly flipping the Packer legacy of ST futility...he has a keen eye for ST talent. He lobbied for O'Donnell and Nixon. Gutey listened too and drafted players with ST skills for STs. Check, check and check.

Rich's preseason STs were ragged and leaky...but he was conducting interviews to find his best guys.

He has his squad now and most of his guys are playing with focus and urgency...led by O'Donnell and Nixon and Ford.

Love it! WeTeams are Rich!

1 points
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TarynsEyes's picture

September 27, 2022 at 11:34 am

I know this will be taken as a pessimistic thought, but there are 4 parts of a team, Offense, Defense, Special Teams, and HC, as much as the one mentioned has made huge strides forward this game, I worry about the evaporation of another in the process, Offense, and particularly because of the HC, though some will point to Rodgers, but anything Rodgers does/doesn't do in accordance with game plan/scheme is on the HC.

I would be leery about boasting the punter being the MVP in any game, as it likely means another aspect has suffered an evaporation plunge. Again, we take the win, but if Brady had one or two of the three WO's available, this game is a loss, and the punter would be the last thing talked about, much less deemed the MVP. Celebrate the play of the punter, but if all others do their job, the punter should be awarded with a helmet headbutt and perhaps a mention of his performance. Punters won't cover the glaring flaws witnessed against Tampa Bay every week

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MytQ's picture

September 27, 2022 at 01:23 pm

"but if Brady had one or two of the three WO's available, this game is a loss,"
That's a rather large IF in that statement. I mean we are talking about Brady here, the GOAT. The guy who according to many won all those Super Bowls with substandard WR's compared to what Rodgers had and now he can't beat a GB taem at home that was without its top WR and top CB by making a rookie mistake with a delay penalty. GB managed to win at Arizona last year without its top three WR's and now have a group of WR's that are "supposedly" the worst in the league. You beat the team lined up in front of you regardless of the circumstances. You don't take away from the win with a bunch of IF's. I choose to enjoy every win every time it happens. Go Pack!

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Packer_Fan's picture

September 27, 2022 at 11:50 am

The only issue I had with special teams was the running into the kicker and then the block in the back lost 40 yard field position. I know the calls wered that good, or bad for some, but I am thinking situational awareness. You could see the offense had been stopped and the game was going to be close. So, the call should have been to deter the coverage and get good field position. Doing this woiuld have yielded a field goal because Rodgers had a good return into field goal position.

Taking those three points rather than the risk of not blocking the punt would have made that 2 point conversion a non issue. That is what I call situational awareness and winning the game 17-14 if the two point conversion was good.

3 points
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Leatherhead's picture

September 27, 2022 at 01:29 pm

You can't run into the punter. Nothing else matters. Not how close you came or anything. Your opponent is going to try to knock you into him and you can't let him do that.

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marpag1's picture

September 27, 2022 at 12:15 pm

MVP? Only if it stands for Most Valuable Punter. Then he is. Otherwise, no.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 27, 2022 at 01:18 pm

I've never seen a guy knock it like O'Donnell. I hope he keeps it up. It'll be more difficult when the weather gets worse.

He had a snap that he caught on about our 10 and launched from the 15 and that baby landed on the 20 near the sideline. That's over 65 yards in the air.

I think he's great so far. I can't imagine how he could have done any better.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 27, 2022 at 03:48 pm

My biggest concern is coach Bisaccia having a stroke on the sideline the next time Rodgers calls for a fair catch when there isn't an opposing player withing 20 yards of him. I guess he got a little "animated" on Sunday when that happened. Hopefully they find a way to replace Rodgers by the end of the year.

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Galacticat's picture

September 27, 2022 at 06:29 pm

O’Connell, one of four special team aces making a huge difference. Props to Gutey once again for some amazing under-radar signings. Granted, signings with Bisacia’s strong recommendation of course.

The Raiders wanted Josh McDaniels, so the Packers were happy to take Bisacia. Life is GOOD! For us. 😂

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