MINNEAPOLIS—Rookie Micah Hyde had been steadily making more and more of an impact on punt returns in recent weeks.
That impact grew awfully big on Sunday night in the Packers’ 44-31 victory at the Metrodome.
Fielding a punt deep in Green Bay territory in the final two minutes of the first half, Hyde burst through a sizable opening and went 93 yards in all for a touchdown, putting the Packers ahead 24-10.
Having put together solid returns the last few games, Hyde said the unit felt it was close to breaking one.
“We said all week if we hit it, we’re going to have a big one,” Hyde said. “Kudos to our punt-return team. They blocked it well. Anybody in here could have returned that. It was a huge hole.”
The closest Hyde came to being tackled was by his own teammate, linebacker Sam Barrington, who was in his path just as he started to break into the clear. Hyde weaved his way around him as Barrington hopped out of the way, and from there he just had to outrun punter Jeff Locke. The 93 yards tied Hyde for the fourth-longest punt return in team history.
The return was especially big because it helped make up for allowing Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson to return the opening kickoff 109 yards for a score. Patterson was touched by only one Packers cover man on his long run, and it was Hyde, who came in from the side but wasn’t able to bring him down as Patterson broke through the first wave of coverage.
“It was a bad play by me,” Hyde said. “I actually could have made the tackle. I could have taken one more step, wrapped up a little bit. He’s explosive. We talked all week about him, too.”
Nelson moves to slot: With receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones, along with tight end Jermichael Finley, out with injuries, the Packers turned to Jordy Nelson to run a lot of routes from the slot position.
Normally an outside receiver only, Nelson looked plenty comfortable in the new spot, catching both of his TD passes from the slot on his way to a seven-catch, 123-yard night.
“It worked well,” Nelson said. “I had some good plays out of it, had some different opportunities and Aaron and I were able to connect and make some big plays.”
Both TDs came on slick catches against defenders with their backs turned. The first was an 11-yard grab on a ball that whizzed past cornerback Josh Robinson’s helmet.
The second came on a slant route on third down in the middle of the field. Linebacker Chad Greenway tried to slide over to pick up Nelson as he came off the line, but Aaron Rodgers’ throw was too quick for Greenway. Nelson snagged it, made a move on the safety and was off to the races, 76 yards for the score.
Both plays showed just how much Nelson and Rodgers were in sync all night. Only one ball thrown Nelson’s way was incomplete.
“We’re having a good time doing it,” Nelson said of his connection with Rodgers. “I guess that’s all that matters. We’re two guys that communicate a lot to one another. We’re students of the game, we try to be detailed at what we do and make sure we’re on the same page.”
Nelson said he isn’t putting any extra pressure on himself to carry the load with so many other receivers down, as Jarrett Boykin and Myles White continue to get more comfortable with more playing time. Boykin and White each had five receptions in the game, for 89 and 35 yards, respectively.
“My mindset going into every game is just doing my job,” Nelson said. “I can’t do anything else but what I’m supposed to do. I want to run good routes, be assignment sound and get open, and if you get opportunities to make plays, you’ve got to make them, across the board.”
Double-up: With Clay Matthews and Nick Perry both out of the lineup, the Packers continue to get sacks from positions other than outside linebacker.
On Sunday night, it was second-year defensive lineman Mike Daniels recording the first two-sack game of his brief career, while inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore added a third sack of Minnesota QB Christian Ponder.
“I didn’t do anything spectacular, I just worked as hard as I possibly could to get to the quarterback, and I was blessed with two tonight,” said Daniels, who doubled his sack total on the season to four.
Daniels also tipped his cap to his fellow defensive linemen for their efforts in holding Vikings RB Adrian Peterson to just 60 yards on 13 carries. Peterson rushed for 210, 199 and 99 yards in three meetings with the Packers last season.
“It was amazing, to have Adrian do what he did against us last year and then come out and respond tonight the way we did,” Daniels said.
“I say it every week, Johnny Jolly brings something extra to the game. He made some big plays out there, along with B.J. (Raji) and (Ryan) Pickett. Those guys did a heck of a job tonight.”
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