To hear Randall Cobb tell it, he got downright lucky on Thursday night.
“Both of my touchdowns were mess-ups,” Cobb said following Green Bay’s 42-34 victory over New Orleans. “Fortunately, we made something happen out of them.”
Did he ever. Cobb said he ran the wrong route from the slot on what turned into a 32-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter.
Then, having been instructed not to run any kickoffs back from more than 5 yards deep in the end zone, he came out from 8 yards deep and went the distance in the third quarter for a franchise-record 108-yard return that also tied the NFL’s all-time mark.
“I’m not supposed to bring that out,” Cobb said. “I’m not.”
Head Coach Mike McCarthy didn’t start cheering until Cobb began breaking tackles.
“Thank God he couldn’t hear what was being said into that headset,” McCarthy said.
The touchdown pass happened just the second time Cobb, a rookie second-round pick from Kentucky, touched the ball from scrimmage in his NFL career. Cobb said quarterback Aaron Rodgers checked to a different play, but Cobb mistakenly ran the route from the original call.
He was wide open, though, beating safety Roman Harper over the middle and then juking safety Malcolm Jenkins before diving dramatically over the goal line. Cobb became the first Packer since Javon Walker in 2002 to catch a TD pass in his first career game.
The kickoff return was the Packers’ first for a touchdown in 11 years (Allen Rossum, Nov. 19, 2000, vs. Indianapolis) and it broke Al Carmichael’s 55-year-old franchise record for longest kickoff return (106 yards, Oct. 7, 1956, vs. Chicago). It also tied the NFL record, set by New England’s Ellis Hobbs (Sept. 9, 2007, vs. New York Jets).
Cobb spectacularly broke a tackle early on that return, getting chopped low but keeping his balance as he spun around and then continuing to run to daylight.
“I got hit, I spun, and John Kuhn was there to pick me up, and when he picked me up all we saw was grass and we all took off,” Cobb said. “That’s definitely a team record. It may go in the books as an individual record, but that was definitely a team task right there.”
Fellow receiver Greg Jennings is curious to see just how much Cobb will help the team after such a dynamite debut.
“Yeah, we need him,” Jennings said. “He’s going to be a huge asset for us, especially in that special teams category.”
Regrettable moment: Cornerback Charles Woodson was flagged for an uncharacteristic personal foul penalty in the third quarter when he appeared to throw a punch at New Orleans tight end David Thomas after the whistle. The two players were engaged and Woodson initially tried to shake Thomas off him.
Woodson was called for unnecessary roughness, and he knew he was in the wrong.
“I lost my cool,” he said. “The guy was blocking me and holding me and I’m trying to get off him. I just lost my cool. That’s all on me.”
He expects to hear from the league office, probably in the form of a fine.
“I’m sure I will,” Woodson said. “There’s no getting around it. You all saw it. I’m sure all the people in the NFL who watch the tape, they’ll see it. There’s nothing I can do about it now. I can’t take it back.”
One more yard: Receiver Donald Driver came into Thursday’s game needing just 42 yards to surpass James Lofton’s franchise record for career receiving yards.
He ended the night tied with Lofton at 9,656 career yards as he caught four passes for 41 yards. The four receptions give him 702 for his career, making him the first Green Bay player to reach 700 catches.
“Come on, one yard?” Jennings said. “One yard? I wish he would have gotten it today.”
That only would have made his day more special, as the Drivers added their third child to the family on Wednesday, a daughter named Charity.
Multiple targets: How is Rodgers going to spread the ball around and keep all of his receivers happy? Well, he got the ball to nine different receivers in the win over the Saints. Jennings led the Packers in receptions with seven, Jordy Nelson followed with six, Driver with four and tight end Jermichael Finley with three in what was Finley’s comeback game after having lost most of last season to a knee injury.
The nine different receivers is one shy of Rodgers’ top mark of 10, which he has done twice. He has connected with nine on 11 different occasions in his career, including twice in the playoffs.
“I think a lot of guys will be happy. It was nice to be able to spread the ball around. We have a lot of weapons,” Rodgers said.
Injury update: Cornerback Tramon Williams left Thursday’s game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury when his arm was hit by teammate Nick Collins. Jarrett Bush replaced Williams down the stretch in the fourth quarter, and Pat Lee also came into the game when the Packers employed a dime defense (six defensive backs).
Collins was also reported to have a wrist injury, but he returned to the game. Additional game coverage