When the low point of your night is the result of a fumble by a player who also scored a touchdown on an 80-yard punt-return, you’ve had a pretty good night, which is exactly what the Packers had in their 45-7 win over the Vikings on Monday.
Rookie punt-returner Randall Cobb opened the scoring with a lightning dash with a Vikings punt, but his fumble of a punt in the third quarter led to the Vikings’ only score of the game, prompting Head Coach Mike McCarthy to say: “He has three fumbles in nine games and that’s not cutting it.”
Tuesday, Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum vowed to change that part of Cobb’s game.
“He’s a dynamic player. He has a great will to compete," Slocum said. "The two muffed punts and the turnover on the kickoff, we’re going to remove that from his game. He lost sight of one of the core fundamentals, which is make sure the ball is caught before you take off.”
Other than for Cobb’s fumble, the Packers’ win, which McCarthy termed a “significant victory,” was a three-phases masterpiece. It began with a three-and-out pitched by the Packers defense.
“I thought it was a real positive step in the right direction. We played more like we’re capable of playing. We started much faster,” Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said of his unit’s best performance of the season, following a first half of the season that saw the Packers defense fall to No. 30 in the rankings. Following Monday’s performance, the Packers have improved two spots to No. 28.
“We were able to control down and distance … and dictate the tempo, for the most part. I thought we played fast. It’s always about the players. I thought we played fast and aggressive. There weren’t as many big plays. That was one of the keys. We got off the field much better on third down. They only converted one third down in the second half.”
The Packers defense also got three sacks and applied pass-rush pressure more consistently than in any game previously this season. The question put to Capers on Tuesday is: Did you blitz more?
“We had the same amount in and it worked better,” he said. “The same calls. They looked a little better because they worked.”
Though quarterback Aaron Rodgers turned in another star performance, the night belonged to the defense because concern for its low ranking had become acute among Packers fans.
“Last night was the start of the second half of the season. It was a first step for us,” Capers said. “We set a pretty high standard around here the past couple of years and we weren’t happy with the way we were playing.”
Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin has had a smooth ride through the first nine games of the season, as Rodgers continues to pad his league leads in passer rating and touchdown passes. Philbin’s offense is fourth overall and third in pass-offense. He is not, however, without concern, and his No. 1 concern continues to be sacks allowed.
“That’s a big thorn in our side. We have to do a better job there. That’s the biggest thing going forward,” Philbin said.
Rodgers was sacked three times on Monday and has been sacked 23 times this season.
At 9-0 and coming off a 38-point win, Packers coordinators had to hunt for facets of their unit’s performance to qualify as concerns. Additional coverage - Nov. 15