Masthay had plenty of opportunities on Sunday afternoon, punting a season-high eight times against the Jets. But it was what he did with those chances, averaging 44.0 yards with a net average of 41.5 while punting out of his own territory time and time again. He also placed five kicks inside the 20-yard line, the most by a Green Bay punter since David Beverly posted the same number on Oct. 8, 1978, against the Chicago Bears.
“He changed the field like I haven’t seen in a long time,” kicker Mason Crosby said. “He did a great job, especially early in the game, of just kind of getting our yards for us as both defenses were playing pretty stout. Tim just did a great job of changing the field, and not only changing it, but getting the ball inside the 20 and making them play with the long field.
“This is a breakout game for Tim. I think some really good things are coming. He has been hitting the ball great in practice. He has had some games where there have been sparks of greatness, and today it just all came together and he did a great job.”
Masthay entered Sunday’s game ranked No. 21 in the league in average (43.3) and No. 30 in net (33.8), but was coming off a strong showing in Green Bay’s 28-24 win last Sunday over Minnesota after some inconsistent performances earlier this season. He only punted twice against the Vikings, but averaged 45.0 yards with a 38.5 net average.
“I’m happy to kind of put it together in a day that I had to punt a lot,” Masthay said. “So yeah, I was just trying to put trust in the work that I have put in and it definitely came together today. I was happy to about that.
“Anytime you can stack successes like Coach (Mike) McCarthy talks about, and especially a game like this where I punted eight, nine times, something like that. That’s two weeks in a row I’ve been able to play well, so hopefully I can keep that going.”
Jets safety Jim Leonhard came into Sunday’s game ranked No. 5 in the NFL with a 12.3-yard return average, but Masthay was able to limit his opportunities with solid hang time on his kicks, forcing him to call for fair catches twice with two punts downed, one that went out of bounds, and one that went for a touchback. Leonhard’s only return of the game came in the first quarter, but cornerback Pat Lee drilled him at the New York 14 for no gain.
Although Masthay punted eight times, the Jets recorded zero return yards in the punt game. The last time the Packers were able to accomplish that feat came on Nov. 16, 2003, at Tampa Bay when Josh Bidwell (seven) and kicker Ryan Longwell (one) punted eight times with no return yardage by the Buccaneers.
“Huge, huge,” said cornerback Charles Woodson when asked about the field-position battle. “Today the punt team, Masthay did an excellent job today of kicking out of our end of the field and getting it to their end of the field and then teams getting down there and covering, making sure that they didn’t get yards after the catch.
“We let one get out of there on one kickoff return (Brad Smith’s 47-yarder to start the second half), but the rest of the day, especially punt-wise, that was an outstanding day of punting and that played big for us today. To have them have to drive 70 or 80 yards, that’s the kind of field position we like to go out there with.”
Jumping right in
Veteran nose tackle Howard Green had quite the week, and he capped it off by playing a significant role in Green Bay’s shutout win over his former team.
Green, who played in 14 games with the Jets over the past two years, including two this season, was waived by the Jets on Tuesday and claimed by the Packers on Wednesday afternoon. Because of travel-related issues, Green didn’t arrive in Green Bay until mid-afternoon on Thursday, and only practiced with the team on Friday.
Facing the run-heavy Jets, Green played a large number of snaps, lining up primarily at left end with starter Ryan Pickett inactive due to an ankle injury and starting right end Cullen Jenkins limited because of a calf injury sustained in pre-game warm-ups last Sunday. Despite only practicing once, Green went into the game knowing his number would likely be called.
“I expected that,” Green said. “We have been working hard just getting some of the stuff down pat, just calls and stuff. I felt comfortable, the coaches felt comfortable with everything, and I just came out and played.
“I knew some of (the playbook). By alignments, you just have to line up. Playing three-technique is playing three-tech anywhere. It is just getting familiar with calls and listening for different calls that you may not familiar with. Those were the things that were probably the hardest things, but playing football is playing football.”
Green was part of a defensive line that helped limit running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene to just 76 yards on 22 carries (3.5 avg.), and in the fourth quarter, Green made a nice play to blow up a reverse from Tomlinson to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery that went for an 8-yard loss.
Green not only brought some knowledge of the Jets’ offense, but he also had familiarity with defensive coordinator Dom Capers since he was drafted by Houston in 2002 when Capers was the head coach, and also from when he played under him during the 2006 preseason with the Dolphins in 2006 when Capers ran the Miami defense.
“He knew some of the terminology, and that helped,” Capers said. “So we picked out a segment of the system that we thought, ‘Here you go, you’ve got one day and we’re going to put you out there.’ Obviously we had a need.”
Linebackers Erik Walden and Matt Wilhelm, who were both signed this week as free agents, also played, with Walden seeing time at outside linebacker in nickel and Wilhelm on special teams.
“I think first you have to take your hat off to coaching,” Woodson said. “You have a lot of guys that you have to plug in and get them ready to play on Sundays, they have to be ready mentally. All of us are athletes, so you can go out there and play, but knowing what to do, especially in a complicated scheme, having guys go in there mentally prepared, I think you take your hats off to the coaches for that.
“And then the players for coming in and wanting to be good players, wanting to fit into our defense and wanting to play and wanting to play well, those things work hand in hand and it was a good day for us.”
More on the shutout
Green Bay’s 9-0 win was the first time the Jets had been shut out since Nov. 19, 2006, when the Chicago Bears blanked them, 10-0, in New York.
The 9-0 final is a rare one in Green Bay history. The last time the Packers beat a team 9-0 came on Nov. 17, 1946, at Detroit. There are only two other instances of that final score in team annals, with the other ones coming on Sept. 22, 1929, against the Dayton Triangles and on Nov. 7, 1920, vs. the Milwaukee All-Stars.
Sunday’s win at New York also gives the Packers a shutout victory for the second straight season since Green Bay beat Detroit, 26-0, on Oct. 18, 2009. The last time the Packers recorded shutouts in back-to-back years came in 2001-02.
Wide receiver Donald Driver, who missed two days of practice this week and was limited on Friday, left the game in the second quarter after re-aggravating his quad injury.
Driver saw his franchise-record streak of 133 consecutive games with a catch come to an end last week vs. Minnesota, and the 11th-year wideout was shut out again on Sunday.
With Driver out, third-year receiver Jordy Nelson played a more prominent role, posting a career-high five receptions for 55 yards, including a key 14-yard grab over the middle to convert a third down in the fourth quarter that set up Crosby’s second field goal.
Second-year wide receiver Brett Swain also received more playing time with Driver out, and made his first career reception when he hauled in a 12-yard pass in the second quarter.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers hurt his ankle in the fourth quarter when he was trying to avoid pressure on a pass play, but he didn’t miss any time.
“I just kind of rolled it a little bit outside the pocket on that one play,” Rodgers said. “Actually I think I was more embarrassed than hurt about the fact I hurt myself without anybody around me. More embarrassment than hurt, but just got it taped up and was able to finish the game.”
Cornerback Pat Lee injured his ankle in the second quarter and did not return, but McCarthy said after the game that X-rays were negative.