GREEN BAY — Only one thing crossed Randall Cobb’s mind the instant the Packers’ fifth-year receiver caught his ninth pass of the night from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Where is the first-down marker?
With the Packers clinging to a seven-point lead over the New York Giants and facing third-and-10, Cobb took a short pass from Aaron Rodgers and dove to secure the first down, sealing the 23-16 victory at Lambeau Field.
The play was a microcosm of Cobb’s importance in a nine-catch, 108-yard performance against the Giants in which he converted first downs on six occasions throughout the course of the game.
There was no more critical moment that when the Giants pulled within one score with 2 minutes, 54 seconds remaining. Facing a long conversion, Cobb came up big in the clutch.
“That’s what we always talk about,” Cobb said. “Our four-minute offense … we want to keep our defense off the field, end the game that way, get in a victory formation and seal the win.”
Cobb paid the price on the play in the form of a Landon Collins hit to his neck area. It looked scary to observers, but Cobb said the only thing that made him nervous was his teammates hovering over him with concern in their eyes.
Cobb eventually got up on his own after he could move his fingers and toes. He was checked for a concussion but came out of the game fine other than some soreness.
From the start, the Packers made it a point to get Cobb involved in the game plan after he caught only one pass in the team’s 34-27 win over Detroit before the bye week.
Green Bay shuffled its personnel often on the opening series to keep the Giants off-balance with Cobb catching three passes from Rodgers for 32 yards.
The Packers, who utilized nearly all of their offensive personnel during the drive, ended the 16-play, 75-yard scoring series with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson.
“That was a huge drive for us,” said Cobb of the opening series that ate nearly nine minutes off the clock. “Sixteen plays, we kind of changed up the tempo a little bit, changed some personnel. Put guys in different positions to win and be able to be successful and execute the offense.”
Cobb’s value was at its highest in the fourth quarter, though. He manufactured a 17-yard gain when he broke free of two tackles well short of the first down on third-and-9 with 12 minutes, 17 seconds remaining.
His tenacity jumpstarted a 13-play, 73-yard drive that ended in a 25-yard Mason Crosby field goal that gave Green Bay a two-touchdown lead with 6:39 remaining.
“That’s a guy making a play and a lot of it on his own,” said receiver Jordy Nelson, who finished with four catches for 38 yards and his first-quarter touchdown. “Catching the ball short of the sticks and breaking a lot of tackles and getting north. It was a big play for us. Obviously we kept the ball and continued the drive.”
Cobb came into Sunday night’s game with 12 catches for 132 yards in the Packers’ first three regular-season games, but he understood opportunities would come his way eventually.
So when Rodgers looked his way on third down Sunday night, Cobb took it upon himself to convert for the offense. That included three gains of at least 13 yards in third-down situations in the final 15 minutes, 37 seconds of regulation.
His final catch – while initially scary – epitomized Cobb’s competitive nature and helped lift up an offense that had two turnovers and struggled through the air at times.
“Those are the type of plays we have to make as receivers,” said receiver Davante Adams of Cobb. “That’s our job, especially if it’s not really contested. So for him to stay in bounds and have the wherewithal to do that, that’s huge.”
The Packers’ offense admits it still has work to do. Rodgers was held to a 65.0 passer rating and Nelson lamented after the game about not catching enough passes of his 13 targets.
Still, Cobb was on the top of his game. After putting an emphasis on breaking more tackles and making plays during the offseason, the veteran receiver came through when the offense needed him the most on Sunday night.
“I talk about that a lot – the more tackles I can break, the better we can be,” Cobb said. “I take that upon myself to take the short catch for a bigger gain.”
He certainly did that against the Giants.