GREEN BAY – This edition of “What You Might’ve Missed” is going to try something different.
Rather than highlight several plays around a certain theme, it will focus on one play and one play only, showing segments of it multiple times to point out everything worth watching.
The one play is the 65-yard punt return by Packers WR Trevor Davis late in the fourth quarter that set up the game-tying touchdown drive in Cleveland.
Davis makes some great juke moves early to get free, and the following breakdown isn’t meant to take anything away from those. Without his slippery escapability, very little if any of the rest would have mattered.
But there also were a handful of big blocks, and one non-block, that turned it into as big a play as it was.
Clip No. 1: Rookie CB Donatello Brown makes amends
Brown, an undrafted rookie from Valdosta State, was making his NFL debut in this game. He spent the first eight weeks of the season on Green Bay’s practice squad. After being signed to the active roster following the bye week, he had been a game-day inactive four times, and the one time he was active on game day, he did not play.
So here he is as a “jammer” on the punt-return team, assigned to slow down Browns gunner WR Ricardo Louis (80). Well, Louis beats him, but to Brown’s credit, he still finds a way to help. As Davis is darting sideways in search of daylight, Brown throws a big block on RB Matthew Dayes (27) that allows Davis to cut back and get started.
Clip No. 2: A block, and a non-block
With Davis now trying to get to the outside and down the sideline, two Browns have a chance to stop him –FB Danny Vitale (40) and LB B.J. Bello (50). Another undrafted rookie CB, this time Lenzy Pipkins (41), is in perfect position to cut off Vitale. But LB Joe Thomas (48) has lost leverage on Bello. Except rather than hit Bello in the back, the type of penalty that has plagued the Packers’ special teams all season, Thomas smartly pulls up and raises his arms so as to signal to the official he’s not doing anything illegal. Davis now has running room.
Clip No. 3: Style points don’t matter, self-preservation does
As Davis hits full speed up the sideline, chances are LB Josh Keyes (49) isn’t going to catch him. But WR Geronimo Allison isn’t taking any chances. Allison puts himself right in Keyes’ path, and smartly – instead of risking a big head-on collision that could injure him or his opponent, or draw a helmet-to-helmet flag – Allison simply turns his back on Keyes, draws contact, and takes him out of the play.
Clip No. 4: From start to finish
Last but certainly not least is the work of the other “jammer,” CB Josh Hawkins (28), which needs to be seen from start to finish to truly appreciate. Lined up across from WR Sammie Coates (10) at the Cleveland 37-yard line where the punt originates, Hawkins successfully runs interference all the way back to the Green Bay 18 and then stays with Coates going back the other way. He gets a brief reprieve when Coates stumbles just inside the 30, but then continues blocking him all the way out to midfield before Coates finally sheds him. All told, that’s roughly 77 yards of ground that Hawkins covered blocking one guy, who never became a factor in Davis getting tackled. Impressive, and exhausting, work.