Frustration Rises on Special Teams

The Packers had their league-high seventh kick blocked on Sunday against Detroit; they had a total of five blocked the past five seasons. This one, stemming from a lack of focus, particularly bothered special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Shawn Slocum wasn’t a happy man.

The Green Bay Packers’ special teams coordinator stayed calm as best he could on Monday but his red-faced answers spoke to his increasing anger and frustration. The Packers had their seventh kick blocked this season on Sunday against Detroit. No other team has had more than five blocked.

“Extremely high,” Slocum said of his frustration level.

Mason Crosby was victimized again, with his 52-yarder blocked by Detroit safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, who came in practically untouched. Andrew Quarless, the left wing on the play, blocked neither the player lined up inside of him (Abdul-Quddus) or outside of him. For a veteran to blow a rudimentary assignment just added to Slocum’s irritation level.

“It’s really a focus error,” Slocum said. “That protection is uncomplicated by design. It’s a zone protection. Everybody’s got an area and you need to be accountable for your area.”

Crosby has had three field goals blocked this season; Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee is the only other kicker with three of his kicks blocked. Crosby didn’t have any field goals blocked over the past three seasons.

“It’s disappointing. We’ve spent a lot of time, because we’ve had some problems this season in our placement protection,” Slocum said. “We’ve devoted the necessary time in practice. We were very good in the previous game, we were good inside in that ball game. That was a critical play in the game and our accountability needs to pick up there.”

The Packers have been fortunate that neither of the seven blocks have come back to cost them a game. But with the playoffs at hand, and the level of competition increasing and every possession becoming more precious, Slocum knows that his units have to tighten up their games.

“Frankly, we need to do a better job,” Slocum said. “We’re now in playoff football. We’ve got an excellent football team. Scoring points in a placement situation is vitally important in these ball games. We must simply do a better job in protection.”

Crosby also has had two extra points blocked; there have been only six blocked in the NFL this season and Crosby had only one blocked since joining the team in 2007. Punter Tim Masthay has had two punts blocked, which is tied for the most in the league.

“When you show something in this league where you’re not successful with it, then you’re going to get attacked there,” Slocum said. “I said this earlier after our first or second block, we need to do a better job there because you’re going to get a greater effort from the team that’s coming after you. That’s a matter of fact. That’s something we need to continue to adjust and be right.”

During Slocum’s first five seasons as coordinator, the Packers had five kicks blocked. Elias, which keeps stats on just about everything, does not have a stat for total kicked blocks. In going through the season-by-season reviews in the Packers Media Guide, it’s clear the Packers haven’t had seven kicks blocked in a season over the past quarter-century. Maybe they did in 1988, when four kickers combined to miss six extra points to potentially add to the two field goals and one punt that were blocked.

The blocked kick and the botched handling of an “onside” punt provided a pair of black eyes to a day that start out so well with Micah Hyde returning the first punt of the game 55 yards for a touchdown.

“There’s no excuse for it,” coach Mike McCarthy said after the game. “It’s an emphasis. It’s obviously an emphasis of our opponent, the way they’re coming after us. We have to do a much better job there. That’s not cutting it.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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