It was the third quarter of the Green Bay Packers’ home game against Tennessee on Dec. 23, 2012. The Titans’ Rob Bironas kicked off to Green Bay rookie Randall Cobb, with the ball rolling to a stop at the 4-yard line. Cobb made a play that remains a key teaching tool for special-teams coordinator Ron Zook.
Cobb planted his feet on the sideline and picked up the ball. At first blush, it appeared Cobb had made a boneheaded play. In fact, he made a genius play. As with a fumble, if any part of the player’s body is out of bounds when he touches the ball, the ball is considered out of bounds. So, Bironas’ kick was deemed to be out of bounds, meaning the Packers took possession at the 40-yard line.
On Sunday, Ty Montgomery made a genius play of his own. After the Lions pulled within 7-3 in the first quarter, Detroit’s Sam Martin kicked to Montgomery. The ball went into the end zone. Then, with the backspin of a pitching wedge by Justin Spieth, the ball bounced back out of the end zone.
Montgomery could have panicked. Instead, with his feet on the sideline and stomach on the grass, Montgomery stretched out and grabbed the ball. The result, just as with Cobb’s play against Tennessee, was a penalty for an out-of-bounds kickoff.
“He’s probably seen that a minimum of four times this year,” Zook said of Cobb’s play on Monday.
After the game on Sunday, Montgomery sounded as cool as he looked in the heat of the moment.
“No panic,” he said. “I knew what I wanted to do. I had already signaled to the guys blocking, so I knew what I wanted to do, so either I was going to keep it in the end zone or do what I did. ...
“Really, the only thing I’ve got to be cognizant of is that I don't touch the ball before I establish myself out of bounds. So, that's why I started out of bounds and then tried to get the ball.”
Fellow receiver Davante Adams chalked it up to Montgomery’s Stanford education.
“That's the type of stuff they do,” Adams said. “I would've never thought to do that. That's the type of stuff he can pull off.”
Not so, Montgomery said.
“It's something as returners we all know. We should know,” Montgomery said. “Obviously, that's a big play.”
Big play, indeed. The Packers took advantage of a short field for a four-play, 60-yard touchdown drive to take a 14-3 lead. That touchdown kicked off a 24-0 run.
One of Zook’s go-to phrases is “you can’t buy experience.” No amount of money could buy experience for this play, though. It was a combination of Zook’s teaching and Montgomery’s poise that made it happen.
“It’s the first time I’ve actually ever seen it in person,” said Zook, who’s been a college of NFL coach for almost 40 years. “But I’ve coached that, we’ve coached that. Randall did it before I got here. He’s seen that play I don’t know how many times. But the fact of just being able to do it in the heat of battle, once again, you can talk about it, talk about it, talk about it. It was obviously a big play for us and got us out to the 40-yard line.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.