In the immediate aftermath, Ty Montgomery’s focus was hardly on the fact that he had a career game or took more snaps at a different position than his total offensive snaps combined all season.
All Montgomery could think about, really, when facing reporters at his locker was his most glaring mistake.
“I know you need to have a short memory, but the last fumble is fresh on my mind,” said Montgomery about 30 minutes after the Packers’ 30-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field.
By that point in the game - 2:29 left in the fourth quarter with the Packers at their own 48 – the Packers were basically in desperation mode. They were out of timeouts and trailing by two touchdowns. Montgomery’s fumble fittingly capped a day for a Packers offense that was sloppy (five fumbles, three lost). If not for ball security, perhaps they found a spark with Montgomery playing “out of position.”
The 6-foot, 216-pound receiver’s fumble came off a handoff out of the backfield from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Pressed into action because of a tough week for the Packers’ halfbacks, Montgomery took 19 snaps (unofficially) lined up as a running back.
With the Cowboys insistent on playing coverage downfield, Rodgers found Montgomery to his liking. Combined with receiver snaps, Montgomery was targeted 12 times - mainly on swing passes and checkdowns - and caught 10 passes for 98 yards, both career highs.
“I thought Ty did a lot of good things,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “I would have liked to get more of a run game going with him there. It just wasn’t quite right. But it was good to get him opportunities. I felt the five-wide receiver package with him in the backfield as a wide receiver with the one tight end, we were able to get some good looks and have some production.”
Montgomery’s extensive action in the backfield -- he also carried three times for 6 yards -- is something the Packers have used in situations with Randall Cobb, as well. Montgomery, who also played in the backfield at Stanford, upped his preparation this week knowing the Packers would need him.
With Eddie Lacy (ankle) hobbled but active and James Starks out (knee) and dealing with a death in the family, the Packers had no other halfback available on the 53-man roster. McCarthy had to get creative. Cobb, fullback Aaron Ripkowski, and linemen Don Barclay and Jason Spriggs all took snaps in the backfield. All seven receivers on the roster were active and saw snaps on offense. And the Packers went with five receivers and an empty backfield on at least 11 plays.
“I knew it was going to be a rough ride coming in here as far as the number of personnel groups and the health of Eddie Lacy,” said McCarthy. “But I thought Eddie did a heck of a job in giving us as many carries as he could.”
Lacy carried 17 times for 65 yards but was spelled on several occasions. That helped give Montgomery his most opportunities this season. Before Sunday, he had played just 17 offensive snaps over the first four games.
Six of Montgomery’s catches went for first downs. He also returned two kickoffs for 64 yards, including a season-best, 40-yarder late in the fourth quarter to start the series when he fumbled.
“(It was) nothing I couldn’t handle,” said Montgomery of preparing this week to play so many roles. “It was just preparation I guess.”
Montgomery could be called upon heavily again this week. The Packers have just three days to prepare for their Thursday night game at Lambeau Field against the Chicago Bears. Starks will likely be out again and Lacy will have little time to rest his ankle. The only other option is Don Jackson, an undrafted rookie who’s on the practice squad.
“We need to get healthy,” said Rodgers, who lost a fumble inside the 5-yard line and also threw his first interception against Dallas. “So, we’ve got to see who’s out there playing. If Eddie can’t go and James can’t go, we’re going to need to do something – either bring somebody up or figure out a way to use Ty most effectively. But that’s the most important thing - to get healthy. And that’ll allow us to get in some other personnel groups, hopefully. If not, then we’re going to have to go to just a couple personnel groups where we feel good about Ty in the backfield.”