The opening kickoff spelled the beginning of the end for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Jordan Todman, who on 74 career kickoff returns hadn’t broken one of even 60 yards, went 99 yards untouched for a touchdown. Just 13 seconds into the game, the Colts led 7-0.
“Well, guys, you can’t start a football game off the way we started it off and expect for very good results,” special teams coordinator Ron Zook said before even fielding his first question on Monday.
The Packers never fully recovered and lost 31-26.
“You never want to start the game the way we did with the opening kickoff,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. “It was poor – the coverage was poor, the ball placement was poor. Just a bad play that resulted obviously in a big play for them. But, hell, it’s the first play of the game.”
The Packers used an unbalanced alignment for the kick, with six players to the right of kicker Mason Crosby and four to the left. It doesn’t take a football genius to figure out where Crosby needed to kick the ball. But instead of putting the ball in the right corner (from the Packers’ perspective), Todman caught the ball just outside of the hashmarks. (See first screen grab of the five-shot montage.)
“You’d like to have it out there by the numbers. Plus, the hang time wasn’t as high as you’d like to have it,” Zook said. “I told the kickoff team, ‘Tiger Woods will put ’em in the woods once in a while. You guys got to cover, it doesn’t matter where that ball goes.’”
The Packers didn’t cover. To the far outside of the four-man grouping was first-year defensive back Jermaine Whitehead. As the kickoff team converged, he looped inside of Jeff Janis, with Whithead going for the ball and Janis in a contain role. But Whitehead drifted too far inside. So not only was he blocked but he took out rookie Kyler Fackrell. (See the second, third and four shots of the montage).
With Akeem Ayers’ two-for-one block, the Packers were in big trouble. That left two blockers to take care of safety Kentrell Brice and running back Josh Ferguson one-on-one with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. (See final shot.) Because of Whitehead’s gaffe and Ayers’ block taking Fackrell and Whitehead out of the mix, Clinton-Dix had far too much space to cover and had no chance, other than to at least force Todman inside. Ferguson made the block, the interior pursuit was too late and Todman was gone.
So is Whitehead, who was released on Monday.
“The kick wasn’t where it needed to be, which is Mason will be the first to tell you,” Zook said. “We get a guy that gets out of his lane and gets thrown down into another guy who knocks him out of his lane. So, we’ve got two guys out of their lines, and then we get guys who don’t come across the blockers. In the National Football League, it’s bad enough when you have one mistake like that let alone two or three and, obviously, that’s why it turned out the way it did.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.