Special Teams Get the Job Done

‘Unsung heroes' important part of win in Minnesota

The defense achieved surprising success. The ground game will grab the headlines. Brett Favre was, well, Brett Favre. The Packers' satisfying 30-27 win over the Vikings in the Metrodome Sunday night can accurately be called a "total team victory," but still, one unit emerges as an unsung hero.

Packers' special teams may not have done anything extraordinary, but they did everything asked of them and they did most of it right. It was a performance that not only saved the game, it was also the kind of effort that allows coaches to get a rare good night's sleep.

Safety Darren Sharper, a member of the "hands team" provided the obviously highlight by securing the Vikings' on-side kick with a jumping grab. His sure catch literally won the game for the Packers with just less than half a minute remaining.

Long before that decisive final minute, special teams quietly got the job done.

  • Ryan Longwell booted a trio of field goals from 21, 43 and 27 yards. The first one gave the Packers their first lead over the Vikings, and the last one turned out to be the game-winner. Longwell's kickoffs were also on the money, all at or inside the 10-yard-line.
  • Josh Bidwell made the most of his two punts, producing a decent 46.5-yard average (more than 5 yards better than his season average). His best effort, a 61-yarder in the second half, was negated by off-setting penalties and would have stood as his longest of the year.
  • Antonio Chatman continues to prove that while he may not be Dante Hall, he's a dependable and sure-handed returnman. Chatman came in averaging 22 yards on kickoffs and just under 9 yards on punt returns. He was right on his average in both categories Sunday night, helping give Green Bay a five-yard edge in average drive start.

The punt and kick return coverage was serviceable, although their only real slip-up came at a bad time. Green Bay permitted Onterrio Smith a 34-yard-return after Longwell's deepest kickoff. That allowed Minnesota to begin at the 35 for their final drive, which resulted in a touchdown. Overall, they held the Vikings under their season average for both punt and kick returns.

Also noticeable for special teams was something we haven't seen out of the Packers enough this season. The hitting was sometimes ferocious, and almost always tenacious (with the exception of the above-mentioned last return). Robert Ferguson provided testimony to both, flying so hard into the tackle of Onterrio Smith that he not only made the stop, he also collided with a teammate. Ferguson suffered a jaw injury and had to be tested for a concussion.

After Sharper's game-sealing onside-kick recovery, this laundry list of Green Bay's special teams accomplishments won't add up to a single Sports Center highlight. But Packers special teams coach John Bonamego would probably take consistent dependability over sporadic fireworks any day. He got that consistency Sunday night, and it turned out to be an substantial, if subtle, part of a big Packer victory.

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