From cheers to jeers to cheers. And if the Green Bay Packers had managed to beat the Houston Texans, Jeremy Kapinos would have been a hero in his debut as punter.
Kapinos' day started by receiving a rousing ovation from the 70,245 fans at Lambeau Field as he jogged onto the field for his first punt, but those cheers turned to boos a split-second after his first punt wobbled off his left foot and carried just 25 yards with the roll.
"They had every right to do that," Kapinos said of the boos. "I was so disappointed with myself and I booed myself, too."
Kapinos wanted a shot at redemption, and the Packers' offense gave him a lot of chances to do just that. A punchless attack that needed more than three quarters to finally covert a third down kept Kapinos busy on a 3-degree day. He punted eight times for a 39.5-yard average, 34.5 net average and three inside-the-20 punts. Even his one touchback, a high 49-yarder that barely skipped into the end zone, drew cheers from the fans who had grown accustomed to Derrick Frost's struggles.
After that shank to start the day, Kapinos hit only one bad ball, and that turned out to be a blessing. His knuckleball bounced off returner Jacoby Jones and snapper Derrick Frost recovered near midfield. The Packers turned that into the tying touchdown.
When the Packers' drive to a potential go-ahead score stalled at the Texans' 38-yard line at the two-minute warning, Kapinos delivered a clutch punt. His pooch landed inside the 5-yard line, bounced sideways and was downed by Spencer Havner at the 3-yard line.
"Those guys are working so hard up ahead of me. I just wanted to give them an opportunity to do their job," Kapinos said. "They're counting on me. I knew I needed to get some hang on it. Those guys are so fast on the outside, give them 3 seconds and they'll be down there. I've always enjoyed doing that. I take pride on being able to pin them deep."
Kapinos could have been a hero had the Packers' defense kept Houston pinned deep in its territory and given the offense a short field for the winning points. Instead, the Texans drove to the winning field goal on the final play for a 24-21 victory that almost certainly doomed the Packers' season.
Nonetheless, in a locker room filled with frustration and disgust, Kapinos managed a smile.
"As the day got colder, I guess I got a little better. It was a lot of fun," Kapinos said, adding: "The cheers were awesome. I don't deserve that yet, but I'll take it."
Bill Huber is the Lead Analyst for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kapinos almost a hero in debut
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