You may or may not have caught this little nugget after Sunday’s game, but it is worth repeating.
In the locker room after the game, Damarious Randall claimed to have baited Philip Rivers into throwing the final ill-fated pass. That is a ballsy statement coming from a rookie talking about a 12 year veteran and Pro Bowl quarterback, but Randall’s story seems credible enough.
Randall had outside zone responsibility on the final play. He says that he recognized the Chargers came out in the same formation as they did on second down, when Rivers tried to force it into Antonio Gates on the corner route. The Packers had Gates triple covered on that particular play. So, Randall figured Gates was likely to come his way again.
However, what is also a key part of this sequence of events is that Clay Matthews, wearing his defensive captain pin for a moment, had reminded Randall immediately after that second down play that he also needed to keep an eye on the running back releasing into the flat. On that second down play, Danny Woodhead had released into the flat and likely had a touchdown if Rivers had looked for him.
Randall apparently listened to what Matthews told him. On fourth down, once he saw Matthews stone Gates at the line of scrimmage, Randall knew he could cheat towards Woodhead. Randall says he did that, but like a wily old vet, kept his distance in the hopes that Rivers would think he was open and try for it.
Be careful what you wish for. Even as he was being buried by Julius Peppers, Rivers managed essentially a no look pass to Woodhead that was accurately thrown and had some zing on it. Randall was just able to dive in front and knock it away, thus provoking celebration.
Even for a first round pick, the Packers have asked a hell of a lot from Randall through the first six weeks, and they can only hope that experience like this continues to make Randall better for the stretch run.