The positive thing about Green Bay always having so many injuries is that backup players get the opportunity to develop more rapidly than otherwise. A bunch of youngsters stepped up on Sunday; they not only held their own, they were responsible for most of the crucial plays that resulted in the Packers’ overtime win.
The Packers were unlikely to win without the 65-yard punt return by second-year man Trevor Davis.
The interception that led to the short-field drive in overtime was snared by rookie Josh Jones, who out-jumped and outfought a half-dozen players for the ball.
The opening touchdown was scored by rookie Jamaal Williams, on a 30-yard pass play, as was the fourth quarter TD that started the comeback. While Williams rushing average is unremarkable, he makes the most of his opportunities, and he does it all: run, block, and catch – he had seven catches in seven targets against the Browns.
Despite the defensive backfield being down to a next-man-up status for the second year in a row, youngsters Jermaine Whitehead and Josh Hawkins were on the field when the defense tightened up in the late going. Also, the successful fake punt will go down as a great call, but it was made possible by Whitehead’s winning his one-on-one battle against the defender. He put his upper body strength to full use with a textbook stiff arm.
The guy who scored the final two touchdowns for the Packers, Davante Adams, has established himself as the team’s go-to receiver in only his fourth year.
The top two tacklers for Green Bay were Blake and Jake — second-year man Martinez and third-year man Ryan. Blake got his nine takedowns in 54 snaps, while Ryan got his seven in only 44 snaps. They would have had more but Green Bay’s defense only took 58 snaps, versus 76 for the offensive unit.
Second-year player Kyler Fackrell had three tackles and, for the second straight game, a sack – and he did this while only being on the field about half the time. Also, rookie Vince Biegel got three tackles in only 15 snaps.
Dean Lowry, another unheralded draft pick of last year, followed up his NFC player of the week honor with four more tackles in only 27 snaps. Lowry is one of the year’s bigger surprises.
Twenty-three year old Jason Spriggs has now laid down back-to-back full-game credible performances at right tackle. This giant man is getting healthy and looking comfortable.
Geronimo Allison, in his second year as a backup, caught each of the four throws Brett Hundley sent his way.
Oh, then there’s the third-year backup quarterback. Hundley played error-free football, had a completion percentage of 76, and ran seven times for 31 yards – often in crucial situations. Yes, it was dink-and-dunk football, but it was what the Cleveland defense was giving the Packers, so the smart move was to take it.
Add in some young guys who played barely or not at all in the game – Kevin King (22), Kenny Clark (22), Aaron Jones (23), Kentrell Brice (23), Ty Montgomery (24), Kyle Murphy (24), Marwin Evans (24) – and the Packers appear to be well-stocked to be a top league contender for at least another five years.