A punt downed at the opponent’s two yard line. A momentum play by the punt team. Packer fans were pinching themselves on Sunday. Now, fans of the green and gold probably didn’t want to break out into celebration at that moment in the game. Packer fans have become accustomed to having a punter hit one good punt while shanking one or two at a critical juncture in a game.
Packers’ New Punter: Pat O’Donnell
On Sunday, Packer punter Pat O’Donnell hit seven punts in total, with distance in order of 52, 57, 42, 46, 41, 63, and 38 yards. Only the 57 and 63 yard efforts were returned. The 57 yard boot netted 46 yards. The 63 yard rocket netted 47. Every punt landed inside the twenty yard line and the five that were not advanced were downed at the 13, 2, 11, 14, and the 11. The best field position Tampa Bay had after a Packer punt was the 25 yard line and that was a punt from the Packers 28. This punt team masterpiece included Keisean Nixon’s coverage, downing the punt at the two and good tackling from Tipa Galeai and Isaiah McDuffie.
The first question: who is this unit and what have you done to the Packers punt team we fans know and curse weekly? Even the penalty that ruined a fantastic return by Amari Rodgers was a bogus call if you viewed the replay. Point in fact: the special teams contributed to a road win against a very good opponent. And the Packers would not have won without their positive contributions. The season has a long way to go but so far all the signs point up for Green Bay’s special teams. The weight of that relief should be physically felt lifting off fans shoulders. Ahh, what a relief it is…
Not only has O’Donnell cured the erratic punt issues of multiple seasons, but there have been no hiccups in the field goal unit so far this year either. Packer fans had valid concerns after last year’s meltdown followed by Crosby’s knee surgery that kept him from kicking in the preseason. So far Crosby has shown no signs of a negative impact from the surgery, although his two field goals and six extra points are a small sample and the weather has not yet been a factor.
The Packers stated publicly they were going to commit more emphasis to special teams. Kudos to the Packer staff for recognizing O’Donnell as an upgrade. The Bears’ new regime gave up on O’Donnell in favor of rookie late-round draft pick, Trenton Gill. Gill had four punts against the Texans, his longest allowing a 31 yard return. Going with Gill was the Packer strategy three years ago. Hopefully, the lesson learned will pay off this season for the Packers.