For much of the season, it hasn’t been pretty for Maurice Drayton’s special teams unit. At times, it’s been an across-the-board mess that has culminated in one gigantic disaster after another. Sunday night was “quiet” for the Green Bay Packers special teams, and that’s exactly how they should prefer it.
Mason Crosby has a league-leading nine missed field goals on the season, but he’s appeared to have turned a corner lately. Crosby hasn’t missed a field goal since Nov. 28 against the Los Angeles Rams. During this recent stretch, he’s made six consecutive field goals. That may not sound like much. But it’s provided steadiness at a spot that was unpredictable for much of the year.
We still need to see if things have turned around on long kicks. The six straight makes have all come from less than 40 yards. Crosby has proven to be reliable from the short distances again. But does everyone trust him to hammer home a 48-yarder come playoff time? The jury is still out on that one. After a 3-for-3 night against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night, Matt LaFleur was spared another week of being asked about the kicking operation.
He may be asked about another area, but that’s because it’s improved.
Green Bay signed David Moore a couple of days before kickoff in Week 17. They elevated him to the active roster with Amari Rodgers‘ absence. Moore not only provided competence in the punt return game, he even ripped off returns of 10 and 21 yards on two different looks. It doesn’t sound like a lot. But if you’ve taken one look at Green Bay’s utter ineptitude in the return game, those two returns might as well have been as good as touchdowns. The Packers may have just solved their punt return woes with the addition of Moore. The media asked Matt LaFleur that question following the demolition of the Vikings.
“I thought he (David Moore) did an outstanding job especially early on he gets rocked on that one punt return where they throw a flag and then pick it up. I mean his ability to come back and have just…he had a lot of success it looked like from my vantage point. He obviously drew a big penalty on the sidelines as well but I was really impressed by him, his mindset.”
When asked if Rodgers gets the gig back upon return, LaFleur said it’ll be an open competition. LaFleur is leaving the door wide open for Moore to make his footprint known. It was a breath of fresh air on Sunday night.
Nobody is asking for the Packers to be the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to special teams in the NFL. That ask is beyond unrealistic. The ask is just to not be by far the worst unit when everything is piled together. Don’t have multiple lapses in different areas seemingly every week. It was a solid night for Drayton’s groups outside of one shanked punt by Corey Bojorquez. If quiet performances are what it takes, that’s just fine. Nobody is clamoring for explosive returns. Fans are simply requesting that it not look like a circus on special teams. Green Bay becomes hard to beat if they can keep things taped together.
The offense is on a roll and has been for weeks now. Joe Barry’s group has relapsed a bit on defense, but they stepped up against the Vikings. That should be taken with a grain of salt, considering Sean Mannion was the starting quarterback and Minnesota was missing Adam Thielen. Still, the Vikings have seen a backup quarterback, Cooper Rush, have plenty of success against them this year. Green Bay came out and took away all avenues of success for the Vikings’ offense. The hope is that it’s a step back into the right direction for a defense that had been reeling. The one overarching Achilles heel for this team remains with the special teams. Come postseason time, one or two of those blunders can be all it takes to end your season.
Sunday night was big for Green Bay and Maurice Drayton. Anytime he doesn’t get tabbed to take the podium following a game, it’s always a good sign. Any time there are minimal questions facing LaFleur regarding special teams, it’s a good thing. Sometimes it isn’t the flashy, highlight-reel plays needed to prove one’s worth. Being competent is sometimes good enough. If that’s what it takes for the Packers on special teams, so be it. Everyone will sign up for what was displayed at Lambeau Field in Week 17 moving forward.