Randall Cobb began his NFL career with a huge bang at Lambeau Field on Thursday night by scoring a pair of touchdowns. The first came on a 32-yard scoring strike from Aaron Rodgers in the first quarter. Then, in the third period, Cobb ripped off a league-record-tying 108-yard kickoff return for a second touchdown.
Not bad for a rookie who admits he messed up on both plays.
“Both of my touchdowns were mess-ups, missed assignments,” Cobb said softly while grinning from ear to ear following the Green Bay Packers’ dramatic 42-34 victory. “Fortunately, we made a play and made something out of them, but I’m going to get negatives on those plays tomorrow.”
The touchdown pass came with just 11 seconds left in the first quarter.
“Aaron (Rodgers) told me it was a great way to start off,” said Cobb. “I busted on the touchdown he threw to me. It was a busted play and I ran the wrong route. Luckily, I scored and I’m going to hear about that in the meetings tomorrow. I’ll probably get a negative but we just made a play with it. I was actually supposed to run a drag route to the sidelines. We had a play called and we checked out of it to a different play and I just messed it up. But when I got to the end zone, it was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had and it was second to being drafted by Green Bay.”
Wrong pass route or not, Rodgers wasn’t about to argue with the result.
“Randall did a great job and it’s exciting watching him with the ball in his hands,” Rodgers said. “The catch and run, he actually ran the wrong route but I was able to read his body language there and he made a nice un for a touchdown.”
If Cobb was somewhat of a well-kept secret to anybody in the stands or in the national TV audience, all of that vanished in the third quarter. Standing 5 yards deep in the end zone, the rookie backed up a few steps to field a kic-off and, without any hesitation, bolted up field, spun out of a tackle and raced to his second touchdown.
The return tied an NFL record set by New England’s Ellis Hobbs against the New York Jets on Sept. 9, 2007, and set a franchise record, topping the previous mark of 106 yards by Al Carmichael vs. the Chicago Bears on Oct. 7, 1956. It was also the first kickoff return for a touchdown by the Packers since Allen Rossum’s 92-yarder against the Colts on Nov. 19, 2000.
“I was just trusting God,” Cobb replied when asked why he brought the ball out of the end zone. “He told me to bring it out. I’m not supposed to bring that out, I’m not. Some things just aren’t logical and some other things are just the power of God. That definitely was the power of God telling me to bring it out. He gave me great teammates to help me down the field and he made it happen.”
One of those teammates was fullback John Kuhn.
“I got hit and I spun and John Kuhn was there to pick me up. When he picked me up, all I saw was grass and I took off. We have a little rule that anything deeper than 5 yards deep in the end zone, we’re not supposed to bring it out. If I have to take any steps back, don’t bring it out. So, I’m in trouble right there.”
Cobb can probably rest easy. Yes, he’ll be reminded that he’s not supposed to return a kick that deep. But McCarthy is obviously pleased with what Cobb brings to the return game and to his potent receiving corps.
“You’ve got to be excited about Randall,” said McCarthy. “He’s shown that from the first day of training camp. He missed some time with the knee injury on the kickoff (in the second preseason game against Arizona). When other players talk about a player having a chance to be special, he is one of those guys. He’s very raw, he’s picking up our system, but he knows what to do when he gets the football in his hands and he knows how to get open. He’s a gifted young man with a lot of good football in front of him.”
“He’s a special player and he’s going to be exciting to watch,” added Greg Jennings. “We wish that the kickoff yard line was in its original location, but if he keeps taking them out that deep, I think Mike (McCarthy’s) going to pull his hair out by the end of the year. But as long as the results equate to what he just did tonight, I’m fine with it.”
Perhaps McCarthy will lose some of his hair watching Cobb’s exploits. But you can bet the same will be true for Packers opponents who will be searching for ways to stop him.
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Tom Andrews has covered the Packers since 1998. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org