Special Teams Getting Tricky

FB John Kuhn (Joe Robbins/USP)

For the second time this season, the Packers' gamble paid off, this time with John Kuhn converting a fourth-and-1 on a fake punt. Then again, given the personnel, maybe it wasn't a gamble. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum explains in this notebook.

For Shawn Slocum, the fake punt from the 17-yard line wasn't so much a gamble as it was arithmetic.

"Well, it's fourth-and-less-than-1 and, basically we've got eight guys there in the box and they've got six," the Green Bay Packers' special teams coordinator said on Monday. "So, in terms of just executing the play, it's a fairly high-percentage play."

The direct snap to John Kuhn gained 5 yards and highlighted the Packers' most impressive drive of the season, a 13-play, 92-yard march that ended in a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.

The Packers have pulled off two trick plays on special teams, including the 27-yard touchdown flip from Tim Masthay to Tom Crabtree on fourth-and-26 against Chicago.

"We always are going to try to play to leave everything on the field and be aggressive and make our opponents have to defend everything," Slocum said. "And the way the games have worked out to this point, those two plays have been necessary."

For Slocum, it's all about manpower. It's also about having the guts to call the play but the brains to call it off. On Sunday, the Packers had seven blockers and Kuhn against six defenders as the Saints double-teamed the Packers' gunners. Two weeks ago against the Chicago, the Bears used an overload field-goal block to the left side of the Packers' formation, leaving plenty of green grass on the right side for Crabtree.

"You know, I would say just across the league they're called off quite a bit," Slocum said. "It's about troop deployment, and where you put your guys and it's the strategy of each play and if you want to run a fake, you generally have an idea in mind what you want to see, and if you don't see that, you don't want to try to run uphill."

Injury report

McCarthy said holding Greg Jennings out of Sunday's game at Indianapolis is "definitely an option" after he aggravated a groin injury on his second-quarter touchdown catch. Jennings sustained the original injury at the end of the San Francisco game and missed the Chicago game before returning for Seattle and playing the first quarter-plus on Sunday.

"He could not open up all the way into a full stride, (which) was the concern," coach Mike McCarthy said. "So, I would think we are back where we were a couple weeks ago. We'll see how he is Wednesday. He'll go through the rehab process and then we'll learn more there."

McCarthy said there's a not a "high level of concern" with backup safety M.D. Jennings, who injured a shoulder in the first half and did not return. With Jennings out, the Packers scrapped their seven-defensive-back package. The "dollar" wasn't effective, anyway. "The results were poor," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.

Four-point stance

— Because the dollar package removed both inside linebackers, Morgan Burnett wore the communication helmet. When the dollar was dumped, inside linebacker D.J. Smith returned to his role as the defense's communicator.

— The Packers have a one-week roster exemption for defensive end Mike Neal, whose four-game suspension ended after Sunday's game.

"I think it's very important for Mike Neal to go through a week's practice," McCarthy said. "We need to see where he is. We know Mike's been working out, I'm sure. I've not seen him yet personally, but just knowing Mike, as far as his training habits, he's always in top shape. He hasn't been practicing football for four weeks. We will take him through the full week and see where he is."

— McCarthy said B.J. Raji was lucky he wasn't ejected for his unnecessary roughness penalty that gave the Saints a first-and-goal at the 1 in the third quarter.

— Colts coach Chuck Pagano will be away indefinitely after being diagnosed with leukemia. "We have coaches physicals that we go through every March," McCarthy said. "It's something our organization does a great job with, providing us with the care, not only in March but throughout the season. We have doctors here to see the team three days a week, so anytime one of our coaches or somebody needs something, we feel like we have the best resources, especially the town of Green Bay, it may be small but the medical resources are abundant and they're right at our fingertips."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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