Ty Montgomery made himself a target for criticism Sunday when he inadvisably returned a kickoff out of the end zone and fumbled away the Green Bay Packers’ opportunity to retake the lead in the final minutes. That mistake, compounded by his willingness to disregard the direction of the coaching staff, will color Montgomery’s Green Bay tenure and perhaps his NFL career.
But while the game-sealing turnover understandably garnered most of the attention Sunday, Montgomery’s bad game began earlier. If not for one particular mistake, the entire sequence might never have transpired.
During what ultimately became the Packers’ final possession, Aaron Rodgers and the offense had a one-point lead and needed only to take time off the clock. With the Los Angeles Rams down to their final timeout and just a few minutes remaining, a long drive could have put the game on ice.
On third-and-6, Montgomery failed to recognize Aaron Donald rampaging through left guard Lane Taylor. Though in position to help with a chip block and buy Rodgers extra time, the running back instead proceeded to the second level to block linebacker Cory Littleton, leaving Rodgers exposed. Had Montgomery picked up Donald instead, Rodgers had Davante Adams wide open on a slant for the first down and likely significant yardage after the catch.
I talked about this yesterday, but Ty Montgomery failing to pick up Aaron Donald on third-and-6 during the Packers' last offensive drive was inexcusable. Donald is the most imminent threat and he had already beaten Lane Taylor. Montgomery is right there and declines to help. pic.twitter.com/3vw9HUaFBs— Jason B. Hirschhorn (@by_JBH) October 29, 2018
Digging deeper, Montgomery erring in pass protection in such a pivotal moment underscores a larger issue. Throughout the season, the Packers have played him over Aaron Jones on the basis of his supposedly superior blocking. Not only did Montgomery illustrate his weakness in that area, but Jones picked up the pass rusher in a remarkably similar fashion earlier in the game.
Facing third-and-long and trailing by double digits, Rodgers connected with Davante Adams on a deep post for 41 yards. However, the play might have gotten off script if not for Jones recognizing the one-on-one matchup between Taylor and Michael Brockers and chipping the Rams defensive lineman. Jones’ pass protection ensured a clean pocket for Rodgers and the time necessary for Adams to complete his route.
And for all the talk about Aaron Jones having issues in pass pro, he managed to identify the one-on-one blocking matchup on third-and-long earlier in the game. This play resulted in Davante Adams' 41-yard catch, and it doesn't happen if Aaron Rodgers doesn't have a clean pocket. pic.twitter.com/RcbMy0q4q7— Jason B. Hirschhorn (@by_JBH) October 29, 2018
The coaching staff might still have misgivings about utilizing Jones as a bell-cow back given his injury history, and the offense unquestionably needs him healthy over the coming months. Still, the frequently stated concerns about his pass protection don’t match what Jones has put on film, and they ignore the very real issues with Montgomery.