Through the first 12 games of the 2019 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers were on pace to set a record for ineptitude in a specific area. Green Bay’s punt return game has been historically bad this season, netting a loss of eight yards on nine punt return attempts through week 13 and threatening the league’s single-season-low mark of 27 yards, set by the 1965 St. Louis Cardinals.
Last Monday, the Packers made a change in their return man. The Packers claimed Tyler Ervin off waivers from Jacksonville and released Tremon Smith, the team’s returner for much of the season. And in just one game, Ervin likely pulled the Packers clear of setting a new low mark in league history.
On Sunday against Washington, Ervin racked up 51 punt return yards on four attempts, bringing the Packers’ total up to 43 yards on the season. That puts them 16 yards clear of the record, and it is unfathomable that even the Packers’ abysmal return game could lose 16 yards over the next three games to pull back even with that mark.
Ervin not only recorded the longest individual return (18 yards) since Jaire Alexander’s 23-yarder in week 13 last season; he posted the highest single-game punt return yardage total for the team since week 17 of the 2017 season, when Trevor Davis took three returns for 56 yards. Furthermore, every one of Ervin’s four returns went for at least 10 yards, with gains of 10, 12, 18, and 11 yards in order.
The Packers have yet to see if Ervin can provide any juice on kickoff returns. He did not return any kickoffs in the game, as Washington attempted one onside kick and their two other kickoffs went for touchbacks. But at least he ensured that the team will avoid a historically bad season in one specific area and will stay out of the record books for that phase of the game.