Ty Montgomery didn’t lose Green Bay the game on Sunday, but he cost the Packers a chance to hand the Los Angeles Rams their first loss of the season.
Trailing 29-27 with 2:05 left, the running back took a kickoff out of the end zone and reached the 20-yard line before he was stripped of the football and the Rams recovered. Los Angeles got a first down and ran out the clock to get the win and move to 8-0, while the Packers fell to 3-3-1.
“The plan there is to stay in the end zone,” coach Mike McCarthy said afterward of Montgomery’s decision to bring the ball out. “I don’t know how deep he was, if it was close. But I think we all realize with the management of the clock and where we wanted to be there, we wanted to be north of two minutes with one timeout. We wanted to put the ball in Aaron (Rodgers) hands. But you also trust your players, touch decision, close decisions, and like I said, I think Ty was just trying to make a play.”
Pressed further about whether someone should have just told Montgomery to stay in the end zone no matter what, McCarthy was clear in what he wanted from his return man.
“The plan was to stay in and give the ball to Aaron Rodgers,” McCarthy said.
Instead, Rodgers was left seething on the sideline, unable to take the field and do what he’s done so often in his career — move the ball down the field, kick a game-winning field goal and get on the plane back home leading the NFC North.
“Yeah, very disappointing,” Rodgers said of not getting the ball. “That play didn’t lose the game but it definitely took away an opportunity for us to go down and win it.”
The Packers had their chances throughout the game, one they lost after leading 10-0 deep into the first half. But a safety and a late touchdown made it 10-8 at the break. Green Bay got a 51-yard field goal from Mason Crosby before the Rams scored back-to-back touchdowns to take a 23-13 lead.
“It sucks. We had them on the ropes,” defensive tackle Mike Daniels said. “When you’ve got Mike Tyson on the ropes you have to knock him out. You can’t give him any life. Too many times we gave them life.”
The Packers didn’t stop fighting after giving up the lead, though. Rodgers found wide receiver Davante Adams for a 41-yard completion on third-and-9 and two plays later Green Bay scored on a 33-yard run by Aaron Jones to make it 23-20. Los Angeles got a field goal to go up 26-20, but Rodgers then found Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 40-yard touchdown to take the lead. The Rams were forced to settle for a field goal and took a 29-27 lead, seemingly giving Rodgers the chance to be the hero again, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Montgomery declined to speak with reporters afterwards, leaving his teammates to talk for him.
“Oh, it’s real disappointing,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “You think as a defense you hold them to those three points, we’re only down two. We’re going to go down and win. That’s the confidence we have in [Rodgers] and our offense. It’s really frustrating because of just that. We feel like we battled in that locker room.”
They did and it left some to wonder if an effort like that — against the best team in the NFL — can help propel the team forward in a season that has been, to be kind, a tad inconsistent.
“There’s no momentum gained from a loss, in my opinion,” Rodgers said. “We can play with anybody, but we knew that before this game. It wasn’t like there was some revelation, like ‘Oh, well we can probably play with the Rams.’ No, we can play with anybody.”
The Packers went toe-to-toe with the best the NFL has to offer, but they still have their fewest wins through seven games since 2006 — the first year of McCarthy’s tenure. And things don’t get easier, as a Sunday night game at New England awaits Green Bay next week.
“We’re in a tough stretch right now, playing a bunch of division winners. We’ve got to find a way to win a game on the road,” Rodgers said, noting they are 0-3 on the road. “We’ve got to go to New England and beat a really good football team.”