It was the moment everyone, including and especially Aaron Rodgers, was waiting for.
But the Green Bay Packers quarterback never got the chance to lead his team to one of his patented, precision, game-winning drives against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, thanks to a terrible decision by return man Ty Montgomery. The Rams had taken a 29-27 lead on a field goal with a little over two minutes left — time to spare for Rodgers — and Montgomery had been instructed to kneel for a touchback on the ensuing kickoff. Instead, he grabbed Greg Zuerlein’s kickoff a good two yards into the end zone and took off running. When he reached the 20-yard line, the Rams' Ramik Wilson crushed him and knocked the ball loose, recovering it in the scrum. That left Rodgers, who displayed the kind of sideline anger more common to Tom Brady, empty-handed.
“Aaron was hot,” an unnamed Packers coach told the NFL Network’s Michael Silver, “and he had a right to be. He yelled, ‘Take a f------ knee!’ He was very, very mad.”
Instead, Jared Goff and the Rams' offense took the field. A quick stop might have yielded another opportunity for Rodgers. But Todd Gurley slammed the door shut with a burst toward the goal line, stopping short and passing up the chance to pad his stats with a touchdown. That play is called “Rolex,” Coach Sean McVay told Pro Football Talk’s Peter King, because “time is more important than the points. Time means everything there.” The clock, Rolex or otherwise, kept running and Rodgers was reduced to Coliseum spectator.
As Rodgers well knows. He admitted frustration to Silver, saying, “Our defense was playing really well and stopping them over and over again. We’ve got to get more than 10 points while that’s happening. And then to have it end the way it did, obviously, it’s frustrating.”
Montgomery’s decision to run out the kickoff was related in part to his having been pulled from Green Bay’s previous offensive series, several players told Silver. “They took him out for a play and he slammed his helmet and threw a fit,” one Packers player said. “Then [before the kickoff] they told him to take a knee, and he ran it out anyway. You know what that was? That was him saying, ‘I’m gonna do me.’ It’s a f----- joke.
”I mean, what the f--- are you doing? We’ve got Aaron Rodgers, the best I’ve ever seen, and you’re gonna take that risk? I mean, it’s ’12′! All you gotta do is give him the ball, and you know what’s gonna happen.”
Another player told Silver, “I don’t even know what that was. I’m still in shock.”
Rodgers had led the Packers to a 10-0 first-half lead, and rallied the team from a 10-point deficit to take a one-point lead with 8:57 left. Another epic finish felt very much possible. Instead the Packers headed home with a 3-3-1 record, and now must prepare for a road game against the New England Patriots on Sunday night.
Montgomery declined to talk to reporters, but Packers Coach Mike McCarthy conceded that “the plan there is to stay in the end zone. ... But that’s what those games come down to. There’s decisions and Ty’s in that decision situation, and I’m sure Ty was trying to make a play.
“So, I don’t know exactly 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 the one timeout. We wanted to put the ball in Aaron’s hands. But you also trust your players — tough decisions, close decisions — and like I said, I think Ty was just trying to make a play.”
Rodgers had huddled with his receivers on the sideline, preparing for a two-minute chance that never came.
“That [Montgomery] play didn’t lose the game,” he said, “but it definitely took away an opportunity for us to go down and win it.”
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