Packers Muff the Middle School Stuff

A fumble recovery in the 4th quarter would have changed the game

In the second half of the Packers game against the New York Giants in London, cornerback and special teams gunner Keisean Nixon had an opportunity to turn the tide for his team, and all he had to do was fall on the ball. Instead of falling on it, he tried to grab and slide it in, and the ball squirted out of bounds—along with possession, momentum, and ultimately, the game.

Fortunately for you, dear reader, oversimplifying a complex phenomenon like a football game by focusing too much on one player or play is something I would never ever do, no siree…

BUT THAT MUFFED FUMBLE RECOVERY BY NIXON, UGH! 😉

While football can be as intricate as a game of chess with living pieces, with dueling coaches plying strategies, with some of the greatest athletes on the planet, the deciding factor in a matchup often comes down to simple techniques that kids practice in middle school.

Land on the Grenade

One of those techniques is falling on a fumble. As a middle school coach, we ran a drill where the coach would toss the football on the ground and the players had to “land on the grenade,” or fall on it with their stomach like a soldier covering a grenade for his peers, with no thought of advancing the ball—just claiming possession for the team. Then, the ball becomes a prized possession, like the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python:

The oblong ball, of course, can squirt or bounce in mysterious ways. However, the more one practices it, the more it comes naturally. That team of middle schoolers never muffed a fumble recovery.

Nixon clearly knew it as soon as it happened. He grabbed his helmet as if to say, “I let the Holy Hand Grenade get away!”

This is not to come down too hard on Nixon—he arguably was the player of the game in Tampa Bay, filling in as the slot corner with aplomb and playing gunner at an All-Pro level in that pivotal game against Tom Brady.

Yet, it’s hard not to think that, when the Giants were loading the box and playing man coverage near the line of scrimmage, essentially daring quarterback Aaron Rodgers to throw deep, when the Packers’ field-stretching wide receiver, Christian Watson, hurt his hamstring, when the Packers defense was tiring, when the Giants had all the momentum and were mounting a comeback, when the refs seemingly went blind to the fact offensive linemen from both teams were holding the shoulder pads from defenders so much they could have removed and loaded them on the team buses—with all of that happening, had Nixon just recovered that fumbled punt it would have given Rodgers the ball in Giants territory with the chance to put the game away.

The play was a microcosm of the team losing the turnover battle all year. (Packers punt returner Amari Rodgers was fortunate his fumbled punt went right to two teammates.) While the Packers under coach Matt LaFleur have been historically pristine in turnover ratio, one could argue they are now 3-2 because they no longer are. 

  • In 2019, they were +11.
  • In 2020, +7.
  • In 2021, +13.
  • So far this year, -3.

There’s little doubt Nixon will come back and make up for it, helping the team win games. Then Packers fans from around the world—some of whom met in England and found instant camaraderie—will once again rejoice.

But against the Giants, all Nixon had to do was fall on the grenade. Instead, it exploded in the team’s face.

__________________________

Chris Hollenback worked for the Packers in 1998-1999, he has written for Packers.com and other media outlets, he's much shorter than Derrick Mayes and Brett Favre nicknamed him Chris "To-hell-en-back." Follow him on twitter at @CHollenback

3 points

Comments (17)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
splitpea1's picture

October 11, 2022 at 06:36 pm

I think Nixon did the best he could to win the footrace and get his arm around the ball before #27 did; he can't simply fall on the ball with all his momentum going forward. Great effort, but it just didn't go our way.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 11, 2022 at 08:18 pm

Same read. No way he had a clean shot at the ball. These guys are going full bore. The play was not a deciding factor in the end result. Maybe they should practice tackling...

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Coldworld's picture

October 12, 2022 at 12:05 am

It’s harder than one thinks to coral a football when both you and it are moving. That’s the thing with oval balls. I can’t fault what I see from his attempt.

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Michealrouse's picture

October 18, 2022 at 05:10 am

Absolutely tolerant of this, usually there are many critics who say something like "I could have put the ball in the goal"

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Fubared's picture

October 11, 2022 at 06:40 pm

Did you teach your kids to just hit someone with your shoulder rather then wrap your hands around the guy and take him down. Seems all the packers back use the former technique.
I mean the coaches can see the plays and the missed tackles or the almosies and have the ability to go over fundamental tackling.
I get the Vikes and non on those guys tackle like the Packers, they grab and arm, leg, wrap the hands but no silly shoulder tackl;es. there job stop the opponent.

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PhantomII's picture

October 11, 2022 at 08:18 pm

I like the comment Tomlin made about defensive players drafted. The first thing we look at is " CAN THEY TACKLE". That has to be the first check mark on any defensive player....If they can't....We need to move on right there....That is problem #1. The next is do they anticipate the play and get into position to meet the offensive player with no or minimal gain.

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MooPack's picture

October 11, 2022 at 07:49 pm

"Follow! But! follow only if ye be men of valor, for the entrance to this cave is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel that no man yet has fought with it and lived! Bones of four fifty men lie strewn about its lair. So, brave knights, if you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty big pointy teeth."

The Giants were the Rabbit.

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LLCHESTY's picture

October 12, 2022 at 06:32 am

"Right, rabbit stew coming up!"

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SinceLombardi's picture

October 11, 2022 at 08:38 pm

After watching the second half of this years games… it’s a stretch to say recovery of that muffed punt would have resulted in points.. more like a third down sack and a 45 yard field goal attempt at best.

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Tundraboy's picture

October 11, 2022 at 08:46 pm

And if the Packers didn't mismanage the game they wouldn't be in so many should have ,could have, would have positions.
It has become the team's identity and has to stop. Wherever the buck actually stops on Lombardi Avenue.

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splitpea1's picture

October 11, 2022 at 10:02 pm

Spot on.

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Tundraboy's picture

October 11, 2022 at 11:54 pm

Thanks. Just wish I didn't have to be.

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Tundraboy's picture

October 11, 2022 at 08:46 pm

Deleted

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Since'61's picture

October 11, 2022 at 10:19 pm

It's not easy to just fall on a fumble that is moving or skidding across the field. You have numerous moving parts when the ball is on the ground. The ball, players from both teams and the football itself tends to take very strange bounces or squirt out even if the player falls on it perfectly. Yes, there was an opportunity to recover the ball but Nixon tried to pull in a moving ball and it skipped away from him and out of bounds. That's part of the game. Thanks, Since '61

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TarynsEyes's picture

October 12, 2022 at 10:17 am

“A fumble recovery in the 4th quarter would have changed the game.”

It might have changed the outcome and add another ugly win to the record, but it certainly won't change the issues that the team needs to change/correct, more than acquiring another 'Ugly' win. To accept ugly wins over correction of clear performance issues is asinine at best, as those issues are what keeps this team getting bounced in the playoffs yearly.

All those in favor of another 13 win season for MLF instead of an SB, raise your hand.

I want a strong performing team with less regular season wins going into the playoffs, then a lot of ugly wins and another bs Division Title. If that is the comfort one seeks, then let us make a date for an off-season camping trip, and we can all chant 'AYAHUASCA, AYAHUASCA, AYAHUASCA'. Also, that the 'Bears Still Suck', because everything in life needs at least one staple.

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JoePack1212's picture

October 12, 2022 at 10:18 am

What was that Garbage we saw on Sunday in London! I guess the week before didn't get anyone else to think more urgently about this Game. We had the Giants to 3 and 20 to 10 at Halftime. Why is a 50 Million a Year 4 MVP Quarterback not better able to work with Rookie Receivers? Why is a Defense that thought so highly of itself so PATHETIC??? Why is the Special Teams letting Amari Rodgers touch the Ball??? Where is the Coaching after Halftime? An Arm and Shoulder Tackling Defense that has Players way off the opposing Receivers and when asked to tackle can't get them down or whiffs on the tackle completely. MLF has gotten out - coached the last two weeks, why doesn't he plan better Strategies??? Run the DAMN BALL!!!!! Why is Barry having the Corners so off Receivers, even Receivers from the Practice Squad made our Pass Defense look like they were over matched!!! Its time to quit reading the Press Clippings about how great you are Packers Players and start living up to your God Given Potential. We're taking on the Jets this week, will it be better or will this Team keep playing like LOSERS?????

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ricky's picture

October 12, 2022 at 11:50 am

OK, so what if Nixon falls on the ball, and the Packers get the ball in Giants territory. Do they run the ball, slowly grind it down the field, and then run in for a score? Or does Rodgers decide to play "hero ball", throw two long passes and one short pass that doesn't get a first down, and then punt the ball back to the Giants? Because the Giants would be more fired up, having made a mistake and not paid the price. Which scenario is more likely?

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