Aaron Rodgers has led 21 game-winning drives during his 11 years as the Green Bay Packers quarterback, including two this season.
He appeared to be in prime position for another one against the Rams on Sunday. But a potential game-winning drive in the final two minutes ended before it ever got started, after a baffling decision by kick returner Ty Montgomery.
After the Rams kicked a field goal to take a 29-27 lead just before the two-minute warning, Montgomery had specific instructions on how to handle the ensuing kickoff.
“The plan was to stay in [the end zone] and give the ball to Aaron Rodgers,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after the game. “Obviously the plan there is to stay in the end zone. Two minute. We actually talked about it as a team.”
Had Montgomery taken a knee after catching the ball in the end zone, Rodgers and the Packers offense would have gotten the ball on their own 25, with plenty of time to get into range for a potential game-winning field goal.
But Montgomery had ideas of his own. He took off with the ball and got past the 20 before the Rams’ Ramik Wilson forced and recovered a fumble, keeping the ball out of Rodgers’ hands for good. The Rams went on to win the game and improve to 8-0; the Packers dropped to 3-3-1.
Montgomery, who did not speak with reporters following the game, addressed his decision to run with the ball rather than take a knee Monday afternoon.
“At that point in time, I stood where I always stood, I had a returnable ball,” he told reporters. “So I made a split-second decision, I don’t know if this is going to land on the goal line. So I’m not going to take a knee on the goal line, at the half-yard line and take a chance at putting the game in the ref's hands. Unfortunately, I ended up fumbling the football. I don’t think we’d be having this conversation if I didn’t fumble the football because we know how good our two-minute offense is.
“But I’ve never been a guy to completely disobey what I’m being told. I think you can ask a lot of guys in our locker room. That’s not what I do. That’s not the type of man I am. That’s not the kind of person I am.”
Montgomery’s actions at the end of the game did not go over well with some of his teammates. Over on the Packers sideline, Rodgers looked frustrated, to say the least.
Rodgers didn’t address Montgomery’s actions when speaking to reporters after the game, but NFL.com quoted an unnamed coach as saying: "Aaron was hot. And he had a right to be. He yelled, 'Take a ... knee!' He was very, very mad."
An unnamed Packers player also spoke to NFL.com on Sunday and gave his theory on his teammate’s questionable decision.
"They took him out [the previous drive] for a play and he slammed his helmet and threw a fit. 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 ... joke.
"I mean, what the ... 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."
Montgomery also addressed that player’s comments Monday while speaking to reporters.
“We talk about being brothers,” he said. “We talk about being family and keeping things in-house, in-house, this, that and the other. That’s not what happened. I don’t know. Maybe that’s what they do in their family. That’s not what I do in mine. No one ever said anything to me. No one ever came to me. So I’m thoroughly disappointed in the speculation and just the backlash I have to deal with now. Because now, we’re talking about my character. We’re not even talking about the fumble anymore, we’re talking about my character. We’re talking about the reasons why I did what I did, and I’m not OK with that.”