Clutch punt caps career night for JK Scott

P JK Scott
P JK Scott

GREEN BAY – It wasn’t the first time a “J-K!” chant has broken out in the Packers’ postgame locker room, but this rendition could very well go down as the most memorable.

And deservedly so, after Green Bay’s second-year punter was thrust into the spotlight during a defensive showcase against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field Thursday night.

Scott was asked to punt a career-high nine times to Pro Bowl returner Tarik Cohen, who led the NFL with 411 punt return yards in 2018. With field position at a premium, Scott dropped a career-high five punts inside Chicago’s 20-yard line.

He also boomed a pair of 63-yard punts, none more important than his last effort that backed the Bears up to their own 14-yard line after a holding penalty with Green Bay clinging to a one-score lead with 1 minute, 33 seconds remaining.

The Packers’ defense took the rest from there, stopping Chicago on four straight plays to seal the road win.

“He’s been punting the ball well and flipping the field, really,” defensive tackle Kenny Clark said. “Whenever you can put those guys back on their 20 or 10 and give us a chance to get a three-and-out and we can flip the field position … that’s great for us. He did a great job, especially that last punt. Tarik looked back and had to run back to it. He was booming that ball.”

A fifth-round pick out of Alabama in 2018, Scott got off to a strong start in his rookie campaign before Green Bay’s special teams hit a rough patch during the latter half of the season.

Working with a new coordinator, Shawn Mennenga, Scott focused on staying more relaxed this offseason. He wanted to remain aggressive in his approach but also felt he strained at times when striking the ball last season.

His goal was to be steadier, particularly with his placement on the sideline. Finding that “power zone,” as Scott terms it, is what leads to greater consistency and long-term success.

Scott got off on the right foot this summer, averaging 45.2 gross yards with a 42.7 net on 18 preseason punts. The real challenge, however, was carrying that momentum through to a meaningful regular-season game.

The 6-foot-6, 208-pound punter did that Thursday night. Scott averaged 47.6 yards (43.6 net) on his nine punts and held Cohen to a respectable 36 yards on four punt returns with three fair catches.

When the Bears sold out for a block on his ninth and final punt, Scott came through in the clutch for his team.

“That’s the question: How do you tune it out?” asked Scott, rhetorically. “You’ve got to have the mindset of this is the same as practice. You can only control what you can control.”

Scott is still more apt to discuss the punts he mis-hit Thursday night than rejoice over the ones that helped put Green Bay in position to win.

The Packers have high hopes for the 23-year-old, which was reflected in how the locker room embraced him during Head Coach Matt LaFleur’s postgame speech in Chicago.

“Everyone was just really excited after the game,” Scott said. “Everybody was in there dancing around. It was probably the most excited I’ve ever seen our team. I was just happy to celebrate with everyone.”

Look inside the Packers locker room after Thursday's opening win over the Chicago Bears.

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