FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – JK Scott reported for work as scheduled, but there was a plane waiting at a nearby airport in case the Packers’ rookie punter needed to make an emergency trip home.
With Scott’s wife, Sydney, experiencing contractions and only days away from giving birth to the couple’s first child, the Packers put a plan in place entering Sunday’s game against New England to make sure Scott didn’t miss the special occasion.
As an emergency measure, General Manager Brian Gutekunst used the team’s open slot on the 53-man roster to sign former Los Angeles Chargers punter Drew Kaser in time for Saturday’s final run-through practice.
Scott waited anxiously by his phone all weekend, but the call never came from his wife. So the rookie punter went about his business in punting five times for a net average of 42.0 yards in a strong performance against the Patriots.
“The baby could come at any time,” said Scott, whose child’s official due date is Nov. 14. “We’re inducing this week, if anything else, but I was talking to them. It was awesome. Brian Gutekunst, he pulled me aside and was talking to me, and really caring about me with this baby and my wife. It was cool they would do that for me. Everything was ready for me if the baby came.”
What might seem like an awkward situation on the surface was anything but for Scott and Kaser, who hit it off from the start. Having not had any competition for the punting job this past summer, Scott said he enjoyed being able to discuss his craft with the fourth-year veteran.
For Kaser, this weekend presented a great opportunity for him to get back on an NFL roster after being cut last month by the Chargers. He recently took a visit with the Buffalo Bills, but otherwise had been spending his time working out in California in hope of getting another call.
Coincidentally, Kaser woke up to a phone call from the Packers on Friday, asking him to fly in.
“It was a good call to get,” said Kaser, laughing. “Honestly, it speaks wonders for this organization that they’d set a plan just in case she does go into labor and stuff, and the security to know he can be there for the birth of his first child.”
Kaser practiced Saturday and was mentally prepared to punt if the Packers needed him against the Patriots. Instead, he was happy to lend some sideline support to Scott.
In addition to a booming 53-yard punt in the fourth quarter, Scott helped shift field position in the Packers’ favor when he hit a 48-yard punt out of his own end zone on a series that started with Green Bay’s defense forcing a turnover on downs at its own 1-yard line.
“I felt good about today, a couple things I’ll continue to work on better,” Scott said. “Today was one of those days I actually felt like I got better and there were certain things I was correcting during games, and felt good about that.”
Catching on: Much like Davante Adams did as a rookie against the Patriots in 2014, rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling stepped up and shined in the No. 3 role Sunday.
With veteran Geronimo Allison out with a groin injury and New England paying heavy attention to Adams, Valdes-Scantling used the opening to catch three passes for a team-high 101 yards in the third quarter.
Facing single coverage most of the evening, Valdes-Scantling caught a 51-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to kick start the offense in the second half. He then had back-to-back catches for 24 and 26 yards to put the Packers in scoring territory with the game tied at 17 entering the fourth quarter.
“When you have guys like Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham, they’re going to cause a lot of double teams,” Valdes-Scantling said. “So can’t double everybody. When you have good players around, it opens up other players. I just took advantage of my opportunities.”
Afterward, Adams praised Valdes-Scantling for how he stepped up in the third quarter. Over the last five games, the rookie fifth-round pick out of South Florida now has 16 catches for 355 yards and two touchdowns (22.2 yards per catch).
“Speed. And he’s a really good receiver,” said Adams of the key to Valdes-Scantling’s game. “He’s good at tracking and obviously Aaron’s placement is going to be where it needs to be. Just great ball skills and speed.”
Feeling natural: The domino effect of Tuesday’s trade of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Washington saw Tramon Williams play almost entirely at safety against the Patriots.
Aside from one missed tackle of Josh Gordon he’d like back, the 12th-year veteran was pleased with how things went on the back end.
“If I had to say a word, I’d say natural,” said Williams, who previously played some safety under current Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine during their time together in Cleveland. “I know all the calls so it was an easy transition. I’ve played it before. Natural.”
Williams’ presence was important for a secondary that finished the game without safeties Kentrell Brice (knee) and Jermaine Whitehead (disqualification), and cornerback Kevin King (hamstring). Inside linebacker and key communicator Blake Martinez also left the game briefly due to an ankle injury.
Third-year tackle Jason Spriggs also finished the game at right tackle after Bryan Bulaga exited with a knee injury and didn’t return.
Breeland’s debut: Veteran Bashaud Breeland finally made his long-anticipated Packers debut, starting at outside cornerback and handling kickoff-return duties.
Signed in late September, Breeland wound up missing three games due to a hamstring injury before being a healthy scratch last week in Los Angeles.
With Williams sliding to the back end, Breeland was able to slide into the starting lineup against New England. Along with leading the defense with eight tackles, Breeland also returned two kickoffs for 43 yards to fill the role vacated by Ty Montgomery with his trade to Baltimore Tuesday.
It made for a busy night for Breeland in what marked his first in-game action since his last game played with Washington on Dec. 31, 2017.
“It really is,” said Breeland when asked about the difficulty of getting back into football shape. “That first drive, the tempo they had kind of got to me a little bit, but it kind of got better as the game was going on. They were moving pretty fast.”