GREEN BAY – There's plenty of distressing film from the Packers' season-opening loss to the Vikings, but one player on offense put in a tough spot came through.
Rookie offensive lineman Zach Tom, a fourth-round draft pick from Wake Forest, took over at left guard in the third quarter for Jon Runyan, who left to be evaluated for a concussion.
With the Packers' offense getting shut out to that point, losing an experienced starter was not ideal. Tom had to come in cold, off the bench, for the first NFL action of his career (coincidentally, the same thing happened to Runyan, in the same stadium two years ago, also in Week 1), after playing multiple positions throughout training camp, including left guard but certainly not full-time.
It wasn't a lights-out performance by any means, but the relief appearance was respectable. Tom held his own and proved effective in a difficult situation, which is all the Packers could ask for.
Here's a sampling of his work.
Play No. 1: Second-and-6 from the Green Bay 29, third quarter, 9:06 left
Result: 29-yard run by RB Aaron Jones
The block by Tom (50) is one of three well-executed ones up front to spring this play, the Packers' longest of the game. He pulls to the outside as LT Yosh Nijman (73) down-blocks DL Harrison Phillips (97). Tom's job is to seal OLB D.J. Wonnum (98), which he does, as TE Marcedes Lewis (89) gets to the second level to take out LB Eric Kendricks (54). This works just as it's drawn up, and Jones scoots through the hole. It works so well, in fact – with WR Randall Cobb (18) also running interference against CB Chandon Sullivan (39) – that C Josh Myers (71) doesn't know whom to block, and Jones eventually bounces off him for another chunk of yardage.
Play No. 2: First-and-10 from the Minnesota 11, third quarter, 6:10 left
Result: 9-yard completion to WR Romeo Doubs
Perhaps the offensive line coaches would scrutinize this more heavily, but Tom's footwork looks pretty darn good here. As he sets up in pass protection to handle a charge from DL James Lynch (92), he might give up a tad too much ground, but he stays in solid position and the ball is away.
Play No. 3: Second-and-1 from the Minnesota 2, third quarter, 5:21 left
Result: 2-yard TD run by RB AJ Dillon
The next snap is a great example of never quitting on a play. Tom initially helps Myers on Phillips, but then he misses Kendricks plugging the hole. Tom doesn't give up, though, doubling back to give Dillon the extra push he needs to get through Kendricks' tackle and over the goal line.
Play No. 4: Second-and-1 from the Green Bay 26, third quarter, :33 left
Result: 5-yard run by Jones
Here's a short-yardage assignment that succeeds. Tom gets help initially from Nijman on DL Dalvin Tomlinson (94) but locks up the big defender pretty well after first contact, too, allowing Jones to get plenty to move the chains.
Play No. 5: Second-and-19 from the Green Bay 22, fourth quarter, 14:14 left
Result: 23-yard completion to Doubs
Two plays later, following a sack, the Packers are still able to convert. This isn't the best-looking rep in pass pro, but it's effective, as Tom is able to direct DL Jonathan Bullard (93) into Myers next to him, and it's a clean platform for QB Aaron Rodgers to pump fake and then fire.
Play No. 6: Third-and-5 from the Minnesota 44, fourth quarter, 4:08 left
Result: 17-yard completion to WR Juwann Winfree
Rodgers catches the Vikings substituting and gets a free play (the actual call is offside as a defender runs off the field on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage), and Tom holds his ground nicely against Tomlinson – Dillon peeks to help but sees he's fine – until losing leverage after a few seconds. On the very next play, Tomlinson does indeed beat Tom for a pressure that forces Rodgers to throw the ball away, but that's possibly the only glaring negative snap on Tom's ledger.
Play No. 7: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 8, fourth quarter, 1:02 left
Result: 12-yard completion to Dillon
QB Jordan Love takes over on the final drive, and the first snap has Tom matched against OLB Za'Darius Smith (55) near the goal line. Smith's bull rush is a doozy, and Tom gets knocked back quite a bit, but his recovery and finish to the play are impressive.