Two unheralded Packers will be the key to a victory over the Vikings


The Green Bay Packers have been rolling of late. They’re making good on Aaron Rodgers’ claim that they’d win out after a four-game losing streak left them at 4-6 and have a good shot at the postseason, winning four straight games by an average margin of 13.3 points. The obvious contributors have played a huge role in their recent success — Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, the offensive line — but a pair of unheralded players have quietly taken the Packers’ offense to another level.

Ty Montgomery and Jared Cook have seen their roles increase dramatically in the past month, albeit for different reasons. Montgomery was merely an offensive nicety — a gadget player — before being elevated to the main running back spot. He was a guy the Packers had to find a way to get the ball to, whether it was on screens or handoffs out of the backfield.

Now, he’s the No. 1 running back despite wearing No. 88. The wide receiver-turned-running back has had huge success at his new position, giving the Packers an explosive player in the backfield that they haven’t had in the past few years. Last week, he rushed for 162 yards on 16 carries, finding the end zone twice.

Cook, on the other hand, doesn’t have the best numbers. He’s not the most athletic tight end in the league, but since returning from injury in Week 11, he’s given Rodgers a safety valve in the middle of the field — something Richard Rodgers couldn’t do for his quarterback. In his first game back, he caught six passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. This past week, he had six receptions for 85 yards. He’s struggled a bit in between those impressive outings, even suffering another injury, but it’s a glimpse of what he can do when he’s involved in the offense and he creates more space for Nelson and the other receivers.

On Saturday against the Vikings (1 p.m. ET on FOX), both are likely to get plenty of snaps and touches, and rightly so. They’ve earned attention and have made the most of their opportunities. Cook, in particular, sounds like he’ll be more involved often going forward.

Cook isn’t an easy player to match up with for opposing defenses. He’s 6-foot-5 and ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash at the combine in 2009. Two years prior, he reportedly ran the 40 in 4.37 seconds, which is blazing fast for a receiver, let alone for a 6-foot-5 tight end.

He’ll be a problem for the Vikings, regardless of whether safety Harrison Smith plays. If he is out there, Minnesota will need to stick Smith on Cook, thus opening up the middle of the field for underneath receivers like Randall Cobb and Nelson. If Smith isn’t able to go, rookie Jayron Kearse may have to contain him with help from dropping linebackers.

The real X-factor, however, will be Montgomery — moreso than even Cook. He lit up the Bears with explosive plays, dynamic runs and great burst through the line of scrimmage. He’s a one-cut-and-go type of player, which is part of what makes him so good. His biggest test as a running back will come against the Vikings, though. They boast some big men up front in Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, to name a few.

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