GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Look closely at Ty Montgomery, and something should have been obvious from the start: He was built to break tackles -- not necessarily in the same way that Eddie Lacy bulldozes defensive (and often defenseless) players, but break them nonetheless.
Maybe everyone missed that about Montgomery when he manned the receiver position, but now that the Green Bay Packers have installed him as a full-time running back, it’s become apparent. It was on full display during Sunday’s 162-yard rushing performance against the Chicago Bears and should give coach Mike McCarthy all the confidence in the world to dial up more runs -- should he choose to devise game plans with that emphasis -- for the rest of the season.
“I think people don’t understand how built he is,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of Montgomery. “He’s a compact 220-pound guy who has good quick-twitch, but he’s also got a really good stiff-arm. He had a number of yards after contact, which says a lot about his ability to make something out of sometimes not much.”
That number, to be exact, was 98 yards after contact, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Sure, 61 of them came on Montgomery’s long run -- the 61-yarder that at first looked like it would go for no gain. But Montgomery averaged 6.13 yards per carry after first contact on Sunday. His previous high was 4.39 in the season's first meeting with the Bears.
Perhaps everyone should have seen this coming on draft day in 2015, when the Packers picked Montgomery in the third round. West Coast scout Sam Seale, who had followed Montgomery at Stanford, called him a bigger version of Randall Cobb, the slot receiver who has spent his share of time in the offensive backfield. General manager Ted Thompson talked about Montgomery in terms of his running ability (“He’s a very strong runner, very instinctive,” Thompson said at the time).
“I think you look at the way he’s built and his talent and [his] patience,” McCarthy said Monday. “A lot of times, the great runners, both yards after the catch and yards after contact, it’s the ability to stay patient and keep stepping through those tackles, especially on that type of surface. He’s a lot stronger than I think people realize.”
That was evident on his 61-yarder. A less instinctive runner might have barreled into the backside of center Corey Linsley or left guard Lane Taylor and gone nowhere. Instead, Montgomery paused for a split second, then darted between two Bears defenders, spun away from another and was on his way.
“It felt like he broke about 20 tackles out there,” Packers right guard T.J. Lang said. “A lot of the time, it was just blocking and glancing over and seeing him, and he was bouncing off guys. You don't really know what to do at that point, just get out of the way and let him run. Obviously, he had some really, really big plays for us.”
Throw in Christine Michael’s touchdown run of 42 yards -- 30 of which came after first contact -- and the Packers gained more than half of their season-high 226 rushing yards after contact. With 131 of those yards coming after first contact, it was their second-highest such total since the start of the 2009 season. And their 5.7-yard average per rush after first contact was their highest since ESPN Stats & Info began charting that in 2009.
For the season, Montgomery’s average yards per carry after first contact is 3.68, tops among all NFL running backs with at least 60 carries on the season. Lacy is third (2.77) among such backs, even though he hasn’t played since his mid-October ankle injury.
“That’s just what we’re coached to do,” Montgomery said. “That’s how I was raised as a kid. It’s just ingrained in me. But to be honest, I think the O-line did a great job of creating some seams, and the perimeter guys -- the wideouts and tight ends -- they did a good job blocking in the secondary to get us some big runs.”