The fill-in safety for Darnell Savage was on the Packers roster all along, other takeaways
GREEN BAY − Following are four leftover observations from the Green Bay Packers' 31-28 overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys:
Rudy Ford emerges from depths of roster to ... starting safety?
It turns out the Packers could have moved Darnell Savage to nickel back or benched him to make a point earlier in the season. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry had said the reason he didn’t play Savage at nickel was because he didn’t know who would replace Savage at safety. But then with cornerback Eric Stokes out and Rasul Douglas moving from the slot to outside to replace him this week, Barry moved Savage to nickel and played Rudy Ford at safety, not recently acquired Johnathan Abram. Ford has been on the roster since the start of the regular season and has been available all along. It’s not like he’s going to get two interceptions every game, like he did Sunday, but even in his brief playing stints earlier in the season, he showed he’d compete hard.
Veteran receiver Sammy Watkins was moved down the depth chart
Sammy Watkins’ playing time took a nosedive Sunday night. Playing only 33% of the offensive snaps, he clearly has moved down the receiver rotation. The previous two games, Watkins played 79% and 81% of the snaps. But on Sunday, his snap count was noticeably light, with the Packers often going with two tight ends, with Allen Lazard and Christian Watson getting the huge majority of snaps at receiver, and rookie Samori Toure playing regularly as well. Watkins still finished with three catches for 47 yards.
Second guessing Mike McCarthy's play calling in overtime
Mike McCarthy made a curious decision Sunday on the Dallas Cowboys' last two plays of overtime. The former Packers coach faced third-and-3 at the Packers’ 35, which was just on the cusp of whether to try a field goal. On that play, quarterback Dak Prescott tried to hit receiver CeeDee Lamb, but Jaire Alexander broke up the pass. Then McCarthy decided to go for it on fourth down, another pass attempt failed when defensive lineman Jarran Reed pressured Prescott into an incompletion. But if McCarthy knew he was going to go for it on fourth down, he probably should have gotten the Packers into their nickel defense with passing personnel and then run it on third down.
Isaiah McDuffie proving to be a solid fill-in for injured inside linebackers
Isaiah McDuffie played another solid game at inside linebacker with De’Vondre Campbell and Krys Barnes out because of injuries. McDuffie isn’t big (227 pounds) but he’s aggressive pressing his gap on runs to his side of the field, which helps the run defense whether he makes the tackles or forces the running back to move sideways. McDuffie finished with a team-high 12 tackles.