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Lions tackle unique threat in Packers’ Ty Montgomery

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Ty Montgomery

Allen Park – When the Detroit Lions had depth issues at running back earlier this season, the team worked wide receiver Golden Tate into the backfield mix.

It was a temporary solution to a temporary problem, which came with a pair of added benefits. It offered an unexpected wrinkle to the game plan and helped break Tate out of an early-season slump.

Facing a similar issue, with starter Eddie Lacy and backup James Starks out with injury, the Green Bay Packers shifted receiver Ty Montgomery to running back. After some surprising success, that move has become permanent.

“Ty is a very, very bright young man, great work ethic,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think anytime you make a big change like that position-wise, especially to the running back position, the question you’ve got to answer is, can he play on third down?”

Being able to keep a back on the field all three downs prevents a team from tipping its play-calling preference based on personnel.

After Montgomery cleared that hurdle, his role increased, and so did his production. His breakout game came this month when he carried the ball 16 times for 162 yards and two touchdowns against the Chicago Bears.

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While he would embrace the challenge if his coaches asked, Tate couldn’t imagine making a full-time position switch as seamlessly as Montgomery has done it. Having two inches and 20 pounds on Tate doesn’t hurt, given the physical demands of the position.

“I’m very impressed and he’s been doing a great job,” Tate said. “I think it’s very, very difficult. When you’re a running back, there’re protections on top of your routes, on top of your hot (routes). … I can’t imagine. He’s finding away.”

Montgomery’s teammate, Jordy Nelson, has also been blown away.

“I think when he first went over there we all thought he’d just be like a receiver out of the backfield, get some matchups on the linebackers, but he’s became a full-fledge running back,” Nelson said. “For him to do that, I think it was a huge factor for us.”

In the games where Montgomery has had nine or more carries, the Packers are 4-0. And with his refined receiving skills, he also remains a constant threat out of the backfield.

“I mean they can do so many things with him,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He lines up in the backfield and all of the sudden he can flex outside and be a guy that you really have to be concerned about, particularly depending on who you have on him. Those matchups create some problems. The linebacker is on him, that’s a tough duty.”