Packers 2016 Recap: CB Ladarius Gunter
- 50 tackles, 12 passes defensed
- Pro Football Focus: 47.6/100 (98th out of 112 qualified cornerbacks)
Expectations going into the season: Low
Expectations were: Exceeded
Analysis: We’re so sorry, Ladarius Gunter
With eleven seconds left in the first half of the NFC Championship, the Atlanta Falcons had made their way to the Green Bay Packers’ five yard line. Already leading 17-0, the Falcons had an opportunity to go for a kill shot.
Having burned their third timeout, the Falcons broke the huddle and set up a quick pass to Mohamed Sanu out of a bunch formation to the left. If the pass fell incomplete, the Falcons would still have a chance to try a short field goal and extend their already commanding lead.
The Packers defense held, the pass fell harmlessly to the ground, and for a moment, it looked like the Falcons would send on the kicking team.
But only for a second.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense broke the huddle and hustled to the line, splitting all-world receiver Julio Jones wide to the right. Second year corner Ladarius Gunter followed him, and as a safety rolled to the line of scrimmage, Gunter suddenly found himself alone with Jones.
The Falcons, needing to get the ball into the end zone or risk coming away with nothing, didn’t hesitate. Ryan snapped the ball, wheeled immediately to his right, and fired a laser to Jones’ outside shoulder.
Touchdown. 24-0 Atlanta. Game over.
Gunter had no chance. He shouldn’t have been there to begin with.
The only reason Gunter was across from Jones at all was because of an extraordinary chain of events that led to a second year undrafted cornerback facing off with one of the best receivers in the known universe.
First, Sam Shields ended his season with a concussion in Week 1. Then, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins went missing, never to return. Then, faced with the loss of his top cover man and the disappearance of two high draft picks, general manager Ted Thompson sat on his hands, deciding that the Packers would ride into the playoffs with their former number four cornerback shadowing opponents’ top receivers.
It wasn’t supposed to be Gunter facing down Julio Jones, who would later all but rip Gunter’s soul right out of his body on a demoralizing 73-yard catch and run touchdown.
But unfortunately for Gunter, it was.