GREEN BAY, Wis. — Ted Ginn Jr. has been in the NFL far too long to let a couple of mistakes ruin his day, even the big kind of mistakes that can cost a team points.
Ginn fumbled one early punt and nearly fumbled another, meaning he could have been the goat leaving Lambeau Field.
The 32-year-old Ginn made up for his miscues by torching the Green Bay Packers' secondary repeatedly in the 26-17 win the New Orleans Saints ground out at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
"I come from a coach's background, and when one thing isn't going right, you can't let the other one slip," said Ginn, whose father is the longtime head coach at Cleveland's Glenville High. "I could get beat up for the punt return, but as far as offense, I came through for my team."
A Green Bay mistake saved Ginn from making the kind of blunder that could have changed the entire tenor of the game. A 46-yard touchdown run by Aaron Jones and Damarious Randall's end-zone interception of Drew Brees had given the Packers a 7-0 lead after the game's first two series, and then Ginn dropped a punt that Green Bay seemingly recovered.
Except that Ginn had waved for a fair catch, and the rule states that a player must be given ample opportunity to make the catch, meaning the Packers couldn't hit Ginn until the ball hit the ground, even though he was bobbling the return.
Two plays later, Ginn bounced back with a sliding 40-yard catch of an under-thrown deep ball from Brees. But then he muffed another punt midway through the second quarter, this time with an open field in front of him and a chance for a big return. He recovered it but only managed a 7-yard return.
A rainy day at Lambeau Field contributed to Ginn's problems fielding punts.
"Definitely the conditions," Ginn said. "The ball's wet from getting snapped; your jersey's wet. If you don't do all the right things that you're supposed to do as a punt returner, little things like that will happen."
Ginn refused to let the fumbling problems keep him from making an impact in the passing game. A 17-yard gain on a screen with two minutes left in the first half kept the Saints from having to give the Packers a short field, and on the second drive of the second half, he turned a short throw into a 47-yard gain to set up a field goal that gave the Saints their first lead.
"You see that?" wide receiver Brandon Coleman said. "He took a 10-yard hook and turned it into 60-something yards."
Ginn has 22 catches for 353 yards this season, and he's been even more deadly on crossing routes and drags than the deep balls he's known for catching.
"Any time you have guys that can make those types of plays for you, those are huge momentum boosts and builders," Brees said.
A player with Ginn's speed and open-field running ability often ends up in a gimmicky role that is heavy on screens and deep balls down the field.
But Ginn has been at his best in his career when teams did what the Saints are doing now: Get him the football in the middle of the field and allow him to make defenders miss with the kind of move that froze Green Bay cornerback Davon House in the middle of the field on his 47-yard catch.
"My first year back in Carolina, it was drags, slants, whatever you want to call it," Ginn said. "In this league, a lot of guys know you for going deep. ... you can change that up."
Saints coach Sean Payton knew what Ginn was capable of, and his role in the offense appears to be expanding. After catching 11 passes for 146 yards in the first four games, Ginn has 11 catches for 207 yards in the two games since the bye week.
"Over the years, Sean was able to watch me," Ginn said. "He always told me when I got here, we're going to try to get the ball in your hands in different ways, and I just believed in the process."
The process is paying off.