GREEN BAY – All season long, Matt LaFleur and the Packers’ coaching staff have preached to the locker room about the direct correlation between winning and every player doing his job.
Allen Lazard heard his head coach’s message loud and clear.
The first-year receiver, who had played all of 22 NFL offensive snaps entering Monday night’s game against Detroit, was called upon late to assist an offense playing without veterans Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison.
After hardly playing at all through the first three quarters, Lazard morphed into quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ go-to target with four critical catches for a team-high 65 yards and a touchdown in the final 9 minutes, 10 seconds of the Packers’ 23-22 victory over the Lions.
“It feels amazing,” Lazard said. “To sit here and be able to step up in a moment like this and to have the success that I had today, it’s something that I’ve dreamed about my entire life and something that I worked for. This is only the beginning. I’m just going to keep on working.”
Lazard’s longest catch – a 35-yard touchdown that brought Green Bay within two points of the Lions’ lead – was a thing of beauty with Rodgers placing a perfect over-the-shoulder pass over Detroit cornerback Justin Coleman and into the hands of his young receiver.
However, it was Lazard’s three receptions for 30 yards on the final drive that meant as much if not more. His two first downs added fuel to a 14-play, 77-yard drive that ate the final 6:46 off the clock and set up Mason Crosby’s 23-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.
Lazard enjoyed a record-breaking run at Iowa State but still went undrafted a year ago. He spent most of his rookie season on Jacksonville’s practice squad before signing with Green Bay in December.
Although Lazard didn’t make the initial 53-man roster, he was promoted in time for the regular-season opener against Chicago last month. To this point, he’d mostly been known for his work on special teams – he served as a rotational for the unit Monday – but Lazard’s performance against the Lions came as little surprise to those in the receivers’ room.
“It definitely wasn’t out of nowhere – we knew he could do it,” said receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who had the Packers’ longest offensive play Monday with a 46-yard catch at the start of the fourth quarter. “We have a super-talented room and anybody can go out and make those plays. So it was huge to see him go out and do it, but I’ve seen him do that countless times in practice.”
Lazard wasn’t the only reserve who came through in a big way for the offense against Detroit. Veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis had a pair of 25-yard catches to spark two scoring drives in the second half, while running back Jamaal Williams had his second career 100-yard rushing day.
Lambeau Field hosted a Monday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions on Oct. 14, 2019.
In his first game back after a scary hit against Philadelphia two-plus weeks ago, Williams was effective in both the run (14 carries for 104 yards) and pass game (four catches for 32 yards and a TD).
Along with registering a career-long 45-yard carry that led to a Crosby 37-yard field goal before halftime, Williams unselfishly gave himself up at the Detroit 3-yard line to enable the Packers to run out the clock and allow Crosby to kick the game-winner.
His performance was critical in the offense moving the chains throughout (22 first downs) and helping the team overcome three turnovers.
While fellow running back and close friend Aaron Jones draws the most national headlines, Williams is happy about his role on the team and making his opportunity count against the Lions – a sentiment that extends to all levels of the Packers’ depth chart.
“People don’t look at being at No. 2 as a bad thing. They take it as just waiting on their opportunity to come,” Williams said. “We just want to be able to compete. I feel like our team, you don’t just have to worry about the starters. You have to worry about backups and people coming in the game because we’re all good, we all know what we need to do.
“We know in all positions we can execute. Nobody is afraid to go out there and make plays. You never know who the playmakers are going to be.”
Whether it was an established veteran like Lewis or an unheralded first-year player like Lazard, the Packers knew it was going to take a full team effort to notch their fifth win of the year.
When the lights shined the brightest, the reserves made the plays they needed to make whether anyone expected them to or not. And where exactly does that mindset come from?
“Because I’ve been making plays my entire life,” Lazard said. “I’m made for stuff like this. I’m made for big moments. It’s something that I’ll never back down from.”