Blake Martinez's sack, INT spark fourth-quarter turnaround

LB Blake Martinez
LB Blake Martinez

DETROIT – It was one of those moments that comes every so often throughout the course of the season when time sort of stood still for Blake Martinez.

One play after Za'Darius Smith aided Martinez in securing a 7-yard sack of David Blough, the Packers' outside linebacker helped pressure the Detroit quarterback into an ill-advised pass deep downfield.

Instead of the ball reaching its intended target of receiver Chris Lacy, Martinez came underneath, intercepted it and returned it 22 yards to midfield. After an unnecessary roughness penalty on Danny Amendola following the play, the Packers took over at the Detroit 40.

Martinez, who has been playing with a modified club on his injured hand for most of the season, had a similar play unfold this past week in practice before the club forced the ball to pop out of his grasp.

This time, he secured it and the play proved to be the perfect antidote to what ailed Green Bay prior to rebounding for a 23-20 win over Detroit at Ford Field.

"It was one of those slow-motion moments," said Martinez, whose pick came with the Packers trailing 20-13 with 8 minutes, 3 seconds left in the fourth quarter. "It was just one of those things where Za'Darius makes an amazing pressure, causes him to throw it and I made the play."

As a team, the Packers forged through a rough first half in which the offense registered only three points and the defense surrendered two touchdowns and a 40-yard Ty Johnson run that set up a 42-yard Matt Prater field goal that gave Detroit a 17-3 halftime lead.

The second half told a much different story, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The Lions produced only 54 total yards of offense and four first downs in the final two quarters.

Detroit's only second-half points came after a 30-yard defensive pass interference penalty helped set up a 56-yard Prater field goal with 11:08 left in the fourth quarter.

It wasn't until that next Lions possession Green Bay was finally able to get a much-needed takeaway. After the game, Za'Darius Smith playfully hollered over to Martinez while he was addressing the media to be sure to thank him for his role in the back-to-back sack and interception.

"That was real big," said Smith during his own media session. "And to get off at basically the touch of the ball (on the sack), knowing our brotherhood, knowing Blake had my back in that situation to where he came and cleaned the guy up, man, and that was a good sack for him.

"And the second play, I felt like we disrupted the quarterback in that situation. We had him rumbling in the pocket and he threw it up and that was a big gift to get for Blake."

The Lions still had a chance to retake the lead after the turnover but their drive stalled after six plays and 16 yards, which led to Green Bay getting a chance at a game-winning drive.

Sunday marked the fifth straight game the Packers' defense has allowed 20 or fewer points, its longest streak since the 2010 team did it in six consecutive contests.

With Martinez's interception, Green Bay finished the regular season with 25 takeaways on the year – a significant jump from the 15 the defense forced in 2018.

For a defense that has had to overcome adversity at various intervals during the season, it proved again capable of bouncing back and contributing to a dramatic victory.

"Just to know that you finished the game, it says a lot," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "It can pump a lot of energy, it can pump a lot of confidence into your team. I don't think we lacked confidence at all from the beginning, but just to have a chance to finish a game that we know we needed to finish, we know we wanted to finish, it was good for the guys to really feel passionate about a game like this."

Lazard and the Lions: Two months after his breakout performance in the fourth quarter against Detroit, Allen Lazard again came through in the clutch for his offense.

Running a quarters-coverage beater on third-and-10 from the Detroit 28, the Packers' first-year receiver worked his way inside of Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay and perfectly high-pointed Aaron Rodgers' deep ball for a game-tying, 28-yard touchdown to capitalize on Martinez's interception.

"If we got quarters, I knew there was a really good chance I'd get the ball," said Lazard, who finished with four receptions for 69 yards. "So I tried to run my route to mimic running an out route, because I knew how he was going to play and he was going to jump it, and I was going to be able to get inside leverage and leave it up to '12' to do the rest."

Lazard caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers in under almost the exact same circumstances in the team's Week 6 meeting with the Lions. He had four catches for 65 yards and a TD despite playing only 17 fourth-quarter snaps in that contest.

If that wasn't enough, Lazard also snagged a 13-yard slant pass on third-and-9 during the game-winning drive. He suffered an ankle injury on the play and didn't return, but said afterward he felt like he'd be all right.

"We just decided it would probably be better to let these other guys go out there and do their thing," Lazard said. "We still won the game so that's all that matters."

One hundred and 1,000: As sweet as it was for Aaron Jones to surpass 1,000 rushing yards on the season for the first time in his NFL career, the Packers' third-year running back's 100 rushing yards and 43 receiving yards factored heavily into the comeback win.

An offensive spark when the Packers needed it the most, Jones sliced through several Detroit defenders on his way to picking up 31 yards on a screen pass with less than a minute remaining.

The play pushed the ball to the Lions' 20-yard line, helping set up Mason Crosby's game-winning 33-yard field goal.

"A-Rod just came in the huddle and said, 'Are you boys ready for a screen?' I was like, 'Yeah, of course,'" Jones said. "He was like, 'Go make a play, kid.' I was looking at him and said, 'Yes, sir.'

"It was just a great play by him. I'm glad he got it to me, and I was able to make a play after that."

The Green Bay Packers faced off against the Detroit Lions in the 2019 regular-season finale at Ford Field.

Digging deep on the O-line: All eyes were on Lucas Patrick and Jared Veldheer with center Corey Linsley (back) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (evaluation for a concussion) leaving Sunday's game and not returning.

And neither reserve disappointed.

Patrick, who signed a contract extension with Green Bay on Saturday, filled in admirably at center while Veldheer held his own at right tackle in the second half.

Veldheer retired in May before choosing to resume his NFL career last month. Sunday marked the first offensive snaps Veldheer had seen since his last start at right tackle for Denver on Dec. 30, 2018 (vs. Los Angeles Chargers).

"It felt pretty good. I'm glad I had a month of practices to knock some dust off," said Veldheer, a Michigan native who had several friends and family in attendance. "Getting out there didn't feel too crazy. It was fun being back out there. It hasn't seemed like a year."

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