Contributions come from all angles, give Packers plenty to smile about

Two TD catches, two key defensive plays turned in by role players

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Packers WR Malik Taylor celebrates a touchdown catch with WR Davante Adams and QB Aaron Rodgers

After last week, the most important thing was the win – reset, recover, resume the pre-bye results.

The big stuff was valuable, such as making another offensive line combination work, scoring plenty of points without Aaron Jones, and finding some footing in the red zone defensively.

But there were plenty of little things the Packers could smile about from Sunday's 35-20 win at Houston, too, that are worth filing away as this promising season unfolds.

First, two players scored their first official NFL touchdowns, as receiver Malik Taylor and tight end Jace Sternberger found paydirt on short passes from Aaron Rodgers.

Then, rookie safeties Vernon Scott and Henry Black each made a big play late in the game to help preserve the Packers' lead.

"That definitely lit up the bingo card, I'm sure, from training camp – Sternberger touchdown, Malik Taylor touchdown, Henry Black forced fumble – that's pretty special right there," Rodgers said. "That's a credit to those guys. There were a lot of guys we knew this week that were gonna get a chance to play."

The Packers are in need of finding more end-zone targets for Rodgers during the prolonged absence of receiver Allen Lazard, and with running back Aaron Jones missing his first game of the season, opportunities presented themselves.

The "official" note on the Taylor and Sternberger TDs is due to Sternberger's playoff score last January. Regular-season stats are what go on a player's ledger in the league and team archives.

Be that as it may, the goal-line connections in the first half off play-action fakes were big for both players as they work to find roles in the Packers' offense. They'll give future opposing defenses more to think about, too.

"It's just encouraging to see that you can put a little something on those guys' plates and they come through for you when you need them," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said.

"I hope it trends upward for us in terms of just the confidence we have in those young guys, that when their number's called, they're able to deliver for us. That's critical."

The lesser-knowns on defense showed up big down the stretch in this one.

With safety Darnell Savage out due to injury, Will Redmond slid into the starting lineup and everybody else at the position moved up a peg or two, after Raven Greene also departed with an injury. That included rookie seventh-round pick Scott and practice-squad call-up Black.

The Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans faced off in a Week 7 matchup on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020.

Early in the fourth quarter, Scott made a nice open-field tackle for loss of Duke Johnson on third down in the red zone, forcing the Texans to settle for a field goal.

Then, after Houston's successful onside kick in the last two minutes, it was Black – the Baylor product elevated to the active roster as one of two weekly practice-squad call-ups the day before the game – laying a big hit on David Johnson to pop the ball loose. Fellow safety Adrian Amos recovered to end any drama that might have ensued with Houston trying to make it a one-score game.

Black played just a handful of snaps on defense but came away with two tackles as well as the forced fumble. Talk about making the most of your chances.

"I'm happy for him," Amos said. "He came in and played very well for what he had to do. That's what you expect. We all trust one another and we don't flinch."

Who knows how much Taylor, Sternberger, Scott and Black will be needed as the season rolls on, but their moments Sunday were the quiet contributions that helped keep things on track.

Bigger picture, offensively speaking, the ability to adjust to injuries and maintain a productive scoring pace has been the story of the season. Last week's struggle at Tampa Bay is the only blip on the radar thus far.

Sunday's second-half scuffles, which included three straight three-and-outs, were "head scratching" to Rodgers, but there was a sense after his postgame Zoom call with the media that he didn't mind feeling as though five touchdowns did not make for a peak performance.

"If we want to be a great team we've got to win these games," he said. "I don't think it was the cleanest game from an operations standpoint … but then you turn around and score 35 points. We were really good on third down, we were really good in the red zone.

"So it's one of those kind of strange games where you're definitely productive, but there was some more out there we probably could have had."

As he said last week about the Tampa Bay outing being an anomaly and not a trend, he'll have a chance to prove himself right about this one, too.

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