GREEN BAY – There’s perhaps no greater trial by fire in the NFL than a rookie receiver hearing his number called in a two-minute situation.
A little more than a week ago, Equanimeous St. Brown was thrust into that exact predicament with the Packers needing a field goal to complete a comeback victory over the San Francisco 49ers in front of 77,642 at Lambeau Field.
A rookie sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame, St. Brown ran a perfect route to the sideline and turned his head quick enough to bring in a 19-yard pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the San Francisco 28-yard line with 11 seconds remaining.
The play helped continue a 10-play, 81-yard scoring series that culminated in a Mason Crosby 27-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to send the Packers into their Week 7 bye with an emotional 33-30 win over the 49ers.
“I wasn’t thinking he was going to throw it, but you just have to be ready,” St. Brown said. “With Aaron out there, you never know where he’s going to put it. He could put it anywhere, so you always have to be ready. I made the play when it came my way.”
Whether you’re a 10-year veteran or rookie seeing your first extended exposure to the offense, any skill-position player agrees the game changes when Rodgers has his eyes locked on you and directs a ball to your place on the field.
St. Brown had played sparingly prior to getting called into action against Detroit in Week 5 for an injured Geronimo Allison. The rookie receiver flashed playmaking ability in his offensive debut against the Lions, extending on a catch for 54 yards.
Needless to say, nobody in the Packers’ receiver room was surprised to see St. Brown haul in a critical catch off the back-shoulder pass in a key situation against the 49ers.
“His growth since he’s gotten here is one of the biggest that I’ve seen since I’ve been in Green Bay,” receiver Davante Adams said of St. Brown. “(He was) a guy with a lot of talent when he stepped in here. He needed to get polished up a little bit and he’s made tremendous strides, plays incredibly fast and he makes plays like that.”
The Packers are hoping to get both Randall Cobb and Allison back from hamstring injuries in the near future, but St. Brown and rookie fifth-round pick Marquez Valdes-Scantling helped stem the tide with 14 combined catches for 279 yards and a touchdown in the two games entering the bye week.
St. Brown knows what’s required of rookies playing behind three proven veterans. Whenever his number is called again, the 6-foot-5, 214-pound receiver will be ready. The same goes for Valdes-Scantling and fourth-round pick J’Mon Moore.
“We’re doing our jobs,” St. Brown said. “That’s what they drafted us for – to come out here and make plays and filling in where we need to be.”