GREEN BAY – It didn't take long for Christian Watson to find his way back to the end zone.
Making his 2023 debut on Thursday night against Detroit, the Packers' second-year receiver hauled in a 1-yard touchdown pass at the start of the third quarter to help ignite Green Bay's offense after a sluggish first half.
While the score wasn't enough for Green Bay to avoid a 34-20 defeat at the hands of the Lions, it was a reminder of how dynamic Watson can be in the red zone after he led the Packers with nine touchdowns (seven receiving, two rushing) as a rookie a year ago.
Green Bay was without Watson for the first three games of the 2023 campaign due to a hamstring injury he suffered in preparation for Week 1 against Chicago.
"It felt good to have him out there," receiver Romeo Doubs said. "I know what he can do, and I know he's explosive in his skill set."
Watson, who was operating on a snap count, didn't touch the ball in the first half but was responsible for the Packers' first explosive play coming out of halftime.
On first-and-10 from the Green Bay 28, Watson found a hole in the middle of Detroit's zone defense and looked in a 24-yard pass from quarterback Jordan Love.
The Packers moved into goal-to-go after Doubs caught a 15-yard pass on fourth-and-9. Two plays later, from the Detroit 1, Watson came uncovered after two Lions defensive backs stuck with Doubs on a slant while Watson ran a fade from the slot to the pylon.
"It felt good," Watson said. "I was definitely really excited to get out there and play. Obviously, less excited with the results.
"Every single touchdown is sweet. I'm definitely happy about that but it doesn't really mean much if we lose."
Watson was champing at the bit to get on the field Thursday but understood the plan the Packers had in place for him. He hopes to build on this performance when Green Bay travels to play the Las Vegas Raiders Oct. 9.
"At the end of the day, I know they were trying to do what is best for me," Watson said. "I was trying to push myself probably a little bit more than I should have been. So, I'm definitely glad they have my back in the training room."
Flag on the field goal: The Packers already had their kick-return unit on the field when officials told them that linebacker Quay Walker had been flagged for leaping on kicker Riley Patterson's 30-yard field goal.
It was determined Walker took a running start on the play before leaping over Detroit's field-goal protection unit. The penalty nullified the kick, gave the Lions a first down and moved the ball half the distance to GB's goal line.
Detroit used the second chance to feed running back David Montgomery, who put the Lions up 34-17 with a 1-yard TD run on fourth-and-goal with 6:03 remaining.
"I was just in the moment, but I've got to be aware. That's on me," Walker said. "You can't have a running start. You have to just already be down, take one step and then you can jump if you decide to do so."
Walker finished with a career-high 19 tackles (one for a loss) against the Lions. His importance on defense increased even more with De'Vondre Campbell currently sidelined with an ankle injury.
"Quay's one of our leaders, man," linebacker Rashan Gary said. "He plays with so much passion. A call like that? Man, (on to the) next call. Because a player like that, he's able to make up for it. That's a very passionate leader."
Aaron Jones puts hamstring behind him: The Pro Bowl running back carried the ball only five times for 18 yards against Detroit but came out of the contest no worse for wear.
Like Watson, Jones was on a rep count in his first game back from the hamstring injury he suffered during his 112-yard, two-TD performance against the Bears in Week 1.
"We have some of the best training staff in the world and they take great care of us and keep our best interest in mind," Jones said. "Now, I feel like I'll be able to go out there against Vegas on Monday night (Oct. 9) and be at 100%."
Check out photos from the Week 4 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023.
Feeling for Bakhtiari: Hours before the game, the Packers announced they placed left tackle David Bakhtiari on injured reserve.
The five-time All-Pro has battled persistent knee problems since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 31, 2020. He's played in 13 games the past two-plus seasons.
"Very tough," said Jones when asked about the difficulty of losing Bakhtiari again. "A guy like Dave, he's been here so long and been a staple in our offense, getting guys going. … Anytime you lose a big piece like that, it hurts."
Right guard Jon Runyan injured his ankle during the game and was sporting a protective boot in the postgame locker room but said he expects to be fine.
The Packers' only other reported injury was tight end Luke Musgrave, who was diagnosed with a concussion.