EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Marcedes Lewis had caught 33 touchdowns in his 13-year NFL career entering Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.
However, the Packers’ veteran tight end checked an item off his football bucket list when he became the 38th different receiver to catch a touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter of Green Bay’s 31-13 victory.
It came on a 1-yard pass off a Rodgers’ rollout with a little more than seven minutes remaining. Signed last year as a free agent, Lewis has been a vocal and emotional leader for the locker room despite his secondary role in the offense.
Over the past two years, the former Pro Bowler has forged a strong bond with Rodgers. That was never more evident than when the two-time MVP quarterback ran into the end zone to celebrate with Lewis after his first score in a Packers uniform.
“Him and I, it’s more than just football,” said Lewis of Rodgers. “We share a lot of conversations about leading this team in the right way and being accountable when your number is called.
“At this part of my career, I’m not getting targeted all the time. That’s not my job. But when I am targeted, make the big play and be accountable, and I was able to do that today.”
Rodgers was in prime form Sunday, throwing for 243 yards and four touchdowns despite rainy and snowy conditions. He hit first-year receiver Allen Lazard on two lengthy passes in the opening quarter, including a 37-yard touchdown, and also threw two other touchdowns to receiver Davante Adams.
However, it was no secret his favorite pass of the day was the simple touchdown to Lewis, which came after the Giants loaded the box to stop the run on second-and-goal.
“I’m always happy throwing a touchdown pass but it was a little something special with Marcedes, just because the kind of guy that he is, kind of player that he is, what he’s meant to our team this year from a leadership standpoint,” Rodgers said. “He’s a pro’s pro.
“He hasn’t been a huge factor in the passing game but he’s been a rock in the run game opening up holes for us and doing his job, never complaining, leading by example. At this point, I couldn’t have thrown a touchdown to a better guy.”
No shortage of options: There was a time not long ago when it was relatively easy to diagnose where the Packers might be going with the football in any given week.
For years, the offense was primarily centered on Pro Bowl receivers Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Adams, with a few others mixed in here or there.
Sunday’s win over the Giants was another example of what might be the offense’s greatest strength – depth and versatility. With the Giants keying in on running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, the Packers turned to Lazard, Adams and Geronimo Allison to lead the production at the skill positions.
Lazard had his first career 100-yard day, while Adams led the offense with six catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns in addition to drawing two defensive pass interference penalties on third downs.
Allison only had two catches for 20 yards but each gave Green Bay first downs in key situations – a 15-yard catch on fourth-and-10 in the third quarter and a 5-yard reception on third-and-5 in the fourth.
“I was talking to the wideouts at the end of the game and I said this is a unique team because – when Jordy was the (number) 1, you expected Jordy was going to be the leading receiver for that day,” Adams said. “Now, it’s kind of up in the air. Is it going to be Allen? Is it going to be Jake (Kumerow)? Is it going to be Quez (Marquez Valdes-Scantling), G-mo or myself? That just keeps everybody on their toes ready to go basically.”
Take it away now: Looking for a bounce-back performance from last week’s 37-8 loss to San Francisco, the Packers’ defense responded with a three-takeaway day against the Giants and rookie quarterback Daniel Jones.
Cornerback Kevin King (second quarter) and safety Darnell Savage (fourth quarter) snagged their fourth and second picks, respectively, of the season on pressured overthrows, while Tramon Williams grabbed his second INT of the year down the sideline against receiver Darius Slayton to shut the door with 6:27 remaining.
“Right before the snap, I knew they had to make a big play at that point in time in the game,” Williams said. “I saw him and the quarterback make signals before the snap and just expected a deep route. I just went up and made the play with the ball in the air.”
Knocking ’em down: Za'Darius Smith was held without a sack for only the fourth time this season but the Packers’ fifth-year linebacker still made his presence felt all afternoon.
Smith was credited with five knockdowns of Jones, who routinely faced pressure en route to completing only 20-of-37 passes for 240 yards, one touchdown and three INTs.
“I think I told y’all earlier this year pressure counts, too, if you don’t get a sack,” Smith said. “As you can see, it helped us a lot. He threw a lot of incomplete passes and got hit a lot, too. We didn’t get any sacks today, but on our side, it helped us a lot to get a lot of pressure and quarterback hits.”
Rain, sleet and snow: The Packers and Giants played through practically every form of precipitation possible with pregame rain and sleet turning to snow and then back to rain by the end of the game.
Williams said afterward he never had experienced anything quite like those conditions before in his 13-year NFL career.
“Everything today. Man, I don’t think I’ve been a part of that one right there,” Williams said. “I got an opportunity to see all the elements today. That definitely goes down in my history book, for sure.”