Marquez Valdes-Scantling guts it out for Packers' offense

Second-year receiver made his 20 snaps count against Oakland

WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling

GREEN BAY – Marquez Valdes-Scantling played only 20 snaps against Oakland, but it was enough for the second-year receiver to notch the Packers' two longest offensive plays of the season in the 42-24 victory over the Raiders.

A game-time decision on Sunday, Valdes-Scantling overcame lingering knee and ankle injuries to catch a 59-yard deep pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the very first play of the second half.

Looking to wrap up Green Bay's sixth win of the 2019 season, Valdes-Scantling then sprinted 74 yards down the sideline with 6 minutes, 28 seconds left in the game for his longest career touchdown catch to definitively put the game out of reach.

Afterward, Rodgers had a little fun with his young receiver about the decision to suit up against the Raiders.

"I was teasing him on sidelines in the fourth quarter there, 'Bet you're glad you played,'" said Rodgers with a sly smile during his postgame news conference. "Obviously, there's a lot of guys playing with stuff … but that's what it means to be a pro and I'm proud of MVS for stepping up and playing."

The week was a serious gut-check for Valdes-Scantling, who has now played in 23 straight games since the Packers drafted him last year in the fifth round out of the University of South Florida.

The streak appeared to be in jeopardy coming out of last Monday's 23-22 win over Detroit, but the young receiver managed to play against Oakland despite not practicing.

Knowing his importance to an offense already without Davante Adams (turf toe) and potentially without veteran Geronimo Allison (concussion), Valdes-Scantling stayed in the training room all week before getting cleared to play Sunday morning.

"The trainers did an amazing job getting as ready as I could to go out and produce," said Valdes-Scantling, who had a career-high 133 receiving yards on those two catches. "Obviously my reps were limited just so I can make sure I'm able to play. But they did a good job of getting me ready to go out and produce when I could."

Through seven games, Valdes-Scantling leads the Packers with 416 yards and two touchdowns on 21 catches. His five catches of more than 40 yards also are the most in the NFL, while his 19.8 yards per catch are second among qualifying receivers only to Cincinnati's John Ross, who's currently on injured reserve.

Most importantly, Valdes-Scantling hasn't dropped a pass yet this year on 35 targets. When his team needed him Sunday, the 6-foot-4, 206-pound receiver did everything he could to be on the field.

"I know he was battling through it," said Head Coach Matt LaFleur after the game. "I know he's not feeling 100 percent but that's a lot of guys in this league right now. That's what it's all about. I loved the grit that he showed and the determination that he showed, and he came up big for us because he had two huge receptions in this game."

LaFleur and the coaching staff were smart with how they utilized both Valdes-Scantling and Allison, who also played after clearing the NFL concussion protocol Saturday morning.

Allison (34 of 60 snaps) started but Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard (51) and Jake Kumerow (43) were all actively involved in the game plan. The four receivers shouldered the load without Adams, combining for 262 of Rodgers' 429 passing yards.

Valdes-Scantling's gritty performance reminded the Packers' quarterback of what Adams endured playing through a badly injured ankle when the Packers were without Jordy Nelson in 2015.

"I really feel like whether it's expressed or not, one reason that Marquez played (Sunday) was because he knows how important it is to the guys in that room," Rodgers said. "He knows how important it is to me. He knows how important it is to Davante because Davante played damn near a whole season on a terrible ankle. That's what you do. You go out and perform and play, and I'm really proud of that room."

After getting time to process the win, LaFleur acknowledged on Monday the benefits for the passing offense learning to thrive without Adams.

While the Packers hope to have their two-time Pro Bowl receiver back in the fold soon, Valdes-Scantling relished the opportunity to showcase the depth of Green Bay's receiving corps.

"It's always good to get guys playing, especially battling through some injuries and stuff but it also gives other guys opportunities to go out and produce and play," Valdes-Scantling said. "Allen played well, Jake played well and to have the opportunity to go out and be good is good for us. We've got depth and we all can play. It's not just one guy goes down and we can't do it."

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