GREEN BAY – Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling knows he has to do a better job protecting the football with the game on the line, and he also knows his teammates are behind him 100%.
Valdes-Scantling picked the worst time to have the first fumble of his three-year NFL career on Sunday at Indianapolis, in overtime to set up the Colts' game-winning field goal.
But no one within the team was blaming him for the loss, not after his 47-yard reception late in the fourth quarter helped get the game to OT in the first place.
Afterward, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Head Coach Matt LaFleur both publicly expressed their support to help him get through a tough moment, and later Sunday as he was being subjected to abuse on social media that included death threats, other teammates were coming to his defense.
"Those are the people that I care about," Valdes-Scantling said Monday, adding that the internet attacks didn't really faze him. "That's what brotherhood is all about. No one's ever going to be perfect and obviously me taking it to heart with that costly mistake at the end of the game, it hurt, but I've got my brothers to support me, and that's the family that matters."
LaFleur was proud to see and hear his players supporting Valdes-Scantling during what the receiver himself called the "lowest point" of his career.
"This is the ultimate team sport and I don't think there's anybody in that locker room that doesn't have Marquez's back," LaFleur said. "He did so many good things yesterday. We wouldn't even have been in a position to win the game without his efforts.
"There was so much good, and you know, he had one bad play. And like we say to all our guys, it never comes down to one play. I have more confidence in Marquez just because all of the little things he's been doing."
Those little things included several blocks on the perimeter to keep the offense moving during a strong first half. For the game, Valdes-Scantling caught three passes for 55 yards to give him 518 receiving yards on the season, second on the team and on pace for a career high. The 47-yard bomb came on third-and-10 in practically a do-or-die situation.
A week ago, Valdes-Scantling caught a career-long 78-yard TD and had a career-best 149 receiving yards, playing more confidently and decisively on the field, according to LaFleur. The head coach sees that continuing down the stretch as he moves on from the fumble.
"This is a tough game for tough-minded men and you have to be mentally strong," LaFleur said. "I think that's where he's improved the most is, despite maybe having a bad play he's able to bounce back, and I would expect nothing other than that moving forward from him."
As for the mistake, Valdes-Scantling took full responsibility, even though a poor block allowed safety Julian Blackmon to rake an arm across the ball on the bubble screen.
"At the end of the day, the ball's in my hands," Valdes-Scantling said. "It was just the perfect timing where he caught me transitioning the ball from the catch to the tuck. It was a great play by him. That's what it boils down to. I have to be better with the ball security."
That's suddenly a big issue for the Packers in general, as the overtime fumble was their fourth turnover of Sunday's game and sixth in the last two weeks, after giving it away only three times in the first eight games of the season.
Shifts like that are disconcerting, as was a second half Sunday that looked nothing like a first half in which the Packers scored 28 points against one of the best defenses in the league.
LaFleur felt while "the energy, the effort, the focus" were present throughout, the consistency of the execution and the coaching were not.
Two three-and-outs on offense to start the second half didn't help Green Bay's struggling defense, and LaFleur blamed himself for not having a good red-zone play ready late in the fourth quarter when the Packers got to the 15-yard line with a chance to win the game.
"You've got to play 60 minutes, you've got to play four quarters," he said. "And we didn't do that. We played one pretty good half of football."