GREEN BAY – Recapping the unsung heroes from the Packers’ Monday night victory over the Lions starts with the very first play of the game.
Detroit called a flea-flicker, caught Green Bay in the right “quarters” coverage, sold the run action well and hit Kenny Golladay over the top for a 66-yard gain. The only reason it wasn’t an opening-play touchdown was Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander chased down Golladay from behind, turning and breaking into a dead sprint as soon as Matthew Stafford’s pass was in the air.
“I tell you what, that’s a heck of a hustle play by Jaire to make that tackle,” Head Coach Matt LaFleur said on Tuesday, about 15 hours after the Packers pulled out a come-from-behind 23-22 triumph over Detroit. “We held them to three points right there, and in a game like that, every point is absolutely critical.”
LaFleur also mentioned defensive lineman Dean Lowry leading a stout effort against the run. The Packers came into the game ranked 26th in the league, allowing 138 rushing yards per game, and they held the Lions to just 56.
Detroit’s top back, Kerryon Johnson, had just 34 yards on 13 carries, and the Lions’ longest rush of the game was a 10-yard scramble by Stafford.
“That’s been a problem up to this point, and I thought our guys were really disciplined,” LaFleur said of the run defense. “I thought we were physical, I thought we played our gaps, and I thought they did a really nice job.”
Other non-headline impact came from tight end Marcedes Lewis, with two catches for 50 yards, and punter JK Scott, who continued his strong start to 2019 with a 51.7-yard net average on three punts.
Even quarterback Aaron Rodgers qualifies, putting together a solid 90.0 passer rating (24-of-39, 283 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) despite working with a young, depleted receiving corps and a handful of drops. LaFleur counted six in all, one of them causing just Rodgers’ second interception of the season.
LaFleur lauded his two-time MVP not just for the “pinpoint accuracy” on the 35-yard TD pass to Allen Lazard in the fourth quarter, but for his ball placement on several scramble drills as well.
“I thought his performance was as good as he’s played,” LaFleur said. “He’s got to get help. I don’t care what quarterback (it is) in this league, you’ve got to get help from your supporting cast as well. I thought he threw some just unbelievable balls with tremendous accuracy. Our guys gotta make the catches.”
The drop-INT fell on undrafted rookie Darrius Shepherd, who slipped on a route at the goal line and couldn’t catch Rodgers’ throw, inadvertently deflecting it right into a defender’s arms. It added to Shepherd’s rough night, which included a muffed punt earlier in the game when he misjudged the ball, ended up trying to catch it with his hands over his head, and paid the price.
LaFleur didn’t directly say the miscue would cost Shepherd the punt-return job, but he did confirm it’s open for competition.
“If you get in a bad spot, you have to let the ball go or worst-case scenario fair-catch it and give yourself a chance,” LaFleur said. “He’ll learn from it. He’ll bounce back. He’s tough-minded. All you can do is move forward.”
If Shepherd is anything like the rest of the team, he will recover as LaFleur said. Resiliency was the name of the game in rallying to win when two deep balls allowed, a dropped third-down pass, a controversial fourth-and-goal call and a fumble all went against the Packers in the game’s first 11½ minutes, leading to a 13-0 deficit.
“The game couldn’t have started much worse for us,” LaFleur said. “Our defense answered the bell when we put them as a team in bad situations. When you look at it, we had three turnovers and they kicked field goals on all three of those turnovers.
“Like I said, I liked our guys’ fight, their resolve and they stuck together and we didn’t blink.”