The Green Bay Packers are sitting pretty at 5-1, and 3-0 in the NFC North. This is the team’s first 3-0 start in the division since 2012. It was a hard-fought, and at times controversial victory, but the Packers got the job done at home.
“They don’t give you style points in this league. They all count the same,” said Head Coach Matt LaFleur at the podium after the game.
Without Davante Adams, the receiving core still struggled for most of the night. Geronimo Allison also left the game after a hit to the helmet. He’s officially listed as being evaluated for a chest injury and a concussion.
Undrafted receiver Allen Lazard made big plays in key moments to give the Packers the win, and his future Hall of Fame quarterback definitely took notice.
“In that fourth quarter he was certainly calling for Allen,” LaFleur said of Aaron Rodgers.
“I asked the receivers coach if 13 could come in for a little bit,” said Rodgers with a smile.
Lazard ended the game with four receptions for 65 yards and one touchdown. His long came on the 35-yard score, his first NFL regular season touchdown.
“It feels amazing,” said Lazard about his first touchdown. “To sit here and just kind of, step up in a moment like this and have the success I had today, it’s something that I’ve dreamed about my entire life and something that I’ve worked for.”
Rodgers had plenty of praise for Lazard, including the way he prepares each week and practices.
“I actually sit next to him in the team meetings,” said Rodgers on Lazard. “We’ve struck up a pretty good friendship.
“The thing that got me was, which you love as a quarterback, and that’s when your receiver’s coming back and telling you he wants the ball. And what route she wants to run. The big first down we had to him on the out route, that was him coming back in the huddle telling me what play he wanted. And for a young guy to do that, how can you not have confidence in that?”
Aside from Lazard’s big performance, running back Jamaal Williams also had himself a huge night returning from a concussion sustained at Lambeau against the Eagles that kept him out of the Dallas game.
Williams had 104 yards rushing on the night with a career-long of 45 yards. The team had 170 yards total on the ground, the season’s best rushing performance thus far.
“I was trying to go to the house…” said Williams at his locker. “But I was like, I don’t know how close he was to me. You know these dudes love stripping for the ball, so I’m like they ain’t gonna get it from me. I’ll run down there with two hands on it.”
Williams likely saw Aaron Jones lose a fumble that was punched out and didn’t want to make the same mistake. The nice part about the tandem of Williams and Jones is that one always seems to be on when the other is having an off night. For Jones, he had a total of 47 yards on 11 attempts with a long of nine, but he also dropped what would have been a huge touchdown from Rodgers early in the game.
“I felt like we moved the ball well all night,” said Rodgers. He cited the turnovers and miscues on offense (drops specifically) as a factor preventing them from scoring, but offensively the team moved the ball well.
The Packers had 447 net yards on the night, with 283 coming in the passing game. Rodgers himself threw for two touchdowns and had a passer rating of 90. He also had one interception that came off a deflection on the goal line from Darrius Shepherd.
“You have to find a way in those tough spots, even when you’re not playing your best football, to squeeze out a win,” said veteran safety Adrian Amos.
While all three phases of the game had their share of struggles at certain moments, the Packers sealed a win when it mattered.
“That’s a sign of a great team. We win those games where it looks like you’re not supposed to win,” said Amos. “That’s a sign of greatness to come.”
With an offense missing its biggest star, Rodgers highlighted the running backs and tight ends taking their opportunities as they come. Williams, Jimmy Graham, and Marcedes Lewis all made their share of plays against Detroit.
“I think the most important thing that we’ve done on offense, and it starts with the staff, is really zeroing in on roles, specific roles for players. Because I think it allows guys to really buy into their part in the offense,” said Rodgers.
“Maybe no one bigger than Marcedes Lewis. A guy who most people, probably in this room, wrote off after his kind of lack of production last year. He went through a rigorous offseason training, kind of changed his body at 35 which is pretty impressive to see, and now he has a legitimate role where he’s a part of the offense, it’s defined, and you’ve seen him make plays.”
Lewis had two big receptions for 50 total yards on the night. While he’s yet to find the end zone this season, he’s making plays that help keep drives alive for the Packers.
“I’m really happy for him because he deserves it,” added Rodgers. “He’s a great teammate.”
Defensively, the Packers held the Lions to a season-low 56 yards rushing, averaging only 2.8 yards per carry. Even after allowing some splash plays in the first half, the defense settled down and shut things down in the second.
“This defense doesn’t give up. This team doesn’t give up,” said Preston Smith who had 1.5 sacks on the night.
Za’Darius Smith, who also had a sack on the night, recognized the offense for putting up points and keeping the game close all night.
“We got an offense,” he said smiling.
“We got Aaron Rodgers,” added Preston.
As the game went on, the Lions had plenty of opportunities to put points on the board, but settled for five field goals instead.
“As long as you’re holding teams to field goals, you’ve always got a chance,” said LaFleur.
What could have amounted to 35 points ended up only costing the Packers 15, and that was largely due to the defense holding strong when the Lions crossed midfield.
“We know in order to get where you want to get, down the line you’re going to be faced with games like this. Tight games you have to win on the last possession,” said veteran Tramon Williams.
The Packers won the game on their own last-second field goal, helping kicker Mason Crosby erase last year’s memories of bad kicks at Ford Field.
“We have three wins in the division and we’re 5-1. This was a big one,” he said. “Just the way we did it too. It wasn’t our prettiest win but to be able to find a way to win any way possible, that’s what this team’s about.”
The Packers stay home at Lambeau Field this week to take on the AFC West Oakland Raiders. In fact, Green Bay’s next three games are all against AFC West opponents. After that, it’s a daunting seven-game NFC stretch to close out the season. Only two of those NFC teams currently have a losing record.
At 3-0 in the division, though, the Packers are in good shape before they finish with three-straight NFC North games to wrap up 2019.
“We know what’s in front of us. We’ve got a stretch now of seven games out of division and then finish with three in the division, so we’ve gotta put ourselves in a position to make a run,” said Rodgers.
Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and a podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.