Despite progress, Rodgers and rookie receivers can’t connect enough for Packers in loss
DETROIT – The little things nagged at the Green Bay Packers' offense Sunday, just enough tugs on the back of the pant legs to keep their momentum from moving from slow trots to all-out sprints into the end zone.
And while Aaron Rodgers practiced in full Thursday and Saturday and was taken off the injury report, the 33 minutes, 20 seconds of offensive possession were the most extensive he has worked with in a game with rookie wide receivers Equanimeous St. Brown and J’Mon Moore. Marquez Valdes-Scantling made his second career start, but his first as the club’s clear No. 2 option opposite Davante Adams.
And it looked like it at times throughout the Packers’ 31-23 loss at Ford Field.
Valdes-Scantling couldn’t get both feet down on a second-and-7 play that would have netted a first down. On the next play, Rodgers was sacked and stripped at his own 17, setting up a Lions field goal. St. Brown got a late step on a cornerback but couldn’t get to the back of the end zone quick enough to haul in a would-be touchdown on a second-and-10 throw early in the second quarter. The Packers trailed 17-0 at the time, and two plays later Mason Crosby missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged the growing pains postgame but said film review and more practice would make them correctable. Overall, he felt good about their effort.
There was reason for that.
Valdes-Scantling would end up with the best game of his young career, catching seven of 10 targets for 68 yards and his first touchdown. And St. Brown caught three of five targets for 89 yards, including an 18-yarder that helped push along a drive that ended in a touchdown. He added a 54-yard catch-and-run near the end of the game that set up a Crosby field goal and gave the team a chance at a miraculous special teams play to try to tie the game.
“’EQ’ at the end had a big play to get us three more (points),” Adams said. “It didn’t end up resulting in a win but that’s good for his confidence. It’s good for him and good for the confidence between him and 12. That’s beautiful.”
Moore wasn’t targeted, but he did enter the game and ran a route that saw two Lions sink down on him. The route concepts of the play allowed Adams to get a one-on-one deep, but the pass fell incomplete.
Rodgers wound up going 10-for-15 targeting St. Brown and Valdes-Scantling for 157 yards and a score, and there was crucial progress for the pair.
But again, the little things.
Not presenting a suitable target on an extended scramble drill, failing to win a 50-50 opportunity or get out of bounds to stop the clock. Enough little things on the wrong side of the ledger can add up to a loss in the present. The Packers hope the little things done well lead to victories in the near future.
“Well, we put a lot on them this week,” Rodgers said. “I thought they were prepared, I thought they were ready to play. There’s some things to clean up for sure. I think overall you’ve got to say that ‘MVS’ played really nicely, and ‘EQ’ made a couple plays that he needed to make for us. Obviously he showed his ability on that last (play) with 20 seconds left in the game. He takes a little seam route and almost scores. He has big-play potential, and I was proud of both those guys the way they played.”