Tramon Williams' alert play helps Packers survive final-play laterals
GREEN BAY - On the penultimate play of Sunday’s game, Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw deep. That seemed like the rational strategy, though Trubisky had another miserable day against the Green Bay Packers' defense, and his pass fell incomplete.
The Bears were at the Packers’ 34-yard line, close enough to smell the end zone. They trailed 21-13 with less than 10 seconds left. This appeared to be logical time for the Hail Mary.
So the Packers played it accordingly, dropping back in coverage for the final play. Trubisky instead threw underneath to running back Tarik Cohen near the 20-yard line. What happened next, cornerback Tramon Williams could only describe as a close call.
Williams trailed the play and, after two laterals got tight end Jesper Horsted inside the 10-yard line, eventually recovered Horsted’s fumble at the 1 to end the game.
It appeared Horsted had a chance to lateral to Bears receiver Allen Robinson, who was uncovered to his outside, near the sideline.
“It was moving quickly,” Horsted said. “I had my eyes on the inside where the ball was coming from. I was focused on, ‘Would I be running with it or blocking?’ And then I got the ball, and the first thing I looked downfield and I saw a little bit of daylight, but I knew that I had a guy (Robinson) on the outside.
“In hindsight, I should have gotten there a little bit earlier, but it was moving quickly and it was a little bit hard to see what exactly was going on to the right when I was focusing on straight and left.”
Because Horsted’s fumble was ruled as such instead of an illegal, forward lateral, it was a live ball. If Williams hadn’t pounced on it, a Bears player could have scooped it up (although only Horsted would have been eligible to advance it and score a potential game-tying touchdown with a two-point conversion).
Williams said there wasn’t much that passed through his mind when he saw the football bouncing across Lambeau Field.
“I just know,” Williams said, “if the ball is on the ground and we recover it, we win. It ain’t really hard. It ain’t rocket science.”
More than likely coach Matt LaFleur just wanted his fastest receiver running the route, but the deep ball he called on the Packers' first play of the game on offense may have also been a confidence builder for Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
LaFleur called a play-action pass in which Valdes-Scantling was to run a go route and try to get behind the deep safety.
The play worked to perfection and quarterback Aaron Rodgers led Valdes-Scantling perfectly. Only Valdes-Scantling appeared to misjudge the throw and didn’t get his hands in the right position to make the catch.
"Just didn’t make the play,” Valdes-Scantling said. “That’s what it is.”
Asked if he lost sight of the ball, he said, “Sunny outside, no clouds. Just didn’t catch it.”
It’s a recurring theme for the second-year pro, who used to be considered the starter opposite Davante Adams. Valdes-Scantling has just two catches for 11 yards in the past seven games and has seen his snaps fall considerably.
He hardly played after dropping the deep ball on Sunday.
“It’s football, it happens,” he said. “You don’t catch every football. You don’t make every throw, you don’t make every catch, you don’t make every run, you don’t make every block. It’s football. No one’s perfect.”
Gary makes key sack
Sunday marked just the fourth time this season that the Packers did not get a sack from either Za’Darius Smith or Preston Smith, but Kenny Clark brought Trubisky down twice and rookie outside linebacker Rashan Gary collected a sack for the first time since Week 3 against Denver.
It came at an opportune time as well, as the Bears had moved to the Packers’ 16-yard line. On the first-and-10 play, Gary said Bears right tackle Corey Lucas gave him a pass set and block that he had seen on film and was able to counter that move.
“When I got to the edge of the tackle and I seen he still had the ball I said ‘Yes!’” Gary said. “I just turned it on an extra gear and made sure I got there.”
The Bears weren’t able to make up the six-yard loss and settled for a field goal that made it 7-3. Gary said being a part of three-outside linebacker sets with Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith also help due to the communication and the tips the veterans give him.
“Now I’m able to use what I do in practice in the game,” Gary said. “It just helps me because I’m out there with Preston and ‘Z’ and they’re able to see things and give me ‘Oh, yeah its pass right now’ and it helps me play a little faster.”
Gary finished with three total tackles to go with his sack, including a tackle for loss and another hit on the quarterback.
Review could've turned game
Following a fourth-and-10 incompletion from Trubisky to Robinson with 1:51 left to go in the game, the Packers' offense came out onto the field. But referee Scott Novak quietly went over to the replay stand, buzzed by the league replay office in New York to review the play.
No announcement was made beforehand, and Novak only said the play stood.
The play was reviewed for possible defensive pass interference on Packers corner Jaire Alexander, who made contact with Robinson as the ball arrived. If that penalty was called from New York, the Bears would have had a first down inside the red zone.
"I'd rather not talk about it right now to be honest with you," LaFleur said after the game. "I'll just kind of keep my thoughts to myself."
Williams OK with hard hit
Williams took a hard shot from Bears gunner Cordarrelle Patterson on the lone punt he fielded Sunday, but the veteran said he had no issue with the play.
Patterson was penalized for not giving Williams room to catch the punt, not unnecessary roughness. Still, the impact was harder than most collisions in today’s NFL. Williams passed through concussion protocol before returning to the game.
Regardless, Williams said he appreciated how Patterson responded after the play.
“The guy checked on me,” Williams said, “asked about me while we were on the field. I don’t think it is (a cheap shot), man. Guys just playing ball, a split-second play. I don’t think it was dirty intentions at all. I think he was just trying to make a play for his team.”