DETROIT - Even before Lucas Patrick replaced injured starter Corey Linsley at center for much of Sunday’s game in Detroit, he was needed.
Here running back Aaron Jones came, sprinting toward the Green Bay Packers sideline, full throttle. There wasn’t time for Jones to slam on the brakes. So he kept running right into Patrick’s arms, latching onto him in a full bear hug, both feet off the ground.
“Hey,” Patrick said, “I’m trying to save a hit on him. So if he doesn’t fall down or run into somebody, he can always jump into my arms.”
Patrick got more opportunities to have his running back’s back as Sunday’s game progressed.
After Linsley exited in the first half with a back injury, Patrick finished the game at center. For Patrick, who signed a two-year, $3.6 million contract extension Saturday, it showcased why he has become so valuable to the Packers. His versatility allows Patrick to plug any of the three interior spots along the offensive line.
It was the second time this season Patrick subbed for Linsley. Unlike the first time, the Packers’ early-season trip to Dallas, Patrick was much more accurate with his shotgun snaps to quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Detroit.
“I took that pretty serious,” Patrick said. “I wanted to fix that. 'Twelve' can be really good when he gets the ball on time. I’m just trying to do my 1/11th, as we said all season.”
Patrick said the commitment the Packers showed in their extension meant a lot, especially for a former tryout player who went undrafted. That he was able to celebrate it by contributing to Sunday’s win only made it more special.
“When you first come in the league,” he said, “and you’ve got a minicamp tryout that you actually go home from, that’s 32 teams saying, ‘Hey, you’re not really good enough for this.’ But hard work and determination, putting a team over yourself sometimes, ends up paying off.
“I couldn’t be in a better place. I love it here. It feels real good.”
Veldheer makes Packers debut
Jared Veldheer last played an offensive snap at right tackle in a regular-season game on Dec. 30, 2018 as a member of the Denver Broncos. Billy Turner was over on the left side for that game, playing guard — but the two proved to have chemistry Sunday when Packers starter Bryan Bulaga suffered a concussion late in the third quarter and pushed Veldheer into action.
“It was completely normal, man,” Turner said. “Honestly I couldn’t really even tell a difference. He knew what he was doing. He was out there and he was successful in all of his blocks. It was like good ol’ times with us, to be honest.”
Veldheer admitted it was good to have a month of practices under his belt after being claimed from New England on Nov. 29. He was added to the active roster on Dec. 9 and then supplanted Alex Light as the team’s backup tackle against Chicago.
He entered the game with the Packers trailing 17-10 and finished out the game on the right side.
“It was good,” the 32-year-old veteran said. “I’ve been able to play in a lot of situations so when I’m out there watching the game go by, I try to keep it as objective as possible. I just kind of make it very matter-of-fact, what’s going on, what I’m going to see, what the rushes are, and then couple that with staying loose and being ready for any play where I have to go in there. It was time to go in there and we were in kind of score-now mode. I went in there and told myself rely on practice, set, square, shoot your hands, have fun.”
Adams comes up short again
Wide receiver Davante Adams fell three yards short of his second 1,000-yard receiving season.
It’s the second time in a row he missed it by three.
Adams seemed like a lock for 1,000 yards after he caught a 3-yard pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers on fourth and 1 at the Detroit 31 with 5:57 left in the game.
The Packers ran 16 more plays but Adams did not get another catch and finished his season with 83 catches for 997 yards and five touchdowns. He missed four games with a turf-toe injury.
Though he caught seven passes for 93 yards and a touchdown, the Lions spent a lot of energy trying to stop him.
“They were kind of rolling the coverage to him and playing some quarters looks to the opposite side for a while,” Rodgers said. “That’s why we were dinking and dunking with some out routes to Jake (Kumerow) and Allen (Lazard).
“But when he was in the slot, they were really trying to double him on third downs, which is why we got that slant-corner route we hit the touchdown on. We felt like they were really in-and-outting them, and if he broke to the post and sold that, he’d have a good chance of getting over the top to the back pylon. Great route by him.”
Wrong coverage on trick play
Despite seeing the Minnesota Vikings try a trick play that had wide receiver Stefon Diggs attempt a pass to Kirk Cousins on Monday, the Packers' defense was caught Sunday by the Lions on the same play.
With 7:59 to go in the first quarter, Lions wide receiver Danny Amendola hit quarterback Jeff Blough for a 19-yard touchdown to go up 7-0. The defense flowed with the wide receiver as he started to his right, and the quarterback was left unaccounted for running out to the left.
“They caught us in man,” Packers safety Adrian Amos said of the coverage. “Nobody has the quarterback in man, really. They caught us in the right (coverage); sometimes you just get caught in the right thing.”
Gift interception for Martinez
It was four days after Christmas, but Blake Martinez certainly didn’t mind Blough’s belated present.
Blough’s gift helped the Packers inside linebacker take over a key sequence early in the fourth quarter. With the Packers trailing by a touchdown, Martinez sacked Blough for a 7-yard loss on first down. One play later, Martinez dropped into coverage, where Blough’s pass sailed directly to him.
Martinez not only caught it, but his 22-yard return — coupled with an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Lions — gave the Packers a short field. They scored on the ensuing drive to tie the game at 20.
“We were just in a type of Cover 2,” Martinez said. “It was just a certain thing we’ve been working on lately, letting a guy, once they over-flooded to one side of the field, I can drop back and then read off the quarterback.”
It was only the third interception of Martinez’ career, his first since 2016. A tackling machine, dynamic plays have not been a significant part of Martinez’ game this season. He picked a good time to change that.
2020 schedule set
San Francisco's 26-21 victory over Seattle on Sunday night made the 49ers the Packers’ final opponent on their 2020 schedule.
Entering Sunday, all but two of the Packers’ opponents for next season were set based on which divisions the Packers are scheduled to face and what place in the standings they finished.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ victory over the New York Giants decided one of those spots. The Eagles will play at Lambeau Field because they finished in first place in the NFC East. The location of that game had already been decided based on the rotation system the NFL uses.
In addition to facing their NFC North foes twice, the Packers are matched up with the South divisions in both the NFC and AFC and play the first-place teams in the NFC East and NFC West.
Their non-NFC North road schedule consists of Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Houston and San Francisco, which finished first in the NFC West by beating Seattle.
Their non-NFC North home schedule consists of Atlanta, Carolina, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Philadelphia.