Valdes-Scantling provides 'spark,' including record-tying touchdown catch, as Packers hold off Ravens
"He was just a spark that we needed.”
Aaron Jones may have had 79 all-purpose yards and a touchdown in the Green Bay Packers’ 31-30 win over the Baltimore Ravens, but it was a teammate he called the needed spark.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling hauled in five receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown in the win, averaging 19.6 yards per reception. He was a big target with an even bigger impact, in what became a difficult win to clinch the NFC North.
This has become somewhat custom for the Packers; as teams try to clamp down on the league’s top receiver, Davante Adams, the offense and quarterback Aaron Rodgers turn to other playmakers. Week after week, the roulette wheel spins and week after week it lands on someone new.
Against the Ravens, it was MVS, but the fourth-year receiver didn’t fully appreciate his big night until well after the clock ticked zero.
BOX SCORE: Packers 31, Ravens 30
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“I'm just kind of play one play at a time. That's kind of the focus,” he said. “You never want to get too high. Never want to get too low. And just make the plays when they come in. That's kind of the mentality that I got to have. Because once you start thinking otherwise, you try to start pressing and you don't make the play or if something goes wrong, I just like to stay even keel throughout the whole time.”
For Valdes-Scantling, being on the receiving end of a performance that is garnering more and more possible MVP chatter for his quarterback puts him at a loss for words at times. On the Packers’ second offensive drive of the night, already down 7-0, they faced first down from the Ravens’ 49-yard line. Rodgers dropped back and floated a rainbow downfield, over three defenders and into a basket for Valdes-Scantling.
As the clock rolled toward the fourth quarter and needing to build some breathing room up 21-17, the Packers once again turned to MVS. From his own 26-yard line, Rodgers sent a bullet over the middle of the field to Valdes-Scantling that the receiver was still marveling about after the game.
“He’s had multiple games with multiple touchdowns and no picks,’” Valdes-Scantling said of Rodgers. “I don't really know too many guys that can do that consistently. He doesn't turn the ball over, he makes throw after throw. You’re just like ‘how did he get that ball in there?’
“Like the one to me in two-minute (drill), across the middle of the field, it’s just like ‘how did that ball get through there?’ But he’s the best.”
Rodgers sent another one 25 yards to MVS on the next drive when the receiver was wide open. That was a result of the Ravens triple-teaming Adams. According to coach Matt LaFleur, Baltimore’s coverage of Adams begat a lot of MVS’ success on Sunday, but that’s going to continue to be the case.
“I think a lot of it was predicated on some of the coverage that we were seeing at Tae,” LaFleur said. “But I thought MVS did an outstanding job. It was really encouraging to see him run through the ball, being strong with those aggressive hands and then finishing the plays.
"So we need that from him. He is an explosive player. He's a guy that has elite speed. He can really make some of those big explosive plays and we're gonna need more from that from him. And he's got to build upon this game.”
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But it was a play to end that drive that will be remembered. On second-and-10 from the Baltimore 11-yard line, Rodgers tossed one to Valdes-Scantling in the soft spot. The receiver turned up field and reached, determined to get the touchdown for his quarterback that would become a franchise record-tying play. Rodgers now is tied with Brett Favre with 442 touchdown passes.
Valdes-Scantling kept the ball, joking Rodgers could keep the next one, when he actually breaks the record. But he wanted this one to remember.
"I knew right away and I was like ‘Did we break the record or did I tie it?’ ” Valdes-Scantling said. “That’s just a crazy accomplishment and I definitely kept that football. That one’s not going anywhere. If it was broken, I would have gave it to him, but that one’s mine and I think that's just a great accomplishment for him and I just love that I'm a part of it.”
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Rodgers is OK with that, because for the quarterback on the fast track to yet another record, the moment was more about his receiver than anything. He’ll likely break the franchise touchdown record at home on Saturday against the Cleveland Browns. But Sunday in Baltimore was all about Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
“When I got the snap, all I was thinking was 'I hope Marquez wins’ and he ran a great route, made a great hands catch,” Rodgers said. “I love my teammates, I really do, I care about them so much. I care about redemption stories as much as anything for those guys and a lot of them happen week to week.
“Marquez is a special human being. He really has a great personality. I could feel that confidence-wise he’s been a little up and down so to have him come out tonight and play the way he played and catch the record-tying touchdown, I feel like was very apropos of football and the beauty and redemption stories that happen every single week, so really happy for Marquez.”