DETROIT – As the 2019 regular season and the 2019 calendar year come to a close, let’s take a look back at how the Green Bay Packers went from 6-9-1 last season to 12-3 and rolling into the playoffs this season.
No. 6: Leaping Past the Lions
The Detroit Lions are 3-11-1 headed into Sunday’s finale against the Packers. It was a different story in Week 6. The Lions were 2-1-1 and coming off their bye. Matthew Stafford, not David Blough, was the quarterback. Sixteen players, including several starters, weren’t on injured reserve.
The Lions took a 22-13 lead on Matt Prater’s 54-yard field goal with 12:17 remaining. The Packers’ goose looked cook. With Davante Adams out with a toe injury, Aaron Rodgers had nowhere to go in the passing game. Through three quarters, he was 15-of-26 passing for 136 yards. That’s when he made a request that helped change the course of the season.
Rodgers went to receivers coach Alvis Whitted and suggested Allen Lazard get a chance at receiver.
Rodgers was a big believer in his big receiver dating to training camp, and he was disappointed Lazard didn’t make the opening roster. With the game on the line, Lazard caught four passes for 65 yards. His first catch was a 35-yard touchdown, and he caught passes of 12, 3 and 15 yards on the game-winning drive that resulted in Mason Crosby’s 23-yard field goal as time expired. Crosby celebrated with his first Lambeau Leap.
“That feeling, once you get up in the stands, the energy in there and teammates and everyone’s around, that’s something I’ll always remember. That was great,” said Crosby, who had missed five kicks almost exactly a year earlier in a loss at Detroit.
With that, the Packers improved to 5-1 and swept the opening loop of NFC North games. More importantly, they gained a key piece on offense. Over the last 10 games, Lazard has caught 31 passes for 408 yards. During that span, Geronimo Allison (21), Jake Kumerow (nine) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (seven) have caught 37 passes.
“I just try to be the same person every single day,” Lazard said recently. “I try to wake up at the same time. One thing I try to focus on is making my bed every single morning. That way, I start off with the same routine and I finish the day the same way. It’s just little things like that – cleaning up my room, doing the dishes. I try to stay clean around my house. If I can keep my house clean, I can keep here and my mind a lot more clean, as well.”
In Monday’s huge win at Minnesota, the passing game flowed through Adams, who had 13 catches for 116 yards. Lazard made some key plays, though, with five catches for 45 yards. Three of those receptions moved the chains on third down, which shows the trust Rodgers has in the 6-foot-5 wideout.
“He’s definitely reliable,” Rodgers said. “It starts with his habits. He has really good habits. You guys know I talk about it in the offseason a lot, the way that you approach your job is very important to your opportunities. I think it’s a direct correlation between your preparation and the opportunities you get because if you know what you’re doing, you’re already ahead of the game for the most part. If you can go out and gain confidence executing that responsibility, you get the trust of the coaching staff and myself, you find the ball coming your way a little bit more often. So, I’m very proud of the way he stepped up. It’s never been too big for him.”