Upon Further Review: Penalties, Packers’ Lazard save the day vs. Lions

Aaron Rodgers didn’t get much help from his usual supporting cast.

Jimmy Graham and Aaron Jones dropped sure touchdown passes, while the Green Bay Packers‘ receiver corps, already without Davante Adams, suffered yet more losses.

Allen Lazard and Monday’s officiating crew came to the rescue with Green Bay trailing late.

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Green Bay benefited from a pair of phantom fourth-quarter penalties — the first set up Lazard‘s first NFL touchdown, the second turned kicker Mason Crosby‘s late field goal into a game-winner — en route to a 23-22 win over the Detroit Lions.

The Packers needed all the help they could get. Geronimo Allison exited following an alarming hit in the third quarter, while fellow receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling missed time with a leg injury.

Running back Jamaal Williams, who missed last week’s game with a concussion, took advantage with Jones struggling, rushing 14 times for 104 yards, while catching four passes for 32 yards and a touchdown.

Somehow, it all added up to another win for the Packers, who take over the lead in the tightly-contested NFC North at 5-1.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Lazard didn’t start getting looks until the Lions intercepted a pass intended for Shepherd on Detroit’s 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter, a ball that ricocheted off the rookie’s facemask and into the hands of Justin Coleman. Lazard hauled in four of his five targets the rest of the way, leading the Packers with 65 receiving yards. He hauled in a 35-yard touchdown pass following the first of two brutal calls on Lions defensive end Trey Flowers. Signed to the active roster in September, Lazard made the most of his limited playing time. He appeared on just 17 plays with the offense, up from just one last week.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME

Drafted by the Packers in 2007, Crosby had never performed a Lambeau Leap before. Monday night seemed like as good a time as any. The veteran kicker connected from 23 yards out to secure the win after converting on 37 and 48-yard tries earlier in the game, finishing the night 5-for-5 overall. Crosby hasn’t missed a kick of any kind since Week 3, and is now 7-for-8 on field-goal attempts and 14-for-14 on extra points.

THAT MOMENT

Both penalties were called on Flowers, the first such infractions of his career. He never appeared to contact David Bakhtiari‘s head, placing his hands on the Packers tackle’s chest and neck instead. The first came on third-and-10 with 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Packers trailing 22-13 and Rodgers on the ground following a sack. The penalty negated the takedown and set up Lazard’s touchdown. The second allowed the Packers to run the clock down ahead of Crosby’s game-winning field goal. The Packers have been burned by questionable penalties as well this year, but the calls Monday were particularly egregious. Desmond Howard, the former Packers return specialist and Super Bowl MVP, was among the league’s most vocal critics Monday night.

THIS NUMBER

Lazard had played just 21 snaps total on offense this season heading into Week 6. The Iowa State product’s touchdown catch was just the second regular-season reception his career, and his first from Rodgers, who targeted him for the first time Monday on the previous play. This could be the beginning of a productive relationship. Rodgers says the two sit next to each other during team meetings, and that the 23-year-old was requesting specific routes in the huddle Monday.

THEY SAID IT

“I didn’t think hands to the chest was a penalty. I thought hands to the face, but I had him right here in the chest.” — Lions defensive end Trey Flowers

“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.” — Mason Crosby

“The thing that got me was, which you love as a quarterback, and that’s when your receiver’s coming back and telling you he wants the ball and what route he wants to run.” — Aaron Rodgers on Allen Lazard

WHAT’S NEXT

The Packers are off to a 3-0 start in the NFC North for the first time since 2012. Each one could prove critical in the long run. The Lions would have retained the division lead with a win, while the Packers would have dropped to second place at 4-2, tied with the Minnesota Vikings and just one game ahead of the 3-2 Chicago Bears. Things get a little easier next week when the Packers host the 3-2 Oakland Raiders, but another tough stretch awaits before their Week 11 bye: The Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers on the road, followed by the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau.